Davor Tocakovic is a disputes lawyer currently working in Sydney.

Choosing law

As strange as it sounds, my interest in the law stemmed from the Tampa affair way back in August 2001. Yes, I was 8 at the time. But, having come from a migrant family that had just fled a civil war, I took a keen interest in what was happening. I couldn’t quite understand how the Australian government could just turn away the distressed vessel. How could we do something like that? I remember Mr Downer, our Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time, saying something about our obligations under international law. Something like we don’t have any. And then I remember a big debate, and a whole lot of controversy, about what he said. And this is what piqued my interest.

My curiosity in what the law was and how it worked continued to develop in high school. I absolutely loved learning how local, national and international laws sort of fit together like a jig-saw puzzle. At this point I was set on continuing my legal education in university. But what kind of lawyer did I want to be? Well, I quickly found out that I had the passion, aptitude and appetite for commercial law. I became more and more drawn towards commercial subjects – so much so that I even wrote a thesis on insolvent trading liability!

Having had a blast during my clerkship here, it was only natural that I accepted a graduate offer. Looking back I’ve made the right choices. I can honestly say I haven’t regretted my decision to pursue a career in commercial law. Not one bit.

Choosing the right firm for you

Now that’s a tough one. Early on law firms all looked quite homogenous to me. Well-known reputable clients, big deals, challenging work. That’s how everyone sells it to you. But what are the points of differences? Are there any? Well, actually yeah there are. The more I went to networking events the more I picked out these subtle differences. And this all helped propel me towards NRF.

Why, you ask? Well for starters the firm has the scale, market power and depth of a global powerhouse. NRF’s international footprint has given me the opportunity to work with colleagues all around the world on multi-jurisdictional matters. The firm’s global expertise, market insight, and IT infrastructure and systems help deliver better value for clients. Which means they come back, bringing more and more interesting work through the door. And the formal training and development opportunities here are second to none. You receive a structured induction programme, ongoing technical and professional skills training as well as team specific training run by dedicated knowledge lawyers. And you can apply for a six month secondment in an overseas office. All very exciting for a junior lawyer like myself.

But what really clinched it for me is the culture of the firm. I looked to speak with as many people as I possibly could at networking events and during my clerkship application process. And I can honestly say I ‘vibed’ (for lack of a better term) best with NRF. Everyone is friendly, approachable and took a genuine interest in my aspirations, goals and career objectives. The firm, and in particular the HR team, look to help you figure out what it is you want from your career and then help you get there.

Work-life balance

Actions speak louder than words. NRF not only advocates, but actively promotes, a life outside the office. The firm encourages everyone from the top down to participate in social and sporting events as well as tangible learning and development activities. Early morning boot-camp at Observatory Hill, end of month (and quarterly) firm-wide drinks, inter-firm Wednesday night soccer competitions and trivia nights at the Australian Hotel at the Rocks are just some of the stand-out opportunities offered by the firm (and individual teams).

As a social person, I took it upon myself to say yes to everything. And I can honestly say this helped me make the most of my experience at NRF. My days in the office are interspersed with committee meetings, industry specific work-shops, and ‘coffee catch-ups’ at one of the many great cafes around Circular Quay. Imagine that! One minute I’m working on a fit-out works contract and the next I’m helping plan out the finer details of our charity committee’s next clothing drive.

My intake of grads are quite sociable too – we often pencil in breakfasts (or should I call them brunches), lunches at the Glenmore Hotel overlooking the gorgeous Sydney Harbour and quite a few Thursday / Friday night drinks at one of the many, many great bars around the area.

My rotations

The graduate programme has provided me with the opportunity to experience different practice areas, industry sectors, work styles and team cultures. The firm actively encourages you to get a taste of anything and everything. You don’t really know what you like until you try it, right? As a fresh-faced law graduate with barely any legal experience, I came into the programme with an open mind. But I did kind of know what I wanted to try. And that’s what’s great about this place. NRF listens to you, takes an active interest in your career objectives and then helps you achieve your short, mid and long-term goals.

I have thoroughly enjoyed both of my graduate rotations. At first I was in the Insurance practice, where I worked on a variety of coverage and liability issues. I also got to help out our cyber response team on a really big (and really confidential) data breach investigation. I’m now in the Construction & Engineering team, working on both front and back-end construction matters. Here I’ve gotten the opportunity to work on big infrastructure developments and at the same time help manage complex construction litigations. All super exciting stuff.

Meet Isobel

After recently completing her Graduate programme, Isobel talks about her experience at the firm since starting as a summer clerk to working on cross-border matters during her international rotation to London, as well as her involvement in Corporate Social Responsibility.

Read more