Inside law offices – Mills Oakley

Mills Oakley are one of the faster growing smaller mid-tier firms, which I think may be just about the most confusing and grammatically incorrect sentence I have written in some time.

I got the chance to go pay them a visit earlier this week and took a few photos while I was there, because I am weird.

They are located in the same building as Telstra’s Sydney head office, which is now just about what used to be the old Darryl Lea’s building on the corner of King Street and George Street in the Sydney CBD. Yes, right where all the light rail construction work is going on.

As I am highly covert, and easily intimidated by the large security desk at the main entrance to the building, I took the side entry off King Street.


It has these revolving doors, and as I was walking into my little section of the door, not one but TWO guys got in the same section as me. I just don’t understand this sort of behaviour. That was MY section, I got it and it was MINE. It is not like it was the last section of the day either. The door would have kept on revolving, and they could have each had their own little section if they had just waited an extra 5 seconds. Apparently they are too busy and important for that, so instead I got the pleasure of being pressed up against the front of the glass of this door while two portly gentlemen leered over me from behind.

Please, dear reader, respect each person’s right to their own space in a revolving door entryway and don’t be like the two fools that I encountered on that fateful day.

This is a photo I took while silently raging about the gentlemen behind me. I hope you can feel the anger in every pixel.


Once inside though, my mood improved, as they have lovely artworks along the walls that go into the lift area. The lifts themselves are controlled by snazzy touchscreen panels, however confusingly the panels are nowhere near the lifts, meaning that you have to push the button for the floor you would like, then run around trying to find where the relevant lift is. I had to try 3 times, although I am sure most of you are not as hopeless as I am with directions and will get it first or second time.


In the lifts now. Nothing much to report here, other than this is a slightly meta shot of the lift as reflected in the mirrors in the lift. Yes, I accidentally took this photograph and did not have a better one to use. Sorry.


Action time. Here is the lobby of Mills Oakley. Pretty nice, in a Spartan, monochrome kind of way. Note the black leather couches and beware – they make a distinct farting noise when you sit on them too quickly. I am sure this is to put opposing lawyers on the defensive immediately upon their arrival at the offices of Mills Oakley. Well played, sirs.


The reception staff were truly lovely. They were suitably wary of a man purporting to be a lawyer but wearing jeans and a tshirt (and sweating more than he should be) arriving to collect some documents. But once we established some rapport, we got along swimmingly. Note this is not me in the picture. My posture is nowhere near that good, nor my hair so long and shiny.


My journey done, it is time for me to depart. Thank you Mills Oakey, I give your offices 3.5 out of 5. A fine effort.



Law firm bathroom tips

This might just be me, but of the 7 or 8 law firms that I have worked at over my years as a lawyer, not one of them had what I would call a respectable level of bathroom cleanliness.

Maybe it is the stress of being lawyers that contributes to this. Maybe it is that all the reading and book learning, which means that lawyers have bad eyesight or reduced targeting skills.

Regardless of the reasons, it is something that has been perhaps the most consistent issue across all the firms I have worked at. Seriously, is it that hard to keep the bathrooms in a neat and tidy condition? Apparently it is. Have some respect people.

Therefore, I would like to take this Friday afternoon to share some techniques I have implemented to minimise the disgust and unpleasantness of the above issue.

Firstly, learn the cleaning schedules for your favourite bathroom. Many bathrooms in buildings will have a cleaning roster somewhere on the door or wall, where each cleaner marks that they have cleaned the bathrooms and the time at which they did it. Check this out, and work out the average time of day when the bathrooms are cleaned. Then, if you can, get in there 5 minutes after the cleaners have finished, as trust me, that room won’t be any cleaner at any other time of the day.

Secondly, and this is a bit more of a risky manoeuvre, but if you have a preferred stall (I know you all do), then put the seat for the toilet in that stall down at the start of the day, or just after the cleaners have left. Whenever it is cleanest. I know gentlemen, crazy talk! Stick with me on this one.

Most people, when faced with a known known (that is, a toilet with an open seat where there are no hidden surprises) will take that known option rather than risk a nasty surprise by lifting a toilet seat and seeing something in there smiling back at them. So if you close the lid, you’re utilising people’s natural fear of the unknown and hence will minimise the number of people that will use that toilet throughout the course of the day. Less users means (hopefully) a cleaner standard on average for your favourite thinking spot.

Of course, there is always the potential that you yourself will suffer a shock of exposing something that should remain hidden when you lift the seat, but I feel this is the exception to the rule and worth the risk.

Finally, and this is a mean trick and I would never personally implement it, but if you do have a favourite toilet and want to keep it all to yourself, print an ‘Out of Order’ sign out and stick it on the stall door or above the toilet bowl when it is clean. No-one wants to use a broken toilet so it will be yours for the whole day!

Just don’t use the disabled bathroom if you’re not disabled. There is no excuse for that. Ever.


Inside a law firm in images

Yet another recurring feature – what the reception and public areas of several firms look like.

Why do this? I believe that the reception and public areas of a law firm are the most important part of a firm’s image, as this is what new clients and potential employees see when they physically visit the firm. Everything about the way these spaces are put together is designed to present the firm’s brand, reputation and success.

And interestingly, despite the fact that all firms are in the business of selling legal services, the image their public areas present are very different.

Please note that I have not and will not photograph anything beyond the public areas nor identify any individuals that are visiting or working in these areas, for privacy and confidentiality reasons. If you do notice something in these photographs that could specifically identify a person or matter, please contact me and I will correct this, although it should never happen.

Today’s firm: Norton Rose Fulbright, Sydney.

OK, so this is what the outside looks like. Not bad. Little stark and boring (5/10).


