The Four Things I Learned from Law

by Joseph Kahlil


One of my elusive dreams is to practice law in Australia. I’ve always wanted to take up a litigator’s degree and apprentice at one of the top firms in the Queensland area. I first marveled at law TV series, then started reading about realistic cases of personal injury lawyers and medical negligence experts.

As an advertising-graduate-turned-journalist, I later on found other professions can be equally demanding as that of a litigator’s career. This is true especially when you put passion into what you do. I’ve experienced being sent to seemingly absurd news coverage areas, hoping my pieces would not only satisfy show ratings, but also to send powerful messages to our viewers.

Nights of editing and working with the news team for a piece to air on TV can also take a toll on one’s lifestyle. I was once a morning person, but with the news chasing and shifting schedules, my body clock has become quite erratic.

Law specialisations can also vary and amongst all the literature I’ve read, four values come to mind when practicing law Down Under. You might not need to have lawyering skills, but I found these values are also applicable to any profession. These lessons are handy whether you’re a pastry chef, a gym instructor, a doctor or something else entirely:

  1. Find a mentor

You’ll never know what to expect as you launch out into the challenging world of work. Even the most seasoned practitioners are often unsure about the upcoming trends in their corresponding industries. What’s great about having mentors is they’ve worked longer than you have, which means they’re more experienced to deal with the unpredictable.

Veterans and experts have gone through different scenarios, and the best value you can learn from them is their resilience to face the toughest trials in their jobs. So what makes a good mentor? There are three basic standards you have to include in your checklist:

  • Stellar credentials and track record
  • A match of personalities
  • Shared values

Your mentor should be your Yoda in faring through intergalactic career challenges. Schedule a quarterly, if not a monthly, meet up with him or her and see how listening to seasoned insights can make a difference to your professional path.

  1. Thorough knowledge and research of the company

Not knowing what an organisation stands for is similar to crossing a highway blindfolded. Whether you’re a fresh graduate or an experienced employee who’s looking for greater job opportunities, always make sure to thoroughly research your target organisation.

Lawyers who handle several cases gather as much information as possible before plotting out the main claims they’ll present to win a case. Similarly, you can use the target organisation’s information to your advantage. You’re likely expecting to stay for three to five years with this company and this means the firm will be formative to your professional career in the long run. Its culture will influence the way you work.

Before going to your scheduled appointment, you may want to make a random visit to its vicinity and see how much you like the atmosphere. Don’t hesitate to gather your connections, so you can speak with previous and present employees. See the company’s strengths and weaknesses, then check on how these characteristics align with your professional objectives.

  1. Lawyers need a life outside the court

Getting to the bottom of every case is entails a lot of hard work. Tasks include, but are not limited to, defense sessions, additional consultations with clients, case analysis with associates and drafting out argument strategies.

It puts a lot of pressure on a lawyer knowing the client’s future lies on their hands. This means each and every crevice of a case needs to be gathered to ensure the fullest defense and justice is served.

However, it’s never a good thing if a profession occupies one’s entire life. This can lead to inefficiency, as a litigator gets burnt out in the process. Surely, you have a secondary passion other than your present job. Pursue this on the side. Why not try a sport such as golf or fishing? This can be quite therapeutic and you’ll be more recharged as you resume at court.

  1. Leave the SoAs (Statement of Accounts) to the Billing and Collections Department

At this very moment, take the dollar signs out of your eyes. No client wants to hear you’re just after their money. While it’s true you need to earn a living, you still need to prioritise your client’s welfare above all. After all, this is this is your firm’s  primary purpose. This value should especially be applied to bigger clients, where constant handholding may be required.

As a practitioner of any field, you’ll always aim for the big shots as your top clients. The key to establishing a long term relationship with them is to really know their needs and be ready to address them, even before they’re asked. When all the transactions have been said and done, send your billing department over to separately settle your accounts.

I’m sure every lawyer has his or her share of stories to learn from. Throughout the years of following Court of Appeal cases from the Australian government’s website, news and online releases, these mentioned rules can help you become successful in any industry you choose.

About the Author

Kahlil or Joseph Kahlil was named after Kahlil Gibran – a world-renowned poet and author of “The Prophet.” Following his footsteps, he harnesses his creative juices through poetry, prose, and occasional musings about the “human condition.” As an observer, Kahlil loves to write about technology, legal matters and living green. He’s writing on behalf of MEJ – they have been protecting the rights of injured Canberrans since 1985.