Life at Allens
A day in the life of a grad (pre COVID-19 vs. now)
Lawyer Conor Ruane completed his second and final graduate rotation in 2019, in our Mergers, Acquisitions & Capital Markets team. Late last year, we asked him to share what a 'normal' day at work is like.
Conor is now a Lawyer completing a secondment at Puma Energy Australia. While this is a significant adjustment in itself, he is also adapting to working remotely as a result of COVID-19. Conor describes what a 'normal' day looks like for him now, the benefits of working remotely and the challenges he faces.
If I'm organised enough in the morning, I'll aim to be out of bed by 7:30am. I'm lucky enough to live fairly close to the CBD, so provided it's not a scorcher (which seems to be happening more often as Queensland Summer rolls around!), I'll usually walk to work. The walk is a great opportunity to get in a quick podcast - recently I've been listening to 'Morning Call', a podcast by NAB which gives a handy ten minute rundown of the overnight news and global market happenings.
I usually make it to work after 8:30. However, today is looking like a busier day one with a few deadlines looming, so I've tried to get in a bit earlier to tackle some emails before the morning kicks into full swing. I'm currently completing a rotation in the firm's Mergers, Acquisitions & Capital Markets team (MAC for short), and have been here for about eight months, after completing my first rotation in the Real Estate & Development team.
With the email admin out of the way, it's time for some caffeine! Big day ahead, so definitely a double shot required this morning. I head upstairs to Level 26 and grab one of the other graduates I started at the firm with a year ago. We're spoilt for choice at this end of the city when it comes to coffee. I'm a fan of the Campos served up on Level 4 of our building, so we settle on that.
Back at my desk and well caffeinated, one of the Associates in my team calls me over to discuss some work I handed him yesterday afternoon. We're acting for an underwriter in an upcoming capital raising, and I had a first go at drafting the Underwriting Agreement. To my relief, it wasn't a bad first attempt (hooray!), and he talks me through his changes before sending it off to one of the Partners for a final review.
Time for the first meeting of the morning – a call with an Associate who sits across from me, and a Senior Associate from our Sydney office. We've been working on a company acquisition for one of our larger clients, and completion is scheduled to occur in a few weeks' time. There are a fair few documents that need to be prepared, and we settle on a plan to ensure we have everything ready in time.
October is AGM season in the world of MAC, so I'm off to one of our ASX-listed clients' AGMs with an Associate and Partner in my team. This one is being held in our building, so I grab a few copies of the company's recent Annual Report, Notice of Meeting and my trusty copy of the Corps Act (just in case we're asked any burning legal questions). This one runs pretty smoothly, so we're back in the office within the hour.
Earlier in the week, one of the Partners in our team asked me to review the existing whistleblower policy of one of our clients. There have been some recent changes to Federal whistleblower legislation, so I've been tasked with reviewing their policy against requirements under the Corporations Act and ASIC Regulatory Guidance and suggesting some changes that they'll need to make. I pump out a solid two hours of work and send an email to the Partner with my recommendations.
I normally make the effort to get some fresh air for lunch, but it's tipped to pass 30 degrees, so I opt for the air-conditioned comfort of Level 25.
Back at the desk and time to make a quick phone call. We're assisting a foreign client with the incorporation of two Australian investment entities, so I give our internal Company Secretary team a call to fetch an update on the process. They let me know that the required incorporation forms will be lodged with ASIC in the morning, shortly after which the companies should be incorporated.
I see an email pop up from one of the Partners in my team. One of our clients has asked for some urgent advice regarding a proposed buy-back of company shares that they will be undertaking in the new year. They have a few specific questions about the timeline of the proposed buy-back, and the steps they'll need to take to ensure it's conducted in line with requirements under the Corporations Act. We'll need to turn this one around quickly, so I fetch a copy of Ford's (the staple Corporate law text) from the library and get started on some research.
After some decent progress on the research, I'm off to a meeting with our Arena Committee. Through the committee, we organise several functions per year where the junior lawyers at our firm can invite along clients we've had the opportunity to work with on matters. For our next event, we're hosting a Halloween-themed get-together. We settle on a final draft of the invite (complete with too many Halloween puns), which will be sent out to clients in the morning.
With the meeting done, it's back to the research. After hitting some roadblocks, trawling through a few textbook chapters and running my eyes over a couple of cases (law school was semi-useful after all!), I think I've found an answer. I put my thoughts in an email and send it off to the Partner in my team. We'll reconvene in the morning and arrange a call with the client to discuss.
After submitting my time entries for the day (a steep learning curve in an organisation for any junior lawyer), it's home time. I'd love to say I'm a decent cook, but definitely not keen on triggering the fire alarms in our apartment complex tonight. A mate of mine has recently moved onto our street, so we grab a bite in the neighbourhood. From there it's a mix of chill time, meaningless YouTube videos and, finally, some shut eye.
