21 May CB6. My personal history after graduation
“Theory vs Practical” – University education provides the former and little or none of the latter. Life is a continuous learning expedition. One gravitates to a particular lifestyle from the choices made. Good habits tend to be formed so that many chores or work become second nature and take little effort to do.
- I had two graduation ceremonies that made my parents bored to tears in attending them as my audience. For the third graduation ceremony, I spared my parents the boredom of sitting through two hours of talk from the podium. My third qualification was ‘Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice’ from the University of Technology Sydney, which I attended solo (no family audience).
- What theory have I learnt from my Bachelor of Economics (majoring in Accounting) degree? Macroeconomics matters, more so than microeconomics (to me). ‘Balance Sheet’ and ‘Profit and Loss Accounts’ are important concepts to understand money, or more accurately the ‘making of money’. Auditing is not exciting as a profession (for me).
- Earning my Bachelor of Laws degree took the most toil from me. I learnt that judges are long winded in their dictum (judgments), so much so that I had to light the midnight oil each night to read case law in preparation for my two hour tutorials, for which I am graded for class participation. No preparation = no marks. Reading, or fast reading, like this markedly improved my command of the English language during the five undergraduate years.
- What theory was learnt from the law degree? There are in fact principles in the law, based on equity or a “reasonable person’s test”. Laws are often made by lawmakers – parliamentarians in Australia. They also come from case law or common law – judge made laws. The case of Donoghue v Stevenson  comes to mind – it deals with how much ‘duty of care’ is required for people to live together. Commercial law, I have found, is largely based on Property Law. And Property Law equates to Big Money in Australia and elsewhere, so that lawmakers tend to make many strict laws in this area – to keep the population happy (get-along). The ‘Contract for the sale and purchase of land’ (NSW) (regularly updated) to my mind sets out the rights of the two ‘opposing parties’, ie the vendor and the purchaser. This can be transposed in any other commercial transaction – the balancing act, I call it. With the law in place, price or economics pretty much form the rest of the topic of negotiation between the two parties. The legal terms of the NSW ‘Contract’ are contained in 12 lengthy pages, largely based on Parliament made laws. Criminal law is another significant area and is once again largely based on Parliament made laws. There are some moral aspects to this – and the law in essence tells us how much space we should give each other – to live happily ever after – or more accurately, not kill one another.
- With the theory nicely packed in my pocket, I ventured out to full-time work. My part-time work during my student days did play a part in learning the practicality of ‘adding value’ to my employers – how to take orders and implementing them – how to show respect and so on. Vacation student employment with a Big 4 accounting firm was an eye-opener in this regard.
- Full-time work in accounting and tax was my first foray into the real adult world. After a year in this profession, I moved into the field of law.
- Working as a legal officer in a Big 4 bank opened my eyes to how a major corporation functions. I was a lawyer working for one client – the Bank. The legal division farms out work to a large law firm. When inundated with too many legal issues, we let the large law firm come out with a solution. So, the working hours were pretty good at the bank – can finish work at 5:00 pm.
- The Bank gave me six months off to do my ‘College of Law (practical legal training)’ qualification. I did mock trials during these few months. At its conclusion, I was admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW.
- Returning to the Bank, I was put in the Company Secretary’s Office (Group Secretariat). Here I met Richard Gorrell – manager international operations. I was companies officer international operations. I learnt from Richard how to write succinct correspondence – using good English. Richard is a gentleman who to this day maintains contact with me. Richard was for a stint the Company Secretary of TV Channel 10.
- I saw the heartbeat of the Bank in this department. Minutes of major decisions were written, and press releases were made. It was more interesting work than in the legal division.
- Even more interesting work was discovered at my next place of employment – a medium sized law firm. I was one of five junior lawyers working for a law partner of a 32-partner law firm.
- I liked the ability to add value to someone’s life, not just a corporation. I worked on smaller deals when compared with the Big 4 bank. The work varied each day in that we had many legal matters progressing during a day in the office. At this place, junior lawyers did not leave work at 5:00 pm. We left between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm each work day depending on the workload. We did this so that we could become a law partner one day – harbouring ambition. High charge-outs mark the clever ones.
- In this law firm, I was introducing my friends to become clients. I enjoyed this aspect the best – adding value to my own clients. The law partner was a doctorate in law and was a clever individual. He worked long hours and expect all his junior lawyers to do the same. However, he was not tidy. His big desk had half a metre of papers on it – with at least ten different matters on the one desk. He relied on his junior lawyers to keep him on track with matters. Unlike him, I am a tidy person. I was the first junior lawyer in the team to start using a laptop computer on my own – so that I didn’t have to dictate to a recorder for typing by the secretaries.
- Exposed to many areas of law and dealing with tens or hundreds of clients, it enthused me to consider starting a law firm of my own, where greater organisation would be put in place. I made preparations over a number of months, handed in my resignation with notice, finished work on a Friday and began Comasters Law Firm on the following Monday.
- The beginnings of Comasters would be the topic of another blog post.
- I worked for several years for my employers. I made money for them, and they trained me. I also learned about office politics and how to reduce them when able. Competency can be harnessed without office politics. There are times I enjoyed my work in particular when I was working directly for Richard Gorrell. At other times, with a direct report who is not a very pleasant person, getting up in the morning (to be motivated) can be difficult. All in all, it was a good experience, and I have begun to understand that I am living in the “Lucky Country”.