Corporations | Law

Corporations

Most larger corporations have a dedicated legal team to advise the business and management on the various legal matters affecting the company. In-house legal teams are growing steadily in size and influence, and can be found in most sectors - from banks and financial institutions to construction, pharmaceutical, resources and media companies. The importance of the in-house legal function is reflected in the fact that the legal team increasingly also shoulders responsibility for the company secretarial, corporate governance and risk and compliance functions for the company. In-house legal roles are a valuable stepping-stone to senior management, commercial and strategic roles. 

Alumni Story

CorporationsSonia Swarup (BA (Dist.)/LLB '14)

I am Legal Counsel at ClearView Wealth Limited, an Australian financial services company which is partially listed. I have been in this role since February 2016.

What does a typical day in the job involve for you? A challenging but great part of working in-house is that there is no “typical day”. You are your business’s first point of contact for any sort of legal issue that arises. In any one day I could be negotiating agreements, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, preparing board papers, handling internal and external disputes, reviewing marketing materials or dealing with ad-hoc legal issues. This means being across a variety of different laws and regulations (or knowing how to access this knowledge quickly), but also making decisions which balance commerciality with risk.  

What route did you undertake to get this role? I worked in a national law firm for a year and then as a graduate at an international commercial law firm. Whilst the role of a lawyer in a law firm is different to that of an in-house counsel, law firm training is advantageous as it allows for a good building of commercial awareness, as well as training on fundamental skills like commercial legal writing and researching, working under pressure, and managing priorities.

How do you think your UNSW Law degree has equipped you for your role? Working in-house in particular requires a highly practical and adaptable approach. UNSW Law’s focus on experiential learning and their emphasis on the development of professional skills has provided me with the ability to confidently manage issues that arise in the business and to communicate effectively with a variety of stakeholders. During my time at UNSW Law I was particularly active in national and international mooting and would recommend all students get involved in some form of experiential learning as it provides you with skills that cannot be achieved by classes alone. The exposure to academics who also have extensive experience in their field has been a strong advantage, as they are able to provide commercial perspectives to supplement our technical knowledge of an area.

What advice would you give to UNSW Law students who are hoping to pursue your career path?  Be patient; the bulk of in-house legal opportunities are available to lawyers who already have a few years of professional experience under their belt, so it would be advantageous to gain some exposure to commercial work. That being said, it’s never too early to begin networking – join committees related to the industry you hope to work in-house for as a lot of them have student or junior lawyer member categories, and this is a great way to receive mentorship from people working in the field.