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“There’s no limit to where you can go”

May 2021: Daniel O'Neil, a Commercial Litigation associate in our Sydney office, explains how the various elements of lawyers' input on a commercial transaction can be summarized as front, middle and back end.

"Our transactional teams are at the front end, negotiating and putting the deals together. At the other end of the spectrum—the back end, if you like—you have the litigation lawyers who argue the case for their clients when things go wrong. This can be in a mediation, in an arbitration or before the courts."

Senior associate Laura-Rose Lynch explains that before matters get to this final stage, the Disputes team also plays an important advisory role. "Essentially, we assist our clients on which course of action to pursue to best position themselves for any potential disputes. It's our job to shepherd them through the process of safeguarding their projects or acquisitions. We're the trusted advisors to the client, wearing this hat we act as a sort of 'caretaker' of the project as it potentially transitions between the transactional and litigation teams."

A stimulating mix of strategic thinking and detail-focused work

So what does a disputes resolution lawyer do on a daily basis? Ashleigh Cole, a senior associate in White & Case's Melbourne office, says that it's a stimulating mix: "I enjoy the variety of work, especially the degree to which we need to think ahead strategically. Like a game of chess, you need to think ahead—anticipating the other side's next move and advising our client on the path forward. But we also need to get involved in the detail—which might be detailed research on an aspect of law."

Startup culture, international opportunities and resources

Daniel points out the unique benefits of working for White & Case in Australia: "The Firm is relatively new here, so there's a really entrepreneurial, startup feel. At the same time, you get the benefits of being part of a top international firm, with all the resources and opportunities that come with that." Ashleigh agrees. "If you prove yourself, there's no limit to where you can go."

Varied work for graduates

Laura-Rose notes that graduates and junior lawyers on the Disputes team get involved across the board: "Our grads might be interviewing key witnesses, doing background research, drafting claims, doing a presentation to the client on the next steps." Daniel says that it's a job for the curious-minded. "You need an inquisitive attitude, to be able to keep the big picture in mind and not get swamped in the data."

Ashleigh says the key attribute is adaptability. "There's always a new challenge. We work closely in teams, which means that you have visibility on where your work contributes to the overall team effort."

Work satisfaction: Creativity and a supportive workplace

What do the three most enjoy about their work? For Laura-Rose, it's the creative side of her work. "You really get to use your legal writing skills and more broadly, your storytelling skills. It's vital to be able to relay a story in a persuasive and precise way."

Ashleigh says that the supportive culture within the Melbourne office makes for a great working environment. "From partners to paralegals, everyone gets involved in the work and pulls together. Combined with a really friendly office culture, it's just a really enjoyable experience."

Daniel says that the Firm offers a good balance of challenging work and support when it's needed. "You get great exposure to real work from the start here," he says. "You get space to solve problems on your own, but there's also plenty of support available when you need it."