Amy Zhang is a Senior Associate at Harmers Workplace Lawyers, one of Australia’s largest and most renowned specialist workplace law firms. Amy was recognised on three occasions as one of the 30 leading lawyers in Australia under 30 years of age, and has been a finalist in over ten prestigious national and international awards since 2015. Amy works across all areas of workplace law, and has particular experience in complex litigation, sexual harassment and discrimination cases. Amy has also co-authored a number of articles, and contributed to various policy submissions and international employment and litigation handbooks.
1. Describe your career path since graduating from UNSW Law.
Since graduating from UNSW Law, I have worked exclusively at Harmers Workplace Lawyers, one of Australia’s largest and most renowned specialist workplace law firms. I started as a graduate-at-law, became a solicitor and am currently a Senior Associate at Harmers. I work across all of the firm’s practice areas, and have particular expertise in litigation, restraint of trade, high profile and/or sensitive sexual harassment and complex discrimination matters.
2. What originally drew your interest to Employment Law? Describe a typical day in the office.
My interest in employment law burgeoned during my summer clerkship at Harmers, during which I was exposed to a variety of very interesting and complex employment and discrimination cases. I found the nature of the work fascinating, as it involved a mix of litigious and non-litigious work, interesting and diverse facts, and such varied areas of law.
I was also very interested in working in an area of law that involved a human element (i.e. not just paper pushing!) and where I could assist individuals and help address injustices.
There is no typical day in the office - every day is different and manic! I could be in court; preparing for court; drafting court documents; attending mediations and conciliations; attending client conferences; drafting correspondence; participating in team strategy meetings; providing advice and training; preparing template documents; and/or conducting investigations.
3. What do you enjoy most about your work, and what aspects do you find most rewarding?
I enjoy the fact that the work is always interesting, diverse and challenging; factually and legally. I get to work with both individual and corporate clients, do a mix of litigation and advisory work, and my work is not limited to just workplace law, but touches on a variety of other areas of law, including but not limited to constitutional, administrative, criminal, tort and media law.
I also enjoy the human element of my job. Specifically, I really enjoy the fact that my work has a real impact on people’s lives; irrespective of whether I am acting for the employer or the employee. Assisting individuals (and working women in particular) who would normally not be able to afford to access the legal system achieve justice is also a particularly rewarding aspect of my job.
I am also extremely fortunate to be working for a firm that is at the cutting edge of the law, is innovative and is willing to run public interest test cases. In that regard, I have had the opportunity to be involved in some very uncommon experiences like executing a search order on a residential premises and running a number of cases that are challenging the boundaries of established law and/or are testing untested areas of law.
4. Did you find the transition from university student to full-time legal professional easy or challenging? If so, how?
The transition from university student to full-time legal graduate in a law firm was definitely challenging given the nature of the work as a graduate was completely different to paralegal work. I remember my first time communicating with clients and the other side, drafting correspondence and preparing court documents were particularly daunting given my lack of experience; however, the fact that my colleagues at Harmers were so supportive and willing to assist, and there was a range of precedents on file, made the whole experience easier.
5. Name your favourite:
a. Aspect of working in the CBD
People watching, the busy vibe, and being close to great shopping and dining options!
b. Lunchtime restaurant
It’s always hard to go out for a long lunch due to the unpredictability of my schedule. For a quick and social group lunch, I have recently been favouring yum cha.
c. Place to unwind after work
I like to catch up with friends for dinner and drinks. We usually try a different/new place every time.
6. What was the most important thing that you learned at UNSW Law? What advice would you share with current students about how to get the most out of their university experience?
UNSW Law provided a great foundation for analytical and critical thinking, and thinking outside the box.
I would advise current students to participate in as many activities, opportunities and co- or extra-curriculars as possible. I would also recommend current students participate in one of the experiential or practical learning programs/courses offered by UNSW Law. This will ensure that they have a broad range of experiences and skills to take into their post-university careers, and may provide guidance to those who are not sure what they want to do after university.