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Alumni Chronicles Edition 2: Andrea Anastasi, Clayton Utz

Providing a personalised insight into the legal profession, our Alumni Chronicles series bridges the gap between Deakin Law Students and their graduate counterparts, illustrating how our alumni have chosen to navigate their legal careers after graduation.


In this edition, Jordan Cook is in conversation with Deakin Alumni Andrea Anastasi, a senior associate working in the Public Sector and Litigation areas at Clayton Utz.


I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Deakin Alumni, Andrea Anastasi to discuss his career path from Deakin University to Clayton Utz. Whilst Andrea claims that his pathway to his current role as a senior associate was ‘fairly linear’, I found it to be quite the opposite. Taking an incredible pathway to get to where he is now, I hope you enjoy reading about Andrea’s journey from a student at Deakin to a senior associate at Clayton Utz in this edition of Alumni Chronicles.


Whilst at university, Andrea immediately found a love in mooting, eventually partaking in the Vis Moot and finding it a ‘major changing ground for [him] in terms of trajectory into the profession.’ Competing in over 10 moots whilst at university, it is clear that his passion lay in the area. Whilst Andrea has had a great deal of success with mooting, he humbly acknowledged that his journey was not always successful, facing ‘some rejections to get to where [he is],’ and emphasising that ‘even if the pathway is linear, it doesn't mean that everything goes fine…sometimes it works, that you keep the new path, and sometimes it doesn't.’ I appreciated these words and the perspective they provided, as I’m sure many students in the midst of their degrees will.


Alongside mooting, Andrea worked two legal jobs whilst at university, however they were not found in the most conventional manner. Firstly working as a research assistant with Professor Jean Du Plessis, a well-known lecturer at Deakin, he described this opportunity as being given to him on a ‘silver platter’.


‘I was always one of the people [who had the mic in class], just asking questions. So he knew me personally, which is unlike any other teacher that I've had…And then just after [my exams], he asked me if I enjoyed the subject, I said yes and he then asked if I would like to be his research assistant!’


Hearing Andrea’s story was quite intriguing, as students are always searching for jobs within the legal field, and I loved that this one arose out of class participation. His second job working for a Queen’s Counsel (QC), was once again an interesting story:


‘I was taught by a barrister doing workplace law in one of my summer subjects, and I wasn't particularly interested in [the area] but after it ended, I asked for some feedback for the exam. I then asked whether she knew any barristers in general commercial litigation. She didn't, however she referred me off to one of her one of the QC's on her floor, and that QC referred me off to this other QC, who I then had a coffee with, and he just took me in.’


Having found his job opportunities in quite unconventional ways, they stand as perfect examples of how students are able to become involved in the legal sphere by simply just reaching out and showing their interest - and to never underestimate the power of networking over a coffee.


Returning to mooting, Andrea described the process of his participation in the Vis Moot, an international mooting competition where around 400 teams compete. He told me how Deakin has established a stellar reputation in this competition, winning twice. This experience led Andrea to create a similar competition with a friend, utilising Deakin’s international reputation.


‘Together we created a pitch [and] the previous Dean liked it, giving us a contact point within the university. We [then] developed the first edition of the moot as a Victorian moot, with the idea that we would eventually expand Australia wide. Once we had finished university, other people took it on, and now it's not only one of the largest competitions in Australia but is also international [after] transitioning to online due to Covid. After this transition, international universities asked to participate and now we have [several prominent] universities in the international arbitration community partake.’


Andrea’s passion for mooting is evident and inspired his love for litigation, something which he carried into his career at Clayton Utz. 


Completing not only a law degree but also an international studies degree, Andrea had the opportunity to work at a law firm in Italy in his final year at Deakin. Surprisingly, he was able to manage this with the help of a friend and emailing the firm for a role - resonating with his earlier message of not ‘[being] afraid of messaging people’ and to always ‘shoot your shot’. Having emigrated from Italy to Australia at the age of 15, he was able to seamlessly integrate into his placement in Italy. 


‘I was able to understand and read some Italian law… [getting a] bit of a flavour of a different system that has different courts, with separate courts dealing with government administration. So my [current] job in Italy would be very different for example, because there would be totally separate courts to go to, as opposed to here where there would only be one.’ As I know many other students would be, I couldn’t help but marvel and be slightly envious of a legal role in Europe. 


The conversation then turned to the thought on every commercial-aspiring law student’s mind - clerkships. Andrea targeted a smaller number of firms, dedicating time to researching their practices and values. He looked at the cases they have done and reviewed cover letters and resumes with friends. He is a big advocate for using your close friends to prepare for the application process.


When choosing clerkships, Andrea loved Clayton Utz’s culture and environment, which is why he had the firm at the top of his list. He highlighted the respect at the firm with a strong dynamic between everyone, no matter what role you perform, whether it be partner or receptionist. I saw this quite clearly when we were provided with coffee and Andrea was able to thank the staff member by name, showing a clear demonstration of the values of respect and authenticity.


Andrea now runs a lot of freedom of information matters whilst working in the public sector. ‘Our government clients are asked for certain documents [as] the public has a right to these documents that the government holds, unless it has an exemption for disclosure. So I run a [great deal] of litigation in this area.’ Alongside this, he helps run judicial review matters, with the Melbourne courts being one of the busiest for this area. Notably, the Clayton Utz team has been to the High Court three times in the last two years for court decisions, having a highly regarded government litigation practice.


To conclude the interview I asked Andrea what advice he has for Deakin Law students. He began with a few general tips about leaning into university and the experiences it can provide you, seizing any legal experience you can, and attending events run by law societies. He continued by placing a great emphasis on the importance of connecting with firms and learning more about your pathway to the future. Finally, he provided a piece of advice that he wished he had whilst clerking; ‘be kind to yourself, don't be a tyrant to yourself…there will always be a way to get to where you want to go.’ Ending the interview on a note similar to where we had commenced, it is clear that Andrea has made the most of every opportunity he has been afforded, excelling immensely as a Deakin alumni and proving to be an excellent example for current students. 

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