18 August 2021
Day in the life – Pro bono
By Andrew Banks
After my alarm starts beeping, I usually do some exercise to fully wake up. This is often yoga or a run, before I get ready for work and catch a train into the Sydney CBD.
I try to scan through my emails on the train into the office to get a sense of what the day has ahead, before catching up on some recreational reading and the daily news.
When I arrive at our office building, I find it essential to stop in for a coffee (either a long black or a batch brew) at the wonderful café in our building’s lobby, Kent Street Fare. The team know everyone in the office’s name and go-to order, which always leads to a friendly chat to start the day. They are also part of our Hall & Wilcox Employee Rewards for Good program, which means that for every coffee purchased a donation goes to one of our charity partners.
One of the great perks of working at Hall & Wilcox is the breakfast provided every day. I usually have some fruit and cereal while catching up with people from across the firm.
We use flexible desks at the firm, so when I arrive I check into a desk near other members of my team, Pro Bono & Community. As a graduate last year, I spent four months in the team. I also rotated through our Employment and General Insurance teams before I returned to settle permanently as a lawyer in Pro Bono & Community.
I usually respond to as many quick emails as I can to start the day. These can include updates to the team, answering client questions about next steps in their matters, as well as connecting lawyers and graduates in other sections of the firm with opportunities to get involved in pro bono work.
I get stuck into my first legal task of the day. Today, it is drafting an unfair dismissal application to the Fair Work Commission for a vulnerable client who was terminated from her job without any reason or the required notice period. Many clients are experiencing other issues with their employment, including underpayment, discrimination and bullying, so as a firm we work to provide pro bono assistance for their unmet legal needs where we can.
Hall & Wilcox is involved in a number of regular pro bono clinics that cover different areas of law. These clinics are facilitated by our pro bono partners and connect members of the community facing legal issues with our people. Any lawyer at the firm can attend these clinics and graduates are often able to attend and assist as well. Today, I am heading to a drop-in clinic in Woolloomooloo for a couple of hours to provide people at risk of homelessness with any legal advice they require.
Heading back to the office, I stop in at a delicious vegan sandwich shop just across the road. My favourite is the miso eggplant with avocado! On a sunny day like today, I often stroll down to Barangaroo to take a break in the sun.
On other days, I catch up with friends from across the office in our breakout lunch area. Everyone at the firm, but particularly juniors and graduates, are encouraged to attend regular training sessions. These sometimes occur over lunch, with sandwiches and juice provided!
The national pro bono team has our weekly meeting today. We are currently spread across three offices so it is good to connect, catch up and learn from one another in these meetings. We discuss ongoing cases and projects, as well as the firm’s community volunteering and fundraising strategy.
My task this afternoon is to draft a letter of advice for a client regarding a substantial debt they incurred in tragic circumstances. This involves explaining what we found in our research as clearly as possible, the possible options for the client and their prospects of success as well as any risks in running their case.
After the draft letter is sent off to the Partner responsible for the matter to review, I turn to some business development and writing work. I enjoy writing articles and reports on various topics, often in collaboration with senior practitioners. At the moment I am working on our team’s end of financial year report which brings together stories of what we have been involved in this year and an article to be published during Homelessness Week designed to spread awareness of the human right to have a home.
Every day at the firm, a trivia quiz is prepared and distributed by one of our graduates. Each section of the firm has a different ritual for participating in the quiz, with everyone’s competitive streak often coming out in the battle for points!
Then I wind up my day addressing any emails that have come in and making sure my time-recording is completed for the day.
Hall & Wilcox often hosts events after work. This can include everything from Friday night drinks to Bingo nights and even an exhibition for emerging artists held in our client entertaining space.
Catching up with colleagues with a glass of wine and viewing new artworks is certainly a relaxing way to wind down the day.