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Jacob Corbett: Keeping curious and creating your own luck

Jacob is a Commercial and Property Lawyer and a Director of Bradley and Bray Solicitors in Nambour. Jacob got his first taste of law when he was completing a Minor in Justice while studying a Bachelor of Creative Writing. Jacob was only 2 years PAE when he purchased half of a law firm and became a Director, so his journey is one to listen to. Jacob shares lots of really helpful and practical tips for law students and graduates, from checking your motivations during law school to the importance of falling in love with the process and developing helpful habits early.

where it all began

When High School ended, Jacob wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do but he knew that he loved writing and so he enrolled in a Bachelor of Creative Writing. While completing his degree, Jacob did a Minor in Justice and really enjoyed it. When Jacob graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Writing and Justice, he worked at a radio station but soon realised that there weren’t many job prospects in his chosen field. Jacob had his first taste of law when he did his Minor in Justice and this had stuck in his mind, so when considering what to do with his life, Jacob decided he was going to become a Lawyer. Jacob also decided that he needed a change of scenery to kick start this new path and so he moved from the Sunshine Coast to Melbourne and commenced his law degree at Melbourne University. While he was studying, Jacob worked in sales and earnt good money but the job became tedious. Jacob decided to apply for his first job in a law firm and he ended up working as a receptionist for a commercial litigation law firm. After a while though, Jacob missed his family and friends back in Queensland, so as a second year law student he moved back to the Sunshine Coast and got a transfer to QUT. Jacob then began applying for jobs, and it was suggested to him to reach out to local firms who weren’t advertising, and you know it – Jacob ended up with his first role at the firm he is now a Director of, Bradley and Bray Solicitors.

becoming a part owner of a law firm

Jacob worked as a Lawyer for Bradley and Bray, working closely alongside his now business partner Mark, for two years when in 2018, Jacob was offered the opportunity to purchase half of the firm. It was a massive achievement and a huge undertaking. Jacob says it was very surreal having the discussion with Mark. Jacob had been looking for more than just being a Lawyer and he had already been thinking about what his next move was. Jacob wanted to be a business owner and wanted to get involved in that part of the business as early as he could, so it was a natural progression for him. However, it was a logistical nightmare to quote Jacob. There were a lot of processes to go through, lots of red tape and there were delays with finance through the bank. While it was a full on process at times, the settlement occurred 5 months later in May 2019 and now Jacob can revel in this massive achievement.

While owning half a law firm and being a Director at age 28 and 2 years PAE is a huge achievement in itself, Jacob was also nominated for a Lawyers Weekly 30 under 30 award in 2019. Once nominated, Jacob had to complete a submission once he was nominated which talked about what he was doing. However, he had to keep tight lipped about becoming a Director because it wasn’t finalised yet. Jacob was doing other cool things though, so he got to tell them about a large development that he was involved in and his learnings so far. While Jacob didn’t win for the category he was nominated in – property – he got to meet some inspiring people and learn the importance of networking and the power of social media.

don’t underestimate the power of social media and networking

Jacob and I actually met through the power of LinkedIn. Somewhere along the way, we connected on LinkedIn and then when I was attending my second networking event – QLS Early Career Lawyers Christmas Party – at the end of 2019, I met Jacob. I was actually about to leave to head home when we were introduced and realised we had connected on LinkedIn. Fast forward a month and I sat down with Jacob to record a podcast! So you never know what connections you might make online or at networking events and how those connections may impact your life. While we couldn’t help but laugh at the coincidence of it all, it really is a testament to the power of social media and networking. As Jacob says, no one is going to know about you if you keep yourself a secret.

