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.