dal niente

Month: December, 2013

Happy New Year from Down Under

Happy New Year!


It’s midnight in Sydney!

The Interview

The interview for the training contract has come and gone.  The interview lasted about almost an hour and a half.  How did I do?

Well, at the end of the day, it depends largely on how my peers did as well, so I don’t really know.  I do know that I was specifically being asked certain types of questions just to see how I would react.  One of the topics that came up as a random “world issues” issue was the recent trouble the NSA has been getting into.

Somehow, the most difficult question was for me to convince them that I really wanted to be a lawyer, given that I had a background in public healthcare and things that are normally more condusive of social justice types of law.

Well, I guess we’ll see how it turns out. You never know.

The Internship, Continued

Some scattered thoughts follow about the Internship in Hong Kong so far.


First of all– work culture here is intense.  Reminds me of South Korea.  I’m reminded that, from a professional point of view, Sydney is a pretty relaxed place, comparatively speaking.

Week 2 of the internship has come and gone.

I haven’t blogged much about anything in the past 3 weeks because, as I mentioned the last time I wrote about the Internship, it’s just been madness.


The two weeks that I spent working in the Intellectual Property department were really good though.  As of Monday, I’ve moved on to my second rotation in the Banking department.


The two weeks in IP were really something.  I had the opportunity to do some real work—actually, so much so that it was a bit scary.  Although day one was just a day full of orientation presentations (how to use a photocopier, who’s who in the zoo, etc) day two was like Normandy.  Within a few hours of my day beginning, I was buried under work that I had little or no idea how to do.  And this continued until my last day in the department, when I stayed two and a half hours after the normal check-out time.

It was very stressful, yet at the same time, kind of rewarding.  The scary thing about the situation is that unlike my work in any other legal firm or NGO so far, I was treated as the last line of defense for everything I did.  I think that was something that, frankly, I wasn’t used to in a legal workplace.  In Sydney, I always had someone who double checked my work and filled in the gaps—Hong Kong? It’s really been a high standard.  Big things have been expected of me, and this was daunting at first—but because of the trust they put in me, I was able to really learn a thing or two and get my hands dirty.

During my performance review, as well as a conversation I had with the trainee solicitor who was in charge of most of my work, I was given some very useful feedback.

“I tell trainees, it’s like a game of tennis.  Except that you can never let the other person score.  That means that you never have the luxury of missing a ball, and you can never hit the ball out.  It’s different from university because in university, if you get it 80% right, that’s already good—clients don’t want to be missing 20% of the story.”


I have an interview on Thursday.  This is basically stage…. 6?… Of the hiring process.  I already completed stage 1 and 2, which were phone interviews while I was still in Sydney.  Stage 3, I would say, was the first rotation.  Stage 4 was a 10 minute presentation I delivered yesterday on a topic of my choice to solicitors.  Stage 5 is my rotation here in Banking.  6 will be a formal interview by HR, and two partners.  And stage 7 is a “group training exercise,” which will be me in a room with the other 4 interns, solving a hypothetical problem scenario. 


It’s all very “Survivor” if you ask me. HR tells us that it’s not a competition… but who really, among the interns, believes that?  Image is everything in these situations.  They offer something like 8 contracts per year max, and they have a new batch of interns every couple of months. While it might not be explicit, you know that doing well all around all the events is really quite important.


As far as the presentation went, I think I did pretty well. The other interns did subjects on a pretty wide range of subjects—the other ones were: how to cook a perfect steak; phobias; social media versus connection; raising children in an internet age.  I did mine on mortality, referring to some of my work in healthcare.  Good old hospital work– always good for a conversation starter.


I’ve realised over the past semester that I’ve really come to try and manage my time for maxium efficiency of results.  I’ll actually sacrifice doing something better (when I objectively know that I can do it better) if I think that time can be spent doing something else with a bigger return on my time.  Presentation-wise, that’s what happened– I know that I can create a pretty killer PowerPoint presentation, but instead opted to use less slides and less effects and work more on delivery.  It worked out pretty well– I basically gave a 10 minute speech without looking up.  Only tripped 3 times, but the audience wouldn’t know anyway.


While I guess prioritisation is a useful thing, what I need to keep in mind though is that now that this is the big leagues, I need to make sure that what needs to be 100% perfect actually is 100% perfect.



Throughout my work, I felt like it was a constant struggle to work towards the completion of tasks, balancing accuracy with deadlines.  My performance review reflected it—get the accuracy 100% right.  You’ll probably get better at the deadlines with due course.  However, my superiors don’t have time to check my work, so it’s important that I take ownership over giving them finished products at all times.  “Ownership” is going to be my personal mantra for the rest of the time I have here.