put yourself out there

It can be daunting sometimes to stand up and say “hey, this is me” but if you don’t, you could be missing out on connecting with some wonderful people and colleagues. Jacob says that if you put yourself in front of people and you make it known that you are there, you would be amazed at the opportunities that come your way. As Jacob and I can both attest – we put ourselves in front of our employers and said, “here we are, pick us”. Sometimes it won’t be the right fit or there might not be any vacancies, but if you don’t try – you can’t possibly succeed. Jacob started at Bradley and Bray as a personal assistant and paralegal and so Mark knew him well and worked closely with him before offering him to buy into the firm. Jacob explains that as far as he is aware, there aren’t people searching LinkedIn for inactive profiles looking to give someone their next big win. Jacob explains that it is the squeakiest wheel that gets the most attention – so you have to put yourself out there. In 2018 Jacob decided to take control of Bradley and Bray’s social media and he started posting daily content – just to see what would work. Jacob says that this felt a bit uncomfortable – especially being a new lawyer, but it was him saying “hey I’m here and I am here to take in all of the knowledge I can”. And there is a lot to be learned from connecting with all the wonderful people who we all now have access to with the tools available to us like LinkedIn.

confidence not arrogance

I believe the biggest difference between being confident and arrogant is knowing and accepting that you have faults and that you still have things to learn. Jacob says that you can be confident in yourself and what you stand for without being arrogant and thinking that you know it all. Jacob explains that putting yourself out there and connecting with people isn’t arrogant and it doesn’t have to be. You can be extremely self-confident but open yourself up to learning. Jacob says that if you are sitting there waiting for a hand out, you’re not going to get one! You need to get out there and put the wheels in motion yourself. Jacob explains that we are all in this profession because we often have similar traits – high achievers, perfectionists, etc. – so why not apply that to marketing yourself. Jacob says that no one else is going to do it for you and that you are the best person to tell your own story.

start some helpful habits now

Jacob has a regimented schedule with lots of daily habits that mean that when Jacob does come into work, he is the best version of himself. Jacob wakes up at 4:30am, goes to the gym, does 10 minutes of meditation and logs in to his computer at home – all before he gets into the office in the morning. Jacob explains that starting some habits that prepare you for the day and put you in a good mental state while you are at law school will set you up for success when you’re out in the real world working as a lawyer. Jacob explains that you can build a lot of mental fortitude by starting your day with some of these habits. For Jacob the work he does as a lawyer at the office is just a part of his day, he doesn’t roll out of bed and go into work. Jacob says that he wishes he had started some of his daily habits back when he was in law school as it would have helped him with some structure. Jacob explains that you will have to set up a solid structure sooner or later, so you might as well start when you are in law school. To add to this, once you are working as a lawyer there is a lot of work to fit into each day and it can be difficult to make time for everything – but if you have already got systems in place from law school, this transition will be easier. It is also going to put you in a better mental state and mean that you are better prepared for whatever the day throws at you. Jacob explains that if you are the best version of you – you’re going to be a better lawyer, your clients will be more receptive to you and you’re going to forge better relationships with your colleagues. While there will always be bad days or moments that make us angry or sad, if you are looking after your mental health, you are likely to deal with the situation better. As Jacob says, you can’t control what comes your way but you can control how you deal with it. Jacob explains that as a lawyer, there are many things outside of your control – your clients won’t always be reasonable or be happy to pay your fees, or a case won’t go to plan, and you can’t control that – but you can control how you react in these situations.

having a mentor

Jacob’s mentor was Mark, who is now his business partner and colleague. Often your mentor will be a senior practitioner who you work with and they will have a breadth of both work experience and life experience. The benefit of having a mentor like this is that as a lawyer you will always be faced with new challenges, and having someone you can turn to for advice or to check if what you are thinking of doing is right – can be so critically helpful. Jacob explains that this tip is almost always given by successful people and while Jacob may not have previously understood why, he does now. Jacob explains that if you’re working closely with someone it may be an easy transition to a mentor and mentee relationship, however, you may have multiple mentors who you turn to for different advice and help depending on their skill set. Jacob explains that if you are networking and putting yourself out there, you are more likely to connect with people who may become mentors. Now, you may be like I was and think – they don’t want to talk to me, they have better things to do, they are super important lawyers, but trust us, there are many lawyers out there who are happy to help. And you know why…because they were once where you are right now! Jacob explains that while you may not understand it now, there are many experienced lawyers who will be very generous with their time to help mentor those who are less experienced than they are. Jacob’s advice is to reach out and just speak to people. Jacob recalls that even when he was going through a very busy time in his life when he was navigating the purchase of a second law firm, he made the time to speak with law students who had reached out to him. The legal profession, after all, is a helping profession and so most lawyers are happy to help!

