HSF graduate solicitor: 'We can provide so much value by doing the simple things right'

Rebecca McCaughan also discusses the need to keep up with tech in a world being transformed by it

HSF graduate solicitor: 'We can provide so much value by doing the simple things right'
Rebecca McCaughan

As a recently admitted solicitor, Rebecca McCaughan wouldn’t consider herself a legal expert just yet. But she believes that young lawyers like herself can add significant value simply by doing the simple things right.

McCaughan is presently part of Herbert Smith Freehills’ (HSF) graduate program, and she’s taking the opportunity to learn, ask questions and be proactive – especially where the adoption of tech and AI are concerned.

In this interview, McCaughan discusses the field of law she plans to go into, starting a secondment, and what she would be doing in an alternate world without law.

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What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

Honestly, I think law chose me! I always had an interest in law but I didn’t go into law school with a specific vision for my future career. That quickly changed once I started university and my love of the law was made abundantly clear with every class.

My favourite part about being a lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills is being involved in an incredibly dynamic and innovative workplace. There is always something to learn and never a dull moment!

What is going on at the organisation? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

The firm offers some graduates the opportunity to go on secondment with one of its clients as part of our rotation. This is such an exciting initiative which enables junior lawyers to develop their commercial awareness and build client relationships. I have been selected to go on this secondment for my next rotation and I’m really looking forward to it.

What tech-related initiatives adopted by the organisation, if any, are you most excited about?

I joined the firms’ global Emerging Technology Group which consists of over 350 lawyers who learn about transformational technologies, including, artificial intelligence, blockchain and digital assets, and immersive tech and metaverse. As the progressive digitisation of life and business continues to grow our lawyers are at the forefront, advising clients on digital transformation and adoption of emerging technologies often in uncertain regulatory environments. This is a rapidly evolving and very exciting space to be a part of!

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

My proudest accomplishment has been getting admitted as a solicitor last year. I would have to say the biggest lesson learned is that university, while great, doesn't quite prepare you for the real world.

When first starting out, my advice would be to take it as an opportunity to learn, always ask questions and be proactive. While we’re not expected to be the experts right away, we can provide so much value by doing the simple things right.

What should the profession focus more on?

We all know that poor mental health and burnout are endemic to the legal profession. In such a high-performing industry, it’s important that we continue to focus on strategies to promote positive mental wellbeing in the workplace.

What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?

Going forward, I think the challenge for the legal industry will be the ability to keep up with technology. We will need to continue to develop creative and novel ways to provide legal services to clients in a world being transformed by technology and artificial intelligence. Our Alternative Legal Services (ALT) practice is a great example of how the industry is doing this. The team uses a combination of expert legal advice and innovative technology to manage and review high-volume data intensive legal work for clients.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

The graduate program has been excellent so far. It has led me to our financial services regulatory team and exposed me to an area of law that I am interested to pursue a career in. Having said that, I am most looking forward to officially completing the program and becoming a settled solicitor.

If you weren’t in law, what do you think you’d be doing as a career?

In an alternate universe where law didn't exist, I would be a pathologist!


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