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DLA Piper Australia

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Valiant Warzecha

I love the diversity of the work and broad client base in IP. I like that the work we do is so tangible.

Where did you grow up and go to school? What were some of the influences that led you to where you are today?  

I grew up in Eastwood, NSW. I also spent a lot of my childhood at my grandparent's place in Ballina, near Byron Bay on the NSW far north coast, which meant daily trips to the beach and spending time in my grandfather's shed watching him fix the neighbourhood's mechanical devices. This left me with a love of the beach and a lifelong fascination with design, problem solving and invention. My parents were both in science and home was basically a laboratory – whether it was learning the chemistry behind cooking with Mum or DIY around the house with Dad.

I was a competitive swimmer from a young age and placed at the metropolitan and state level before giving it up to concentrate on school. I went to Epping Boys High School where I had brilliant teachers – Mr Kamie Khurshed, Ms Cathy Hartley, Mr Bruce Jacob and Mr Michael Collie – who played a large role in my decision to go into commercial law. There was also an influential encounter with Epping Boys' alumni, Geoffrey Robertson QC who was filming a show for the ABC at school. 

After high school, I worked as a salesperson at JB Hi-Fi while studying at Macquarie University. This was a great insight into how businesses work, while also having a front seat to the marketing and branding wars of the tech giants battling for supremacy in the Australian consumer electronics market. While at university, I was also involved with the Macquarie Law Society and was fortunate to be elected as its secretary in my final year. 

Before starting with DLA Piper, I took a year off to complete my Practical Legal Training at the College of Law and travel in Europe for around six months. This was opportune timing as my travels coincided with the Brexit vote in the UK and I got to see much of what I studied in my EU economics subject at university. 

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it? 

I went through the recruitment process for DLA Piper's Summer Clerkship Program in 2014/15 and was fortunate enough to be offered a graduate position with the firm. I started my contract in early 2017 and I've been in the Sydney Intellectual Property and Technology team since December 2017. 

How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?

The DLA Piper Graduate Program in Australia allows three rotations across the firm's service offering. I sat with the Government Litigation and Real Estate teams before my final rotation in Intellectual Property and Technology (IPT). My background prior to starting with the firm was highly influential on my decision to settle in IPT. The opportunity to work on interesting matters with well-known international clients and brands was also very attractive. However, the decisive factor was working with IPT team members, especially Melinda Upton (partner and global co-chair, IPT Group, DLA Piper) and Jessie Buchan (senior associate, DLA Piper).  

What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?

The DLA Piper Summer Clerkship recruitment process involved going through two stages of interviews: the first round was an interview with a partner of the firm and HR representative, and the second round was a management consultant problem that had to be solved in a group of eight other interviewees. I understand this process has since changed.

What does your employer do?

DLA Piper is a global full-service commercial law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific, allowing us to service clients across most jurisdictions in the world. 

What are your areas of responsibility?

I am a solicitor in the Intellectual Property and Technology team. I advise a range of Australian and international clients on all aspects of branding strategy; intellectual property disputes (trademarks and copyright); advertising and marketing practices (consumer law); and regulatory issues specific to the Retail, Food and Beverage, and Life Sciences sectors.

Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?

The best part about working in the IPT team is that every day is different. Most recently I have been advising on a trademark infringement dispute involving counterfeiting and product safety issues; early-stage branding strategy for a number of start-ups; trade promotion terms and conditions; amendments to trademark registrations; intra-group trademark assignments; and regulatory matters associated with the entry of a dental/orthodontic industry disruptor into the Australian market. These matters have involved working with international colleagues from our offices in China, Europe and the United States. There is also a lot of self-education involved – keeping on top of the news and writing posts for the firm's website and various blogs.

What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here? 

The most obvious path would be gaining more experience and progressing within private practice to reach partnership and/or senior management roles. In private practice and firms like DLA Piper, there is also the possibility of moving to, qualifying and practising in other jurisdictions. It is common for Australian lawyers to go to London, Hong Kong or New York for a number of years. 

It is also possible to go in-house and work as a lawyer within a business or other organisation. Academia is another option, contributing to the study of law based on practical experience gained in private practice. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely, provided they met the relevant education and training requirements to practice in Australia.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now? 

I think a more creative role: possibly in design or music. That being said, it's hard to imagine taking a path other than practising IP law – I genuinely enjoy what I do for work. 

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?

I love the diversity of the work and broad client base in IP, as well as how it can be challenging and often require strategic and/or creative thinking to come up with a solution that best serves the goals of the client. I like that the work we do is so tangible. It's also a real rush partnering with a brand you know and use as they implement a new strategy or take a different direction. 

My favourite kind of work is the dance that is an IP infringement dispute: from conducting the initial investigations to drafting the letter of demand, to the back and forth of negotiation and if necessary, commencing court proceedings. There is nothing more exhilarating!

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?

The biggest limitation is not having enough time in the day to get everything done. I am starting to take on more responsibility in the team and have found that there is quite a bit of administration surrounding matters. Sometimes this involves working over the weekend and can be stressful, particularly if there is a pressing client deadline. 

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

  • Respect and empathy go a long way.
  • Work hard but also remember to have fun, especially while you are at university. Life starts to move fast very quickly once you start full-time work.
  • Make and take time for the people who are important in your life – your partners, friends and family.