News I My year as a Graden (a Grad@Gadens!) with Martin Nguyen
18 July 2017
Martin commenced his graduate year with Gadens in March 2016. He moved through two six-month rotations, one in Banking and Finance: Insolvency and Litigation and one in Banking and Finance: Commercial Lending. Martin is now a Lawyer in Gadens’ Banking and Finance: Commercial Lending team.
What made you apply for a role at Gadens?
As law students, we all yearn for one simple thing – a job! What really underpins this is the unrelenting desire to use our legal skills (which we spend a significant part of our lives trying to attain!) on meaningful and impactful transactions.
I grew up in South Australia. I remember longing for a clerkship there because I wanted to be part of firm with a strong national presence, which was renowned for an excellent work culture. I had decided that Gadens was for me, so I turned my sights to the Gadens office in Melbourne. What I wanted was the chance to work on large commercial deals and work with high-calibre clients that could only be offered in Victoria and at Gadens. I wanted mentors who would take the time to help me develop and a dynamic, high pressure environment where I knew I could thrive. Gadens has given me that!
If you could go back and tell your past self about your graduate year, what would you tell them?
Aside from reassuring myself that everything will be okay, exercise more and to say no to the endless supply of cheap chocolate available at the Woolworths downstairs, I would remind past-Martin to smile, say hi to everyone and use the year to develop strong and everlasting relationships. You only get one graduate year, and I think it is important to enjoy it. The people at Gadens are genuinely friendly, and by mingling and getting to know those around you, countless opportunities will arise, both workwise and social.
I would also emphasise to past-me that it is okay to be unsure. Uncertainty is a part of being a graduate lawyer, and being uncertain is not an indication of a lack of knowledge – but proof that you are wise enough to know when to seek help. Tell us about one of the highlights of your graduate year.
I had always dreamed of becoming a staple litigator in Australia and on my first day I made this known to my Group Leader.
Accordingly, within the first two weeks of the Grads@Gadens program (affectionately known by my cohort as Gradens), I was thrown into the deep end of a complex commercial trial about unconscionable conduct. I had to hit the ground running, and over the course of that 11 day trial, I was directly involved in it as if I had been on the case for years. My supervisor and overseeing partner included me in every stage of the process. I helped draft arguments, instruct Barristers, discuss matters with clients – all within my first month as a commercial solicitor! And yet, despite the weight of the trial and the mounting pressure, I never felt overwhelmed.
I was supported every step of the way by my team and mentors and was never in a position where I was not guided in the right direction. It was an amazing experience that is ingrained in my memory and something that none of my university peers have had the chance to go through in their first year as solicitors.
What sets Gadens apart from other law firms?
Gadens has an unparalleled work culture. From the bottom of my heart, I can genuinely say that I am happy to be at work every day. The people who make up the firm are like family and what makes it even better is the rewarding work and opportunities you get as a junior lawyer that are simply not offered anywhere else.
Gadens is invested in the development of its lawyers. Everyone takes an interest to see how you are going, and will go out of their way to ensure that you get to experience new things and work on satisfying and interesting matters.
It is difficult to reconcile the idea of a good work-life balance and being a commercial lawyer. Some say, the two phrases are ideologically opposed!
Honestly, Gadens has the trifecta. It has a great balance, complex and stimulating work and a social culture unrivalled amongst its peers. Life@Gadens is not a marketing phrase and is more than just a policy – it is instilled within the firm. We have regular social events, wellness initiatives, and countless extra-curricular activities including cricket, netball, tennis and an informal Scotch enthusiast club.
Tell us about the work at Gadens.
The work is satisfying, enjoyable and most of all challenging. Despite being a junior lawyer, you get real opportunities to run transactions and work on significant deals.
As a junior Banking and Finance lawyer, I regularly work on, and run predominantly on my own, high volume deals for the major banks worth anywhere between several hundred thousand to a hundred million dollars. From the beginning I have always had the chance to be hands-on, and have constantly found myself working on matters with different issues, involving facets of every area of law.
How has the graduate program prepared you for life as a solicitor?
Unlike other programs that I have heard about anecdotally, the Grads@Gadens program gives the perfect balance of guidance / education and autonomy. The program has allowed me to develop excellent file management and communication skills, whilst attaining a broader commercial knowledge of substantive law. Aside from formal seminars, we are always learning hands-on.
The partners take a genuine interest in our development and actively seek out opportunities to develop our skills and assist us to become capable solicitors. I have been fortunate enough to regularly meet clients and run files autonomously, which has allowed me to forge strong relationships with clients and third parties and the confidence to work on any commercial transaction regardless of complexity.