Kisha Patel is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A political science and gender/women's studies major at Ursinus College, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
In this week's post, Kisha talks about her internship with Holman Webb Lawyers in Sydney.
CAPA Sydney has provided me with so many incredible learning opportunities, however I think my biggest one has been my internship. I am so happy and lucky to be interning at a great law firm here in Sydney, Holman Webb Lawyers. This firm has given me exactly the law experience I have been craving. This post is about what I have done as a Holman Webb intern. (For confidentiality reasons, there are very few pictures and limited details on specifics such as case names and matters, unlike my usual posts!)
First of all, I get to do a lot of hands-on tasks. My supervisors really want me to get as great of an intellectual experience as possible. Therefore, they like me to do as many different tasks as possible. I mainly work in the debt recovery and insolvency department, but I get to help out with other things and learn about other departments as well.
When I first started interning, we had a big upcoming case on our hands so I got to help with discovery (finding good evidence to use in court). First, I read the binders and binders of case materials, background, charges, and details about what the case was about. Then I got to tackle the evidence. We went through boxes and boxes of documents that we had found or gotten from the other side to pull out what we wanted to use in our examinations.
Photo: I work in the middle of the Central Business District at Martin Place
Something really different about the legal system in Australia is that they follow common law and have a solicitor/barrister system. So I work for solicitors and they do all the preliminary work for a legal case. They are the lawyers that deal with the matter from the beginning to trial: they do correspondence, find evidence, do all the background work. Then solicitors hire barristers to actually argue the cases. So what we would have to do at my firm is prepare all the evidence we think is important, and then brief the barrister on it so he/she can use it in court. Therefore, after we collected all the evidence we wanted from discovery, we would make copies of it and send it to the barrister. Then we would have many meetings with the barrister to go over our case and how we wanted to handle it. I got to be a part of all of this, which was really awesome, especially because I had helped compile it and had read all of the documents myself.
Photo: My cubical at work!
Another really great thing I have gotten to learn how to do is create documents. I draft letters to clients, letters to court, letters to other attorneys. I make documents to serve papers on the other side. One of the best things I have learned to do recently is draft statement of claims. These are basically the initial documents served to the other side and courts explaining why you are filing a legal matter, what happened, and what you want to achieve. Learning how to do these in the debt recovery unit basically means I am learning how to sue people, and how cool is that to say?
Photo: One of the many beautiful buildings lining Martin Place
Another cool experience I have at Holman Webb is that I get to go to court, ALL THE TIME. Whenever any lawyer I work with is going to court, I get to tag along. This means I get to see directions hearings, preliminary matters, watch meetings with the other side, see interactions with barristers, and more. Often, I get to see cases unfold on matters I have done work for which is especially exciting to see so I can understand how the whole process works.
The absolute best thing I have gotten to do at my internship? One of the partners at our firm happens to know the prosecutor on a very big murder trial that is going on in Australia. This means I have gotten to go watch parts of the trial pretty much every day for the last two months. Watching a criminal trial unfold as been really educational because I get to watch the full court experience from calling a witness, seeing an examination, and seeing a cross examination. Additionally, I get to see how a jury trial works and watch how the jury reacts. Being there so often over the last eight weeks has allowed me to watch the full process. I even got to talk to one of the defense barristers about her experience during a break outside of the courthouse which was one of the best conversations I have ever had.
Photo: Me outside the Supreme Court building where the trial happens
Another great thing about the office culture of Australia is how close everyone is. I have truly become friends with some of my co-workers. We go out to dinner after work, we had a birthday celebration on a weekend and all cooked together, and I feel very comfortable around them. I think this atmosphere is really great. Everyone at my internship is so nice and friendly and they take the time to ask how I am finding everything, how I’m learning, if I want to learn something new, etc. Lawyers in different departments that I do not work in will ask if I want to tag along to court with them, or read something interesting, just to further my knowledge.
We have to take a "Learning Through Internships" course with CAPA to go along with our internships. In this class, we learn about basic tools to help us do better in the professional world. We have articles and videos about how to work as part of a team, how to engage in the office community, how to be efficient, and more. We also have speakers come talk to us about things like how to launch a start-up or deliver the perfect pitch. This supplements our internships and lets us apply our learning in a real setting.
This internship has only confirmed that entering the legal world is exactly what I want to do. I am so thankful to be at an internship where I do more than administrative work and have a hands-on opportunity to learn. Leaving my internship is going to be one of the hardest parts of saying goodbye to Sydney.
Kisha's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.