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Rochelle's graduate story: law stream

Rochelle was unsure what area of law she wanted to pursue. Through the law stream she worked in different departments and gained experience in various legal environments.

Stream: Law
Home department: Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
Studied: Arts and Law
How she describes herself: Optimistic, loyal, creative, organised, attentive and reliable
Pronouns: She/her/hers

About Rochelle

I enjoy listening to podcasts - I’m really interested in history and politics so there’s a lot of material available! Now that I’ve finished studying, I’ve gotten back into reading and have been making masks. I also love baking and cooking and learned some new skills in the kitchen this year.

I’m looking forward to exploring more of regional Victoria. Working in government has shown me how diverse the regions are and how much they have to offer.

I plan to work as a government lawyer and gain as much experience in different areas of law as I can. In the future, I’d love to go on secondment within government to explore other departments and policy or project roles.

What I expected

I wanted to play a role in meeting the evolving needs of Victorians – needs which shifted rapidly this year! I wasn’t sure which area of law I wanted to pursue, so the graduate program was appealing because of the opportunity to rotate across different departments and gain experience across portfolios.

The culture and values of the Victorian Public Service (VPS) appealed to me, and I knew they support a healthy work-life balance. I was excited and nervous; it was my first full time job working in the city. I anticipated having to adjust to new routines, increased travel time and organising a new work wardrobe.

What I experienced

When I started, I was struck by how generous everyone was with their time, despite how busy they were. My supervisors, team members and the graduate program coordinators were invested in making sure I had diverse learning and development opportunities.

I assisted with advising on exciting projects, observed and appeared in complex and interesting legal matters and attended various training sessions. There’s so much to learn about the public service - its structure and operation are unique.

Working full time was not as exhausting as I’d anticipated. I enjoyed interacting with my colleagues and assisting them with their work. Seeing them interact with clients, in meetings and in written advice, was a great way to develop my communication skills and legal knowledge.

I was involved in work relating to bushfire recovery and Coronavirus preparedness and response. I enjoyed hearing about policy and law reform in these areas and assisting with projects to support Victorians during this time.

I had the opportunity to do court appearances in the Magistrates’ Court which allowed me to build advocacy experience. I also assisted with criminal prosecutions which provided a valuable insight into Victoria’s legal system.

Alongside work, I studied part time for my Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice so I could be admitted as a lawyer. My teams and supervisors were very encouraging of me undertaking study and I felt very supported.

Who I worked with

My first rotation was with Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) where I was in the commercial law team. My second rotation was with Victoria Police Prosecutions.

My favourite part of the day was catching up with my supervisor or others in my team, whether it was to talk about work or just for a chat. I enjoyed observing at court and attending meetings about new projects the department was working on.

How I worked in 2020

I felt supported when setting up my working from home arrangements. We were encouraged to take supplies from the office, including monitors and chairs to make us more comfortable. I’ve enjoyed the advantages of working from home, like spending less time commuting and more time with my family.

At first, I found working from home a little challenging. I missed the learning opportunities from being in an office, like listening to conversations between other lawyers and working with different team members.

To help me adjust, my manager arranged for me to be included in more virtual meetings with clients and encouraged members of the team to reach out to me when they needed assistance.

During my second rotation, I was able to go into the office more, which allowed me to really get a feel for the organisation and be involved in more ad hoc tasks.

Advice for future applicants

Research the different departments and agencies and identify key projects and policies that appeal to you. Use that knowledge to draft your responses and prepare for your interview.

Don’t discount working in any area based on preconceptions, or because you don’t know much about it. Keep an open mind if an opportunity comes up in an area you hadn’t considered – you never know, you might learn something completely new and love it.

It’s okay to not understand concepts or processes at first. It’s more important to be a sponge and take in as much as possible from those around you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or reach out to people, even just for a chat. People are always happy to take time to explain and will appreciate your interest.

The best way to learn is by working with lots of different people in your team. You can pick up on effective styles of communication and ways of working to then apply to your own work. It’s also the best way to build connections and rapport.

Reviewed 19 July 2021

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