It’s a little unusual, I expect, for someone to choose being a lawyer or working in a milk bar, but they were the two options I saw for myself when I was first starting my career.
I often wondered whether, if I didn’t make it as a lawyer, I could run a milk bar. I loved going to the local milk bar where you become friends with the person behind the counter. That’s the part that really appealed to me. And that’s what I tried to bring to my work as a lawyer.
Working in a corporate law firm as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer, I was surrounded by people who had topped law school and become great practising lawyers. I looked at myself and felt I didn’t fit in. It was a real knock to my confidence.
I have an honours degree in law, but I only came 20th out of 21 in the class list. Around me, other graduates were transitioning from being great students into being the most sought after corporate lawyers in the country. I was just getting by.
At that stage, it wasn’t a question of thriving. I just wanted to stay in a job and do what I loved.
I thought “how am I going to survive in this company?” So, I looked around and I thought well one thing I can try to do is be really great at looking after our customers - and also be reliable. I hoped I could give the same level of service to my customers and stakeholders at the law firm that I loved.
There was lots of tedious work to do at the firm where I worked. I always put my hand up for the work no one else wanted to do and I tried to do it really well.
I used to think: “What do you really need here and what can I do to be someone that you would prize?”
The answer? Reliability. I tried to never leave the office without returning phone calls. I did the tedious work and I did it to the best of my abilities.