Ask anyone who works from home and they'll tell you that the best perk of effectively waking up in your office is saying goodbye to the annoying parts of the typical morning routine – no more commutes at the mercy of traffic and certainly no need to go the extra mile in your best office attire. I'm not the biggest morning person, so for me this extra half hour means a bit more sleep, which 3pm me will be very grateful for! After a quick breakfast and coffee number one (of many more), time to get started for the day.
Working from home calls for creating a home office setup that's comfortable, conducive to productivity and has minimal distractions. Getting this balance right can take some time and perfecting, especially if, like me and many of my colleagues, you're in a shared living situation with other housemates who are also in the same boat. I've set myself up on my back deck, which gives me enough space to replicate my normal office setup and enough peace and quiet to make all the calls and join all the virtual meetings I need to throughout the day. And the view is pretty good too! First order of business for the day is to do my usual check of emails and bank a few tasks that I'd like to tackle before the day's end.
After completing my second grad rotation in the firm's MAC team, I've now settled there as a lawyer. However, for the past couple of months I have been completing a secondment at Puma Energy Australia, one of our clients. I've been seconded to Puma for the completion of their acquisition by a foreign company, and it's been an incredibly rewarding experience seeing things from the perspective of an in-house legal team (more on that to come later) and strengthening our client relationships. I've found it important to regularly check-in with the team back at Allens and keep the lines of communication open, and I have a couple of virtual meetings in my calendar today with colleagues back at Allens. Firstly, though, I have my usual morning call with the General Counsel at Puma to run through tasks for the day. We have a fair bit to get through this week as we're working towards a tight completion deadline for the Puma acquisition. After the call, I make a 'to do' list for the day. We'll check back in with each other in the afternoon.
This morning I'm preparing an agreement to facilitate part of Puma's pre-completion corporate restructuring. I'm someone who really struggles to complete any sort of multi-document drafting task on a tiny laptop screen, so thankfully (courtesy of Allens' handy work-from-home allowance) I've been able to grab an extra monitor to make tasks like this easier to navigate. Even being on secondment, I still have access to all of the firm's knowledge resources, a few of which come in handy with this task. After a couple of hours of solid work, I shoot off a draft to the General Counsel for review.
Every second Wednesday, Richard Spurio, the Managing Partner of Allens, has been hosting a firm-wide videoconference to keep everyone in the loop with the firm's strategy for navigating COVID-19 and all its challenges. I dial in to this, as I have for the time I've been on secondment, to stay updated. It's certainly an interesting time for everyone in the legal industry, but it's great to see the firm having a positive outlook on the road ahead and using this period as an opportunity to become more innovative in our day-to-day work practices.
I have another call with our General Counsel to discuss a few changes to the agreement I prepared earlier. After agreeing on a few tweaks and undertaking some small research on the operation of a couple of particular clauses, we finalise a version to be executed by the directors of the relevant Puma entity.
Time for some lunch. When I'm in the office, I love getting out, getting a bit of sunshine and using the time to refresh before the afternoon. It's important to maintain a similar routine, even with the different working environment. I'm lucky enough to have a few local cafes within walking distance that are still operational during the COVID-19 trading restrictions, so I've been trying to get out each day and support the local businesses.
Back in time for the videoconference – this time with the General Counsel, another lawyer from Puma and their commercial property team. As part of the fuel arm of its business, Puma operates over 300 retail service stations across Australia, so there is a significant body of property-related work involved in the lead up to completion of Puma's takeover. In this call, we discuss the progress of legal groundwork with our various landlords. After the call, I spend the next couple of hours drafting various notices and deeds that I send back to the commercial property team, who will handle the correspondence with each of our landlords.
One of the best parts of going on secondment – and a part which provides a unique learning opportunity – is working closely with the non-legal teams within a company. It reminds you that often as a lawyer, the ultimate recipient of your advice will not be a lawyer, and commerciality will always trump technical legal jargon. Case in point of this dynamic is the videoconference I now have with Puma's IT team. As part of the takeover, and as is common in any acquisition, Puma will have to transition its existing IT infrastructure to the systems operated by its purchase company. In our call, we discuss the progress of this transition, and I'm educated in a further 30 IT acronyms. After the meeting, I spend the next while reviewing IT service agreements that Puma proposes to enter into to ensure their terms are legally and commercially acceptable.
Every Wednesday the MAC team at Allens has its weekly Hump Day Check-In. It's a good way to reconnect with the team when working remotely, so I dial in to this. Items on the agenda today – isolation hacks, Dog Show & Tell and Netflix recommendations. I refuse to jump on a bandwagon so Tiger King will get a pass from me.
At the end of each day, I have another call with the Puma General Counsel to chat about the progress I made throughout the day and what tomorrow will look like. We tee up a few meetings for tomorrow. I spend the next half an hour responding to a few emails that I haven't been able to get to yet, before calling it a night at 6pm. With all the time saved from a lack of commute, I've decided to make more of an effort with cooking, using my housemates as guinea pigs. They haven't had food poisoning yet, so I'll call that a success. Tonight it's more cooking following by a few board games – a Zoom round of 'Secret Hitler' and an in-person game of 'Pandemic' (fitting I know). Would highly recommend both!