What's your name and job title?
Jessie Buchan. Senior associate.
What did you study?
Bachelor of Communications – University of Newcastle (2004–2006)
Bachelor of Laws (Hons) – University of Sydney (2007–2009)
Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Avoca Beach, NSW. Avoca is a coastal town around 1–1.5 hours north of Sydney. Surfing was a huge part of my life and upbringing and I surfed competitively throughout my senior school years. I contemplated pursuing competitive surfing as a career (my brother is a professional surfer), however I decided against it and ended up going to university instead – very different career paths! I went to school at Barker College (Hornsby) and graduated in 2002. After graduating, I took one year off to travel in Europe and ended up working in London in hospitality for a few months. Travel has been an integral part of my life and I learnt from a very young age how important it is for your mind and soul.
How did you get to your current job position?
I have been at DLA Piper for just over five years now. Prior to that, I was at Blake Dawson (now Ashurst) which is where I did my summer clerkship, graduate rotations and eventually settled as a lawyer.
Melinda Upton (IPT partner and co-country managing partner, DLA Piper) interviewed me for my summer clerkship at Blake Dawson and I worked with her as a graduate and lawyer. I was incredibly lucky to be offered the opportunity to continue to work with her when she came to DLA Piper and I continue to work with her and a fantastic group of people and lawyers.
How did you choose your specialisation?
When I was studying law at university, I became instinctively attracted to IP. My strengths at school were always more focused on the creative and artistic subjects, and I felt as if IP complemented those strengths fairly well. IP touches upon so many different areas of law and life, and I felt that this area presented the best opportunity for me to pursue my creative interests in the legal profession. I enjoyed the other rotations I had as a summer clerk and graduate, however I was always drawn to IP.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
My interview process as a summer clerk was some time ago so I must admit I can’t recall the specifics! I do remember it was thorough, and I was of course quite nervous – which is a good thing! From what I can remember, the questions really focused on my personal and educational background, interest in law and non-academic credentials. I interviewed with a number of firms, and the questions and pace varied. However, overall, I found the experience incredibly rewarding and beneficial.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop?
If you are interested in IP, then it would be helpful to take IP as a subject however this is not crucial. To be honest, I always tell juniors that the most important skills they need to excel in this job are good soft and interpersonal skills. It’s a given that people studying law are academically intelligent, however I often see that many juniors lack the interpersonal skills to succeed in this job. By that I mean they need to be driven, ambitious, personable, able to communicate well and take initiative. I am much more inclined to spend time investing in a junior who possesses those skills and demonstrates they can work well in a team, as opposed to someone who finds it difficult to work well with others and engage with people and clients.
What does your employer do?
DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, positioning us to help clients with their legal needs around the world.
What are your areas of responsibility?
I am a senior associate in the Intellectual Property and Technology team. My practice is focused on all aspects of intellectual property branding, with a particular emphasis on brand protection, exploitation and enforcement, both in Australia and globally. My brand protection, exploitation and enforcement experience also extends to advising local, regional and global companies on branding and rebranding strategies and maximising their intellectual property portfolios. I also have extensive experience in representing clients in multi-jurisdictional patent disputes in the life sciences and mobile communications sectors, and have acted in a number of patent infringement and revocation cases involving various inventions.
Can you describe a typical work day?
One of the best aspects about working in IP is that there is no typical work day! Throughout the course of every day I am advising a multitude of clients on various different matters ranging from providing trade mark availability and infringement advice, advising on domain name disputes, conducting a compliance review for advertising and marketing copy, preparing court pleadings for infringement actions in the Federal Court and providing strategic advice on global brand protection strategies. I work with our international colleagues in Asia, the US and Europe every day, and frequently attend calls in the early morning or evening – in Australia we always draw the short end of the straw when it comes to time zones!
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
Someone who is resilient, dedicated, ambitious and driven to succeed. Self-confidence is also key, plus the ability to project and portray confidence so you can engender trust with clients.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
The beauty about law is that it can take you anywhere – it opens up so many career opportunities, whether those be in law or otherwise. The most obvious immediate pathway is into private practice, and the key benefit this provides is the opportunity to develop your skills and network. The other obvious alternative is in-house with a company or organisation. This will provide greater access to the business, and real scope to progress into management and leadership roles beyond the day-to-day of being a lawyer.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Most definitely. Provided you meet all of the formal educational qualification requirements, there should be nothing stopping you!
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I love the fact that my job has enabled me to work with clients and brands that I care about and have a close affinity with. In IP we are lucky enough to work with a diverse number of clients across various sectors, from life sciences to fashion & retail, hospitality & leisure. We work for brands that we know and consume, and we get the opportunity to work with them as they embark on new growth strategies and directions, whether that be in different locations or fields.
The tasks I enjoy the most are where I get the opportunity to work together with a team member to deliver a great outcome for the client, or where I see we make a genuine and meaningful difference to help solve a client’s issue or problem.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
One of the biggest limitations at the moment, as has always been the case for all lawyers, is the billable hour. Incentivising value based on this metric has its challenges, for professionals and clients alike. Clients are placing increased pressure on their law firms to engage in more meaningful ways, act as the ‘trusted advisor’ and provide value beyond impeccable legal advice. Law firms themselves are also facing increased pressure to adapt in the face of increased investments by companies on in-house legal teams, a shift away from billable hours to alternate fee structures and the rise of non-traditional and disruptive competitors. It also remains to be seen how artificial intelligence will shape the way law firms deliver legal advice. As you become more senior in your role, it becomes increasingly more important to invest in business and career development – juggling this along with other pressures and family life, definitely has its challenges!
Yes I do bear a lot of responsibility and sometimes this entails working on weekends. However, this is only when absolutely necessary and there is never any pressure to do this in the absence of a real and pressing need. This job can definitely be stressful at times, however this is not unlike many others therefore it is not unique in this regard. Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle amongst the daily pressures is therefore essential!
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?