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Young Lawyers: Being a public servant

Young Lawyers: Being a public servant

By Edmund Yuan

Practice & Procedure Young Lawyers 


What can you expect from working in government and why should you consider it?

  • The purpose of government work is fundamentally different from private practice. There is a difference between decision making in the public interest versus private interest. 
  • Dealing with a wide group of stakeholders, detailed processes and procedures must be followed.
  • Government decisions affect us all. Understanding how the system works and how government reaches its decisions is invaluable. 

To hold the trust of the public and deliver something that will improve the lives of all is a unique and rewarding feeling that comes with being a public servant. The work you do is varied, challenging and insightful. Most of all, it’s fulfilling and sustainable.

The work 

As a government commercial graduate in major transport infrastructure projects, I have had the opportunity to rotate in commercial, asset allocation and project controls areas. I was also seconded to the Office of the Director-General in the strategy and governance team. The best part is that I still have two more rotations to go.

My work as a commercial graduate at the Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) would broadly fall under contract management. Although it may sound pretty straightforward, when it comes to contracts it’s never black and white. The commercial framework that underpins the alliance model that LXRP uses is a complex beast that requires a combination of analytical, innovation and legal skills to be able to navigate it. Although I am not employed as a lawyer, I find myself regularly using the skills developed during law school, practical legal training and private practice. The problem-solving skills that were hammered into us are highly transferrable.

The purpose of government work is fundamentally different from private practice. There is a difference between decision making in the public interest versus private interest. This has been a fascinating aspect about working in government. As we are generally dealing with a much wider group of stakeholders, there are different factors that must be taken into consideration, and detailed processes and procedures that must be followed. The decisions that the government makes affect us all. Understanding how the system works and how government reaches its decisions has helped me in my everyday life.

Government, mental health and wellbeing

Despite the pressure to continue delivering critical construction projects, the focus on mental health and wellbeing at LXRP is a constant. Beginning from senior leadership, there is a strong culture of safety, which is supported by LXRP’s award-winning behavioural safety and wellbeing program, LeadSafe. From encouraging us to connect with each other to bringing in industry professionals and regularly running seminars and training, there is a genuine concern for employees’ health and wellbeing.

Why government?

Working at LXRP has given me an appreciation of the complexities and benefits of some of the projects that government is delivering. Being on the client side, I have gained valuable insight into the massive amounts of work that happen behind the scenes to successfully manage and deliver these projects. I have the opportunity to be involved in delivering projects that will benefit society in countless ways for many decades to come, from increasing safety through to helping disadvantaged people through social procurement.

With the size of these projects comes the need to engage with people from all disciplines. In addition, the alliance model that LXRP uses means we are constantly engaging with stakeholders from both the public and private spheres. Throughout my short time at LXRP, I have had the opportunity to work with people from engineering, communications, finance, land and property, legal and many more. As a graduate with a legal background, it has been extremely valuable to learn from people with different backgrounds and be challenged in new ways.

There are pros and cons working in government or private practice. I have learned lessons in government that I would have never learned in private practice and vice versa. As a graduate and young lawyer, it is important to keep an open mind as you never know what you might learn and where you might learn it. Working in government, I have expanded my knowledge and skills, shifted my perspectives and met some amazing people along the way. ■

Edmund Yuan is a former legal practitioner and currently a commercial graduate at Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Authority working on the Level Crossing Removal Project. He is co-chair of the LIV Young Lawyers Executive Committee.

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