What's it like to work as a lawyer, in Australia and internationally, and what are the challenges and opportunities for women in particular? If you're a pre-penultimate female law student (first year of any JD program or third year of a double degree undergraduate) in Australia, the Women at White & Case Mentoring ProgramÂ is an open opportunity that we recruit for in August each year.
This is your chance to engage in open discussions with women from White & Case who have worked in the industry. You can expect to discuss career aspirations, progression and challenges and get advice from mentors based on their own career journey. The program runs from September 2019 to July 2020.
We asked recent program mentee Crystal Nguyen to tell us about her experience of the Women at White & Case Mentoring Program.
To start with, what did you like about the program?
It was lovely to get to know my mentor over several coffee catch-ups. We had the chance to chat and I could ask questions about her career journey, and discuss more personal aspects such as how she balanced life and work. It was great perspective to actually interact with and understand how someone is living and developing as a successful lawyer. The luncheon was also a fantastic opportunity to meet the other mentors and mentees.
What was unexpected or surprising about the experience?
One unexpected aspect of the experience was my mentor's willingness to catch up with me despite her busy schedule. For me, this indicated the value the Firm placed on mentoring and information sharing.
How has it changed or influenced your future career plans?
I felt a lot of trepidation pursuing a career in law, particularly in a niche area such as projects/project finance. Many students at university had heard about the long working hours, intense and stressful workloads, but had not had the chance to speak to lawyers about the day-to-day experience of being in a top-tier law firm. Speaking with my mentor about her experiences and those of her peers elucidated and reinforced law as a viable career option.
The mentorship was also valuable insight into the flexible working options that were available at the Firm, and it was good to know that there was ample team support with the busy hours, demonstrating to me that the Firm truly valued the time of its lawyers. It greatly informed my choice of White & Case as my first preference, particularly so when I learnt about the excellent opportunities that would be available to me, such as client secondments, international rotations, and exciting pro bono initiatives.
How do you think you benefited from the program?
I gained a lot of great insight into the life and culture of the Firm that I otherwise wouldn't have without the program. This helped me with clerkship applications.
There was also insight from my mentor about the legal industry, and how she found her experience as a female "rising up the ranks". This provides me with a better understanding of what the legal industry is like and how it is evolving.
What do you think mentors get from sharing their own experience with the next generation?
I think mentors have a chance to reflect on their experiences and assess their own career journey. Being able to impart knowledge about their working life, pros and cons of a firm and industry are important because it not only prepares juniors who are entering the workforce, but also primes them to mitigate these problems, thereby catalyzing cultural shifts when they happen. Information sharing is an important factor to collaboration and success, and when mentors discuss candidly with mentees their working experience, it assists them with their own decisions moving forward.
Why should others apply to the Women at White & Case Mentoring Program?
You don't often get a chance to receive mentorship from a busy female lawyer from a very successful law firm. The program is a great opportunity to gain insight into what it's like to work at White & Case, but also what it's like to be a successful female lawyer in a traditional male-centric industry. The one-on-one mentor-mentorship pairings mean that you can really get to know your mentor and understandÂ where a career in law could take you!