We sat down with Graduate, Karlena Fuata, to talk about her experience working in the Pro Bono team.
I started at Colin Biggers & Paisley (CBP) as a Legal Assistant in the Pro Bono & Responsible Business team. CBP has an incredibly inclusive and supportive culture, and as I approached the end of my studies, I knew I wanted to apply for the graduate program and take the next step in my career with the practice.
My experience as a Graduate at CBP
I commenced as a graduate in August 2021 and stayed in the Pro Bono team for my first rotation. During this 5-month rotation, I was seconded three days a week to Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC) working as part of their Youth Legal Service and spent the other two days working on pro bono matters across the practice. Whilst seconded to MLC, I was able to work in a range of areas of law generally affecting young people in NSW including victims support, employment, criminal and traffic law. A highlight was working with solicitors and clients to navigate the revolving door of legal issues resulting from the changes to the Public Health Orders and developing case law surrounding employment and vaccine mandates.
This secondment helped me gain important communication and problem-solving skills, with lots of opportunities to engage with clients and draft multiple advices a day. In addition to professional experience, it was incredibly fulfilling being able to make a small contribution to MLC's crucial work providing access to justice to our community.
On my days off from MLC, I was able to work on pro bono matters within the practice, ranging from small debt claims to research for not-for-profits, and even regularly volunteering with Refugee Legal on their clinic dedicated to supporting Afghani refugees. These two days allowed me to get a taste of different practice groups and develop my research and time-management skills. This rotation offers graduates great exposure to clients and the opportunity to learn from many different lawyers in different contexts. The Pro Bono team are integral to who CBP are as a legal practice, and I cannot recommend this rotation enough.
I am now in the midst of my second rotation, working in the Property & Development team in Sydney. So far, I am learning a great deal about commercial leasing, and property acquisitions and sales. The team has been incredibly welcoming, and always willing to answer my questions. In this rotation, I feel that I am getting thorough training and the type of hands-on experience that truly prepares graduates for practice. The support I have received so far has been amazing, and I am excited to continue learning and growing in this space.
Advice I would give to graduates who are thinking about applying for the program
If you are looking for a graduate experience that is engaging and provides good training with a focus on work/life balance, the CBP graduate program offers it all.
If you are thinking about applying or going through the process, I recommend showing your personality and sharing what you're passionate about.