MinterEllison Lawyer, Nikita Harlalka, shares her career journey, hints and tips

Nikita Harlalka started at MinterEllison as a Summer Clerk as a part of the 2017/18 cohort followed with a role as a Paralegal for about 9 months, before commencing as a Graduate in 2020 in the Finance Solutions team.

What is a typical work day like for you?

A typical work day as a Summer Clerk varies depending on the practice area you are rotating through. However, there was no one typical day I had, every day was different and there was always something new to learn!

As a Clerk, I rotated through three groups - Finance Solutions, Real Estate and Transaction Solutions. The work ranged from researching commercial and legal problems and summarising my findings in a memo to the Partner to drafting and reviewing documents to attending settlements and client meetings. Outside of work in the specific practice group, groups of clerks are allocated ‘Clerk Projects’, giving you exposure to an additional practice area that you did not rotate through.

Beyond work, we participated in inter-firm clerkship sports competitions, which is a lot of fun! And at Minters, the Clerks have an exciting mission to put together a fun video which the rest of the firm comes together to watch on the last day of the clerkship.

What do you enjoy most about your role? What are the biggest challenges?

I particularly enjoyed understanding how the commercial rationale for a transaction is reflected in the legal documents. I also enjoyed researching and writing memos for senior lawyers. I was lucky enough to be rotating through the M&A team during the Banking Royal Commission and it was very exciting to contribute to high profile matters featured on the front pages on the Australian Financial Review.

The biggest challenge is working with limited context. I would highly recommend asking lots of questions (as you are not expected to know anything) to understand how the task you are completing fits into the broader transaction.

Nikita Harlalka

What did you get involved in when you were at university?

At university, I was involved in student societies and participated in several competitions. I held several leadership positions within the UNSW Law Society, including Editor-in-Chief, Vice-President and finally President in 2018.

Additionally, I was the Coordinator of the Student Legal Education Group, a project promoting legal education and access to justice in low socio-economic high schools. I also dabbled in the UNSW Law Revue; an annual comedy sketch show as the Cast Member. I enjoyed these experiences and felt they were invaluable in equipping me with essential skills directly transferable into the workforce.

Beyond societies, by participating in internal negotiation competitions at UNSW, I developed my interest in negotiation and mediation and participated in two international mediation competitions being the CDRC Vienna Negotiation and Mediation Competition and ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition (Paris). I was also a Law Clerk at the Kingsford Legal Centre.

Outside of Law, I was involved in 180 Degrees Consulting as a Project Leader and the United Nations Society through which I attended the National Model United Nations Conference (New York). I also participated in Business case competitions, like the Cornell International Real Estate Competition and the UNSW Peter Farrell Cup.

What advice do you have for university students?

Be yourself! You will hear this a lot and it's because it's the most important advice! Second, the selection process is a two-way street, you are being interviewed and you are interviewing the firm too. Take time to learn more about the firm as this will help you in making an informed decision when you have to choose.

Third, if corporate law is where you want to be, there are several paths to getting there, clerkships is just one of those! So, don’t stress and give the process your best shot.

Also, try to enjoy the process as it’s a great opportunity to meet students from other universities and professionals within the legal community. In saying that, applying for clerkships can be tough and you may have to deal with rejections. Try to have a support network (could be a few close friends and family) you can share your concerns with and take care of your friends also going through the process.

How did you tailor your research to every firm?

I would recommend researching each individual firm as opposed to researching broadly and tailoring your research to every firm. I was familiar with legal trends, industry-wide issues and understood how the particular firm is combating these challenges. For example, each firm has a different approach to COVID-19. Understand the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, society and legal industry, more broadly, and then take time to research what measures each firm has implemented to overcome those challenges. Undertaking such research will highlight the firms varying approaches and will also make apparent their values and priorities as a business.

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