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  • 500 - 1,000 employees

Stacey Nicolaou

Having already had the opportunity to work at Gadens prior to the graduate program, I was fortunate to have a great understanding of the commercial realities of working within a law firm, and the skills that underpin effective work-in-progress and billing practices.

What was the one thing about Gadens that made you apply for a graduate role?

I initially joined Gadens as a legal assistant in the Property, Construction and Planning Team in November 2017. My role as a legal assistant, and the experiences it afforded me spurred my desire to build a career at Gadens. It was the diversity of the firm’s work and the philosophy of providing commercial and pragmatic legal advice, as well as innovative online legal solutions to its clients that particularly appealed to me.

Additionally, the collaborative, supportive and collegial ethos of Gadens aligned with the type of environment I wanted to be a part of, therefore when the opportunity arose to apply for the graduate program, I did not hesitate.

The rest is history.

What piece of advice would you give the next round of graduate recruits?

Embrace your mistakes! What I have learnt from my personal experience is that the mistakes I have made have always presented the best opportunities to learn. Nothing rings truer than the philosophy “everything will be ok in the end and if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end.” Mistakes are part-and-parcel of being a graduate, so it is important as a junior lawyer to acknowledge and admit your mistakes and not fret the small setbacks.

As one of my supervising partners once told me, a lawyer’s ability to respond to their own mistakes is often a key determinant in the success of their career.

What was the highlight of your graduate year?

The whole year was an amazing experience! The Grads@Gadens program isn’t like a typical graduate program where you receive minimal exposure to legal work.      

Particularly, a highlight for me was in my second rotation where I was given sole carriage of an unfair dismissal case which progressed all the way to a hearing stage at the Fair Work Commission. One of the partners in my team believed it would be a great experience for myself and another junior lawyer (who happened to be my grad mentor) to appear at the Commission on our own. After months of suspension, of waiting for the judgement to be handed down, our claim was successful and we obtained a fantastic outcome for the Applicant. This was later featured in multiple national employment law tracker websites, Workplace Express and Workplace Bulletin.  

It was an amazing opportunity to be involved in a case that yielded a result that was newsworthy, but it was also a great learning experience as I was able to run my own case, act as instructing solicitor during the hearing, and ultimately have a bit of fun with another junior solicitor.

What thing has surprised you most about being a graduate? 

Being a graduate has its challenges, so having a strong network is vital. Inevitably, your fellow graduates become that solid support network as everyone is encountering similar experiences. Whilst I knew I would be able to rely on the graduates, I didn’t expect to feel such a strong sense of cohort solidarity right from the outset.

What also surprised me was how those at the firm were well aware of who the 2018 “Gadens” were. More often than not, I had people from different floors, whom I had never met, approach me and ask how I was going. It was both comforting and encouraging to know that the support offered to me extended beyond my team and mentors.

The mentoring that you receive as a graduate at Gadens is unparalleled. Any time I had a question, no one was too busy or too stressed to help. I was very fortunate to work alongside some great mentors.

Describe a typical day at Gadens?

My morning coffee ritual is sacrosanct. It is a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues who work in different teams, on different floors, as I don’t get to see them regularly on a day-to-day basis. Usually, this is where my “typical day” at Gadens ends, as no day is ever the same.

I am part of a team that balances both advisory and litigious work, therefore I find myself completing different tasks on any given day from briefing Counsel, drafting affidavits or sifting through hundreds of discoverable documents, to considering legal aspects, preparing letters of advice or drafting employment contracts.

I can honestly say I love coming into the office every day and working in a team where we all have a shared vision and purpose and are fully motivated, engaged and empowered to work alongside each other and champion one another. It’s great to know that I can share my ideas, collaborate and test my thinking with my fellow team members.

What piece of work are you most proud of from your graduate year?

Gadens focuses heavily on learning and development opportunities. The firm holds numerous internal lunchtime seminars for staff on a range of legal topics or issues.  

During my second rotation I arranged a firm seminar on the topic “Independent Contractors v Employees: Who’s who in a gig economy” where myself and an associate in my team presented to the firm. This topic in the employment space gained a lot of traction in mid-2018, with cases such as Uber and Foodora being tested in the courts. Given the current changing landscape in this new digital-era, it was important for partners, senior and junior lawyers in other teams to be aware of these changes, and effectively communicate to their clients the risks involved in getting it wrong.

Despite the frenzied nerves, sweaty palms and moments of regret in organising the seminar, I am immensely proud of myself for overcoming my nerves and presenting to the firm. To date, I am one of the youngest solicitors to have conducted an internal seminar.

How has a graduate program prepared you for life as a lawyer?

Having already had the opportunity to work at Gadens prior to the graduate program, I was fortunate to have a great understanding of the commercial realities of working within a law firm, and the skills that underpin effective work-in-progress and billing practices.

However, the graduate program allowed me to not only continue to develop my analytical, drafting and problem-solving skills but also provided me with the opportunity to build upon my business acumen, develop my litigious skills, hone my ability to research complex areas and assist clients in navigating through their legal problems.