Graduate Profile: Susan Binning
Name: Susan Binning
What degree/s did you study (and year of completion)?
I graduated with a Master of Laws in 2012.
Where do you currently work (sector/organisation) and what is your position title?
I currently work for the Department of Attorney General and Justice, NSW Government. Specifically I work as a solicitor for Legal Services Branch, Corrective Services NSW.
My work involves giving legal advice to various stakeholders on issues concerning the impact of current criminal, civil and administrative law, and representing the Commissioner and the agency in NSW courts and tribunals as advocate, reviewing and advising on commercial contracts, assisting with drafting policy, and invoking dispute resolution.
Describe a typical day/week in your role. What do you enjoy most about your work?
A typical day might include first checking and prioritising e-mails, returning telephone calls from external solicitors and counsel, researching legal issues for currency and relevance, reviewing a current file and taking instructions, review documents for legal professional privilege, drafting advisings, attending a conference with counsel, conferring on legal strategy and management with senior officers.
Because the role is varied and reaches most legal interests impacting on a criminal justice agency, it is extremely interesting. There are opportunities in practice to change law, policy and procedures for the common good.
What are some of the biggest challenges in your current role?
Keeping abreast of the current law as it affects the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth, keeping up with the ever-changing and various policies and procedures of stakeholders, working on high profile complex matters with a level of preparation for success with full integrit, and keeping on top of the workload.
Can you give a summary of your career journey so far? How did you get started in your career? What recruitment processes did you go through? What has been the highlight of your career to date?
I began my career as a legal clerk in the private sector when I completed my first law diploma, then I worked in the public sector as an legal administration assistant and paralegal for several years before my admission as a lawyer and legal officer in the last five years. My interest in law was developed from working as a part-time editor for a specialist business journal. The job required a level of commercial legal knowledge which prompted me to enrol in a law clerk course in Melbourne. From there, I obtained a part-time legal clerk position for a small law office in Sydney which dealt with conveyancy settlements and court document registration. I enrolled in the LPAB Diploma in Law course on a part-time basis and was offered a full-time position as a legal administrative assistant through a recruitment agency. After a few months in that placement I was offered a permanent paralegal position. About six years later while still in that role, I completed all my studies to qualify as a lawyer. On my admission as a lawyer, the same government agency asked me to act up as a legal officer.
The highlight of my career to date was being the instructed legal officer at an inquest that unfolded into several new investigations that lead to significant systemic change.
Which skills are highly valued by employers in your field? In your experience, what are the qualities of successful candidates eg relevant work experience, specific degree or industry qualification, specific skills, networks, extracurricular involvement?
Highly valued skills are the ability to analyse, research and solve problems; thorough preparation; ability to communicate with people; professionalism and commitment; and good time-management skills.
In my experience, the qualities of success include courage, leadership, maturity and diplomacy. A varied and interesting career is a good base, achieving qualifications that let you specialise or deepen your existing knowledge; network within the profession; take a career break with volunteering or pro bono work.
What are your top three tips for university students wishing to enter your field of work? eg networking, postgraduate study
1. Learn good teamwork skills.
2. Prepare to be self-sufficient.
3. Take advantage of opportunities offering practical skills and development such as mooting and interviewing.
Are there any myths associated with your industry that you would like to debunk?
I am yet to encounter my first myth.
How do you manage the balance in your life?
Music, reading philosophy, travel, keeping company with family and friends.
How do you keep current in your field? (eg professional development, membership of professional associations, conferences, networks)
Along with undertaking the mandatory legal requirements to practise as a lawyer in NSW every year, I am a member of several legal associations which provide good professional resources such as conferences that enable discussion, collaboration and consultation, as well as the opportunity for networking.