Serial selfie snapper, UTS law graduate and all-around babe, HENRIETTA FARNELLY-BARNETT, gives us the lowdown on working full-time in the corporate world, and advises us why visiting an open bar is almost always a good idea.


Where do you work, and what resources did you find useful in landing your job?

I started as a graduate at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in September 2013. Somewhat conventionally, I also clerked at HSF during the summer of 2011-2012.

Did you start full-time work straight after graduation?

No, I took 10 months off and moved over to London to study art history at Sotheby’s. While some people I’ve met have since questioned why I’d ever return to commercial law, I found that the space and time really helped me refocus and refresh. Ten days in Ibiza didn’t hurt either.

Why did you pick corporate law at the end of your degree, and what has your experience with it been like so far?

I don’t think you could say that I had a strong commercial law drive during my degree; I took full advantage of the straight LLB to study everything from Family Law and Criminology to Environmental Law and Criminal Sentencing. Indeed, during my last semester I took Animal Law, Slavery and Human Trafficking Law, and Alternative Dispute Resolution. Unsurprisingly, these are not essential to practicing commercial law in Australia (though Animal Law in particular provides ample conversation starters). I did enjoy Corporations Law though, particularly the parts on directors’ duties.

I now work in Head Office Advisory – a specialised corporate governance group which advises 40% of the ASX100 and 60% of the ASX20. The work is very much a blend of legal and commercial – not only do clients want to know what the law requires, but also what best practice is, and where they sit against that in the market. I think being able to inform and shape the directions of some of the biggest corporate entities is pretty cool… but then I’ve always been a bit weird.

Outline your typical ‘networking night’ strategy.

Designated ‘networking nights’ are really only a clerkship thing. Which is brilliant because as delicious as the canapés are, attempting erudite conversation with total strangers while navigating a glass or two of champagne is a stressful experience. Especially if you – like me – don’t know anyone else in attendance.Luckily, all my experiences with networking (or rather, socialising in a professional setting) since then have involved other people that I know. It is endlessly reassuring and means I no longer feel compelled to hide in bathrooms (in my defence it only happened once). Generally these days I try to start off in a conversation with people I know and then gradually drift around the room; usually past the bar.

Going to the bar – for any beverage – is a great way to swap a couple of words. Alternatively, if there’s a particular person you want to meet I’d recommend going over and striking up conversation. It takes courage (Dutch or not), but the person you’re approaching knows this and will almost certainly appreciate the effort. Most people are genuinely flattered by others showing interest, so it’s unlikely to go badly… and if it does, there’s always the bar.

Any interview tips?

The best tip I was ever given is to put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and write down all the questions you’d ask you… and then swap back to your everyday sparkly gold studded flats (if you’re me) and write down your answers. It may sound silly but it allows you to identify potential stumbling blocks ahead of time – and believe me it’s better to be lost for words your bedroom than in a boardroom.

What’s with the elevator selfies?

Ahah oh my. My mother told me they’d come back to haunt me. Basically I enjoy clashing print and colour in my work outfits and this – coupled with my latent narcissism – led me to share my sartorial choices on Instagram. Of course, being a law firm, full-length mirrors are unsurprisingly dearth, so I resorted to sneaky shots in the elevator… there are few things more awkward than being caught by a colleague taking a photo of your shoes (again, in my defence, it’s only happened once… so far).


Featured image via flickr