Vol 11, Issue 12
The oft-repeated phrase law students are all too familiar with: “you need experience to get experience”. And you need experience to get a job, as a general rule. As the months pass and the end of my degree starts to creep up on me all too quickly, I figured I’d better get my butt into gear and get some of that experience. What kind of experience or for how long, I didn’t know and frankly didn’t care – I just wanted something.
I’ll be entirely honest – I don’t even remember applying for this job, but when Fred* called offering an interview for a legal internship I jumped at the opportunity.
I hung up the phone but couldn’t recall this guy telling me the name of the firm he worked at. I couldn’t find a lot online about him. I told myself I’d just forgotten these details as I’d been busy when he’d called. Give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he’s just a vague kinda guy.
I rock up to the interview (in an office, but not his own) and am trying to keep an open mind. He’s chatty and friendly enough, and explains his situation to me and what the internship is for (in the vaguest of terms).
He had his own law firm and ran it his own way. There are some baseless allegations against him that he wants to fight in court – this is what you’d be doing, lodging court/tribunal documents and helping build a case. There was something in there about a practising certificate too.
He asks when can I start? I’m hesitant but think what the hell, if it turns to shit I can always bail (the position is unpaid and I made sure not to sign anything).
I started on Monday.
I left on Monday, shortly after lunch.
I rock up Monday morning at 9am, as we agreed. Another girl, Wilma*, rocks up at 5 past looking for Fred, who hasn’t arrived yet. We get chatting. She’s a first year arts student studying humanities. I wonder what she’s doing a “legal” internship for, but figure she’s just a keen bean.
This guy rocks up at 9.30am sans phone and sans excuse for his lateness. She and I aren’t that impressed. We have a meeting where he pretty much sits on his computer scrolling through things for minutes on end (good to see you’re prepared, Fred), and gives us access to an online drive. He’s going to be in and out of the office – you two do some reading, get up to speed, and we’ll have a meeting at 2pm to discuss our direction. We have some court deadlines coming up, so we’ll discuss those too.
Wilma and I get to our digging.
The drive is full of stuff – reports, correspondence, scans of documents e.t.c. Each takes a decent chunk of time to get through, so neither of us really notice how much time is going by.
As I read I take some notes, mostly because I want to be able to ask some questions in the meeting.
The more I read, the worse the picture became. This guy’s textbook baddy director, ASIC v Adler style, and my list gets longer and longer.
A certain legal authority got word of what was going on in Fred’s firm, so started doing some research; they put their findings in a report.
It turns out there are a plethora of allegations against Fred and serious problems with his practise as a legal practitioner. Many of the claims concerned directors’ duties, including concerns over the use of company funds and some mention of s 588G of the Corporations Act; it’s not looking good for Fred.
This is crazy! What am I doing?!
I need a breather, and another person’s perspective. I go to lunch and call my friend Barney* who’s a lawyer, and ask him what to do.
He says get out. Go back to the office, grab your stuff, and hightail it out of there.
By this time it’s about 1:45pm (our meeting is in 15 minutes). I rush back to the office, look down at Wilma while shoving my stuff in my bag, and tell her what I’m doing; I feel a bit guilty to be bailing on her. She looks up at me, smiles, and says she’s going to do the exact same thing.
We headed to the elevator and my heart was thumping in my chest. What if he was in the elevator on his way up? What if we saw him in the lobby? I was frantically planning excuses in my mind as the elevator door opened, but to my relief Fred was nowhere to be seen.
Wilma and I wished each other all the best and parted ways. I jumped on my bike and headed over to Barney’s office to fully catch him up on my mad Monday.
As I arrived at Barney’s office, Fred texts me (it’s after 2pm now) asking to delay the meeting to 2:30pm. I say I’m not coming back. I don’t wish him good luck or say goodbye.
As shitty (and stupid on my part) as this experience was, I found it strangely invigorating. If anything, it shows that I payed (some) attention in Corporations Law and have a moral compass - I know that Fred is not the sort of lawyer I want to be. It also makes for a good story, I guess.
* names have been changed to protect identities
This is the work of a JD student
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