2023 Summer Clerks Enjoy Real-World Experience
While most of us had a leisurely summer break, six promising law students threw themselves headfirst into ‘summer clerk’ positions at Cooney Lees Morgan. It’s an opportunity we offer each year to law students in their final years of study to see how a law firm actually operates and to gain practical skills.
Victoria University’s Bridie Waterreus joined our Property & Development team and was “definitely surprised with how little we learn at law school in comparison to what you need to know to be a lawyer”.
She says it was extremely satisfying to slowly gain more independence in the work she was doing at CLM. “A lot of the first month was shadowing and learning. But once I got my head around a few things I was able to draft agreements and help with researching and advising clients. Obviously, none of our work goes out to clients un-checked but it was awesome and very rewarding to give things a go myself.”
Now she knows what a typical property lawyer does in a day, she’s more committed than ever to a career in property law. Bridie also loved the positive culture at CLM. “Everyone’s so friendly and loves to have a laugh. They really encourage you to give things a go and do your best. I definitely felt supported by everyone, especially by my buddy and Senior Associates. They were always there to help and definitely there to push my abilities!”
Fellow Victoria University student, Esther Barry, says meeting members of the firm and the other clerks was her highlight. “It has been amazing to work alongside such intelligent and hardworking individuals. They have been incredible mentors who have provided me with the best possible learning experience. It can be daunting starting a clerkship but having peers and mentors that are so supportive has made it seamless and enjoyable.”
Esther came into the clerkship with little idea of the inner workings of a law firm but now has a great understanding of how a legal team operates. “At university, I have been used to attending lectures, doing readings, and completing tests. While all that has been great for my knowledge, the work I have completed at CLM has been much more practical as you are working for real clients.”
Hannah Jacobsen was placed in CLM’s Corporate and Commercial team and has helped draft numerous legal documents and corporate articles for the firm’s website. The overall experience has provided great insight into what practicing law will look like once she graduates from Waikato University.
She was impressed by the level of support on offer and inclusivity of the firm, and was surprised by the high level of work life balance that is integrated into the firm’s practice. “I think there is a large assumption that there is little work life balance within a firm of CLM’s size. It is great to see that CLM values its staff and work life balance.”
The most challenging aspect Hannah found was asking for help. “As a student you have this pre-established belief that when you get to practice you are expected to know everything – this is not the case. My team made me feel very comfortable in realising you are not expected to know what is happening and no question is a silly question.”
Former school teacher and current Waikato University law student, Timothy Bassett, was also assigned to CLM’s Corporate & Commercial team. “Although my time as a summer intern has been short, I am sure it will have a lasting impact on my legal career,” he says. “Knowing the expectations and having some understanding of a law firm’s internal workings will allow me to be more prepared when I enter the workforce as a graduate.”
His diverse workload ranged from assisting a small local charity with governance advice through to working on large corporate acquisitions. “The legal tasks assigned to me have been interesting. They required me to actively make connections between the law in theory and its application in a practice. The resulting growth of my legal knowledge, understandings and skills has been motivating and has reinforced my desire to pursue a career in law.”
Louis Robinson from Victoria University, has worked alongside CLM’s Private Client & Trust team, helping with the administration of trusts and wills, property, individual client, and local council matters.
“The summer experience gave me a good understanding of how a law firm operates. This included becoming familiar with the systems for internal communication and document management, but also seeing the whole process from taking on a new client, to completing the work for them, and then closing the matter. I got to see how all the pieces fit together and how the lawyers and admin staff interrelate.”
The past few months has solidified Louis’ intention to become a lawyer. “The lawyers I have worked with are doing meaningful work that makes a positive difference to the lives of clients. I am motivated to follow this path and do the same. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience and am grateful to CLM for giving me this opportunity.”
Otago University student Jay Sprott found CLM’s Property & Development team extremely welcoming and enjoyed gaining insight into how client relationships really work. He got involved in private client conveyancing, large commercial leases, and significant property acquisitions by commercial clients. “I was given some responsibility on certain jobs, rather than just watching what other people were doing,” he says.
“Some of the best advice I received during the summer was that if you cannot explain something in basic terms to a client, then you do not know what you are explaining well enough. After taking on this advice I realised the importance of having a strong understanding myself, before trying to explain it in a more digestible way.”
Overall, Jay found the culture at CLM to be inclusive and supportive. “Senior staff members were available to talk to and were keen to have a conversation about any work questions I had, but were also interested in getting to know me on a personal level.”