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Frédéric Calinaud - France

Course: Certificate in Industrial Relations and the Law
Institution: University of Sydney
Year: 2004
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Current position: Partner at Calinaud Avocats, Paris

French Lawyer Frédéric Calinaud owes his interest in Australia to one of the world’s oldest wind instruments − the didgeridoo. Its haunting sound, which he first heard on a Jamiroquai CD, pushed him to learn more about Aboriginal culture and its homeland.

“I started reading about Australia and watching documentaries,” he says. Soon enough he was hooked.

“After I finished university in France, and before entering the Paris Law School, I thought it would be a good idea to realise my dream, which was to travel in Australia.”

As luck would have it, the Working Holiday Visa was extended to France in 2004 just before Frédéric was due to leave and he leapt at the chance to combine work, travel and study. Frédéric enrolled at the University of Sydney in a short course on employment law, a particular area of interest. The Certificate in Industrial Relations and the Law, which attracted lawyers, union workers and human resource professionals, not only introduced him to the basics of Australian employment law but also exposed him to specialists in government and the private sector.He then went on to independently complete an internship with a small law firm in Sydney.

“In terms of content, the programme was very, very good and the lecturers, which included the Dean of the Faculty of Law and the Dean of the Faculty of Economics, were fantastic,“ he says. When Frédéric returned to France to begin his bar studies, he drew on his experience in Australia, choosing to focus his dissertation on discrimination law in France, Australia and South Africa.

“First, I think I really improved my English by attending this course, but also by working in Australia,” he says. “As a consequence, it was really easy for me to find a position as a lawyer specialising in employment law in France since at the time, law firms in France were looking for English speaking lawyers in that field and curiously we were not a lot, compared to lawyers specialising in business law. Moreover, thanks to my experience in Australia, I registered as an Associate Member of the Law Society of New South Wales and met a lot of young lawyers who started their career, like me,” he says. “We ‘grew up’ together and now, they have reached positions where they are able to refer matters to me, which I also do (for them).”

Frédéric maintains contact with the Law Society today, working on a collaborative project between it and the Paris Bar Association.

The Frenchman was determined to see as much of Australia as possible in between studying and working as a law intern, waiter, bartender, consular officer and cameraman.

“I love travelling in Australia, especially walking in the bush,” he says. “I love the landscapes, the animals, all the things that we do not have in France − except we also have wallabies at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris!” 

Even temperatures of up to 52°C, poisonous snakes and getting caught in a raging bushfire in the Kimberley Ranges in outback Western Australia didn’t diminish his enthusiasm for the country. “We eventually ended sleeping in the ranger’s base camp so that we could be evacuated by helicopter if needed,” he says of the bushfire encounter, adding that it was “the best experience ever – seeing the real Australia.”

Frédéric adapted readily to the less frantic way of life and says he liked the ease with which administrative tasks could be completed, such a getting a stamp for his visa after only a 10-minute wait. The same process, he estimates, could take up a whole day in France.

“If I compare Paris and Sydney, Sydney is greener with lots more parks, the shops are open on Sunday, people are more easy-going − even in law firms − and everything works!”

He counsels international students against taking the easy option and sharing accommodation with people of the same nationality. “It’s reassuring but I think you learn more about people and yourself when you put yourself in a bit of difficulty.” 

He does, however, recommend that everyone tries their hand at working behind a bar. “I had never done that before and you get to meet a lot of people, with different characters, different accents. It is fascinating to learn English and to know about people’s experiences.”

Last updated: Wednesday, 27 May 2015 2:49:26 PM

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