David Allinson - Paralegal
Why did you want to work at Slater and Gordon?
I wanted to work at Slater and Gordon for two reasons. Firstly, it is unique among firms in Melbourne in terms of its history and values. That’s translated into a practice that has, despite its size, retained a clear vision for the role it plays in Australia’s legal services market. It has also translated into a working environment that’s friendly and unusually flexible for staff.
Secondly, I’m really interested in plaintiff law. And there are few more interesting matters being run in Australia than those we work on in the Commercial and Project Litigation practice group. There’s no shortage of class actions for people who are interested in assisting with client-focused work that also happens to be in the interest of the public good.
What is it like to work at Slater and Gordon?
I feel very lucky to be working here as a law student. There’s a pronounced (and positive) difference between our environment and those in which I’ve worked previously. That difference speaks to the history that underpins the firm’s values.
For example, there is an explicit focus on staff wellbeing. I am given a lot of support in balancing my study commitments with work. This has produced a group of people who are invested in the outcomes of the firm’s work, glad to be working with one another, and I think we’re more effective in achieving our goals because of that.
Describe your day to day tasks in your role as a projects paralegal.
The responsibilities of my paralegal role are surprisingly varied. In the morning, after checking in with the lawyers, a paralegals’ core role in my team, where there is a large discovery, is document review. It’s also fundamentally linked to the outcome of the case, and it’s important to embrace it as such.
In addition to document review, a paralegal is also responsible for performing research tasks on a needs-basis. This is something that I personally, get carried away with. It’s important, contrariwise, to focus on obtaining the specific information a lawyer has asked for, and producing that information in a timely and concise manner. If you’re working with other paralegals, it’s also important to communicate via email to keep a track of everyone’s progress to achieve a timely outcome.
What do you consider to be the most important skills in an effective paralegal?
Excellent attention to detail, an ability to sustain concentration while reading hundreds of documents, and the ability to communicate clearly are all important.
Yet none of them are the most important skill of an effective paralegal: I think that skill lies in being attentive to the needs of the lawyers, and keeping an eye on the flow of work across the team. This means choosing the right time to check in to see where the priorities of each day lie. This ‘right time’ is usually in the morning, when things are quiet. Being able to develop that strategic sense of where a team should be focusing its efforts on a daily basis, in alignment with the lawyers’ needs, is an essential condition of good project management. A great paralegal will be conscious of it.
What has been your best experience in the department so far?
Working on the Manus class action has been one of the best experiences of my working life. The nature of the work is fascinating. It’s a cause with a significant public interest element. The people are also just great to work with. Many of them are now moving upwards in the organisation which is indicative of the amazing passion and talent those people possess. It’s been wonderful, and I think it will be a hard experience to replicate in future.
How has your work at Slater and Gordon shaped your understanding of the law and the role of a lawyer?
My role so far has informed my understanding of the law by applying the knowledge gained in my classes to practical problems. This seems a banal point, but it’s true: my knowledge of tort law has been effectively consolidated over the past few months.
In a broader context, it’s also been heartening to see what practise in law can be. I think Slater and Gordon is special in that our motivation to achieve good outcomes for our clients isn’t just a generic corporate goal, or marketing spin. Our history of helping people, and taking on high-profile class actions is demonstrative of our commitment to being a force for positive change in the communities for which we work.
The lawyers I’ve worked with have also been great role models, for three key reasons. They’re really friendly and approachable; if any issues arise I feel comfortable raising them immediately. They’re also really intelligent, and manage work flow in a way that’s always clear and well communicated, even when under pressure. Finally, they’re invariably both passionate about working for Slater and Gordon and the work they do, and that’s great to be around.