[Side note: I was going to use my own photo for this, but it was boring, so I have taken this image from Google Street View. Look at those poor  people standing by the side of the road, with what are obviously boxes of legal documentation. Stay strong team, it gets better, I promise!]


Nice foyer area, but no signage to Norton Rose Fulbright and the lifts to the Norton Rose floors are in the loser corner of the foyer (4/10)

IMG_0349 (1)

Lifts themselves are a little too dark for my liking (3/10)

IMG_0351 (1)

Hello there, this big bold sign lets me know that I am at the right place. This is important for me, given how frequently lost I am and how much I need reassurance. No concerns over which way I need to go to get to the reception desk (9/10).

IMG_0352 (1)

And here we are. Bright, airy and a great view. Friendly support staff, too. However, the roof seems very low for a modern office. I’m a shorty, and even I feel a little claustrophobic here. Anyone normal height or above is going to feel like the BFG in this place (7/10).

However, that looks like MKR on the television, so minus 2 points for that (5/10).

IMG_0353 (1)

The impression I’m left with is that Norton Rose Fulbright wants to create a very pleasant, very nice reception area that emphasises the view, but I can’t help but think that if I stepped into a Norton Rose Fulbright office in any other place in the world, it’d look and feel exactly the same. It’s got that generic look and feel about it and no real pizzaz. Such a fun word, and now I want pizza.

Overall rating for Norton Rose Fulbright? 7/10.



Private Practice to In-House: Comments from those that have done it

I started my legal career in the in-house team at a major bank as part of my graduate rotation, after initially working in their credit and risk teams. I found the legal work much more interesting and better suited to the way in which I think and work compared to the pure finance work. When my rotation came to an end and I couldn’t get an ongoing role in that legal team (they said it was due to a lack of resources to train juniors, rather than my performance, but they were nice people and could just have been protecting me from the cold hard truth of why I didn’t get a role), I ended up getting a job at a big law firm. Hello Clayton Utz, my old friend. Hope you’ve been well.

They’ve moved across the road now, but this building still haunts my dreams.


I found the move to private practice from an in-house role to be… ‘different’ doesn’t quite capture the feeling I’m after. I’m sure there is a better way of saying the transition was ‘really pretty brutal and forced me to take a good long hard look at myself’, but I don’t have the vocabulary skills, unfortunately.

Suddenly everything was about billable hours, cost recovery and chasing bills, and being a revenue earner. This was very different from being seen as a cost centre for the rest of the bank which was the case when I was working in-house (that is, we got paid salaries but didn’t really charge the other parts of the bank for our work).

It was the 11th anniversary yesterday of me starting that in-house role, and it got me thinking about what the experience is like these days for lawyers who move from private practice to in-house roles. Are they happier? Do timesheets disappear? Are career prospects, pay, bonuses and perks better or at least more attainable?

Luckily I have some friends who have made this move and they were kind enough to share their thoughts on the subject. I will not identify people or firms for privacy reasons, but I can say that the 10 extracted comments below are reflective of the general view of those that responded to me.

Spoilers? They’re almost all happier, don’t do timesheets, get paid about the same, don’t get many (if any) perks, and are still very stressed about their career prospects. With thanks to all respondents, here is what these survivors / beautiful butterflies who have emerged from the chrysalis of law firms think about their in-house life:

1.    ‘I’m definitely happier and no longer have that feeling that I have to be available all the time. I also like being able to leave at 5pm sometimes without getting death stares or pulled aside and spoken to by my partner for not putting in enough face time.’

2.    ‘I like not doing timesheets, but it does make it hard at performance review time. At least with timesheets I could show all the billable hours I’d done, and knew whether I was meeting the minimum. In my current role, the review process is a heap more subjective and I think some people can manipulate it or take credit for the work that others do. They might not do it intentionally but it’s a bit like exaggerating your skills on a resume.’

3.    ‘Less money, more flexible hours. No perks, but clear management lines and less conflict between managers. Definitely happier.’

4.    ‘It’s good but I still don’t know what I want to do with my career. I keep getting asked to make a 5 year plan by my manager and don’t really know what to say other than I don’t want to get fired’.

5.     ‘Never going back to a law firm.’

6.     ‘If you want to have all of your hard work ignored or undervalued, and be seen as an unnecessary obstacle to the sales team doing their job in the way they want to do it, go in-house. Still prefer that treatment to what I was getting at a law firm though’.

7.    ‘When I moved in-house, my salary went from frozen at 3rd year lawyer level to almost double what I was earning. Plus shares in the [business] if we make targets. So pay is definitely better. Work is no better or worse, just different’.

8.    ‘It’s amazing how much easier it is to come to work in the morning without feeling like everyone around me is either competing against me for work, or thinking I’m not working hard enough. The work levels and pay are about the same, but mentally I just feel so much better.’

9.    ‘I’ve just quit, but that was because I am moving to London. But even with that, [my employer] has been great about the whole thing and even asked if I wanted to apply for a role in the London office. I can’t see a law firm doing the same thing’.

10.    ‘I’ve done 10 years at a law firm and 18 months at [my employer]. Feel like the last 10 years was a bit of a waste and I probably only did it because I thought working for [law firm] would make me sound like a success story.’


I know this isn’t a great sample (which is my fault, rather than the respondents) and everyone has different experiences. I’m sure many people love working for law firms and private practice, and hey, I’m still doing it. Despite this, I believe that the above responses are pretty close to what the majority of people who have made the change to in-house roles would think of their current working life.

Simple conclusion – you have to do what makes you happy. If you’re not happy then find out what is making you unhappy and try to find a way to get rid of that part of your life, or at the very least replace it with something that makes you less unhappy. Kitties make me happy. Here is a ginger one I saw at a cat cafe.