I started gradually seeing this as my time went on in the department. Consultants and partners were asking me, bluntly: “do you think we will win on this issue?” And they didn’t want me to sit on the fence and consider both sides like I do to get my grades in university.  They wanted me to give them a flat out answer to take to the client, right then, right there.  They were asking me for my legal opinion.  They were treating me as if my opinion mattered.


I realised early on in the internship that that’s actually quite frightening, as all true responsibility or accountability is.


Mind you—it was a rought start, but I started getting better at it.  By the time I finished IP, I think I had a grip on getting things mostly right in process, and just how my work fits into the grand scheme of things.  I got the chance to work on an incredible range of tasks that I had no idea went on behind the scenes in an area of law that I thought (wrongly) would be very straightforward and transactional in nature.


I’m glad I decided to take up law.

Cruel Thesis

Penalties will apply to assessed work which exceeds the word limit as follows: 0-10%


10% penalty




20% penalty


30% and over


40% penalty



…What kind of jackass writes and hands a thesis that goes 30% over the word limit?

The Internship

I’ve completed week one out of three of the internship so far.


It’s been a rollercoaster– but it’s getting more and more fun.  Day one was just a lot of formal training in matters of the office, sort of like a primer on what resources we had at our disposal and who to ask if we needed help.  Day two was where things got difficult– I was thrown into the deep end with my own desk and was almost immediately given tasks to work on.  It was daunting at first. I supposed I should have expected it from the company that gave me the most difficult interviews to date, but the work required an incredible amount of competency and knowledge from day one.  Competency and knowledge that I didn’t already have.

So I spent a lot of time familiarising myself with the area of law to begin with, and then getting things done.  Nobody spoon fed me anything.  I can’t say that I expected spoon feeding, but I guess I expected a bit of legal training that would allow me to take on the jobs more effectively.

The first day that I worked on significant tasks, I felt like I had been a flop– I had based some of my arguments for an advice on caselaw that had very recently been overturned, which lead to a hella lot of confusion about the matter. I felt like I wasn’t doing all that well.  My immediate coworkers often work headphones and seldom spoke to me, probably because of language barrier issues.  I felt quite isolated and alone, knowing that the work assigned to me was expected to be returned sooner than later.

That’s just really the beginning, and I suppose all beginnings are a bit rough.  [DilligentB] asked me a couple of weeks ago if I was feeling anything particular about coming to HK, or finally getting clerkship equivalent work.  At the time, my response was, nope.  Nothing.  It was just another plane, another job.

But at the same time, I told her that I knew that from past experiences, I’d be the person who would definitely get the jitters once I actually started at the new job– I’d be doubting myself, I’d not know who to ask and I’d not know how to do much.  So as much as I can say that the first few days at this internship were pretty rough, it’s on par for the course– this is always me at a new job, and I suspect that this story largely retells itself for everyone in their own circumstances when they try something new.

Now that I’ve gotten a whole week of the work done, I feel quite confident. I’ve been knocking down tasks that I’d never tried before– things which a week ago were impossibly difficult, and simply scary, are now things that I can do.


I’ve gotten to know my co-workers a bit better too.  Spending a bit of time with them at the Christmas Party, where I went in drag with the other interns (well, myself and another guy dressed up as Catwomen, while the three female interns dressed up as normal Catwomen), and helping out at a charity christmas event on Saturday (yesterday) gave me the chance to get a lot more comfortable with everyone.


I remember thinking, at the Christmas Part– it was observing a tightly knit tribe in it’s natural habitat.  The party did have it’s share of lame events– like a magic show and some pretty terrible singing– but you can tell that if you’d been working there, they were all inside jokes that everyone actually really enjoyed.  It had all the indications of a large family.

After the party I was a bit sad, to be honest– because after having such a great time in just my first week, the reality remains: very few of us will actually be offered training contracts at the end of all this. So all this might pass.  While getting to know all these people has been a privilege, perhaps I’m thinking too deeply into how much I’m going to miss this place if I am not invited to come back to it.


It’s been nonstop.  I finished exams less than two weeks ago, moved from the old apartment to the new one, and flew out here to HK to start interning.  Maybe mentally I’m just trying to catch up with everything that’s been going on, and maybe I need to be more positive?


Rush Hour

Wish I could lift an arm to give the guy spooning me a breath mint.

Hong Kong rush hour train. Enough said.