be a sponge!

Jacob’s biggest tip and one that he lives by – is falling in love with the process and with learning. Jacob explains that the more information that you can take in the better – from networking and meeting people to learning the skills in your profession. Jacob explains that being a lawyer means that you will always be challenged and have something new to learn. For Jacob, being someone who loves to learn is pivotal. Jacob has not had one day in the past 3 years of being a lawyer where he hasn’t learned something new. And while I have only been practising for a few months, I can absolutely attest to this. As lawyers – we will certainly never be bored! So, if you love to learn and be challenged then you will be content as a lawyer. Jacob listens to audio books and podcasts during his day to learn as much as he can. Jacob notes that if you are a law student or graduate who feels a bit overwhelmed by how much you have to learn – know that you aren’t alone. We all start there and it can be daunting when you think about all the things you need to learn and know so that you can be a good lawyer. Jacob explains that you need to take it one step at a time – we all start somewhere and no one comes into the world when they are born knowing how to file a public liability claim. We learn things as we go along and no one is asking more than what is reasonable for you to know. Jacob explains that it is humbling to note that experienced lawyers come into work every day and they often learn something new or how to do something differently. As they say, if you’re the smartest guy/girl in the room – then you’re in the wrong room!

check your motivations early

Jacob says that if you are just starting out or you are going through your law degree, you should sit down and reflect on your motivations. Law is infamous for having a very high dropout rate. Jacob and I both had a similar introduction to law school – and that was being told that 70% of the people around you would dropout. And they are right, a lot of people do start law and don’t finish because it isn’t what you expect. Jacob says that you need to figure out why you want to become a lawyer and it’s not that you have to be in love with the law. All lawyers can probably tell you how the law could function better. However, as Jacob explains, if your motivations are things like money, well we have some bad news for you – early career lawyers do not get paid well! Jacob explains that if you have stronger motivations like the pursuit of knowledge or the desire to help people, those are the kinds of motivations that will see you through law school and through the days which are difficult when you become a lawyer. Jacob explains that he had moments, like we all do, when he was at law school where he thought he couldn’t do it. Law school is difficult and so it is important to know that it is normal to feel that way, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t finish your degree and have a super successful career.

don’t put too much emphasis on the subjects you do well in

Jacob explains that the subjects you do well in at university are not necessarily a reflection of the sort of area of law that you should decide to specialise in. As an excellent example, I was top of my class for Internet Law and Jacob did really well in Family Law – and neither of us work in those areas nor would we want to! So, if you have your heart set on an area of law and you don’t do so well in the subject at university, or you actually don’t enjoy the subject – don’t let that put you off completely because it is often very different in practice. Jacob explains that he didn’t really like contract, property or commercial law but that is his bread and butter now. Jacob explains that you need to understand that when completing subjects you are being taught by an institution who is keeping to a curriculum and there isn’t a huge amount of flexibility around that. Jacobs also explains that you aren’t the same person when you start university as you are when you finish. Life happens and big life events can change who you are and how you see the world. So, don’t make too many assumptions or decisions while you are at law school because they will likely change as you progress.

jacob’s awesome tips

Put yourself out there and don’t underestimate the power that social media and networking can have for connecting with people and creating opportunities!

It’s good to be confident in yourself and your skills, but don’t be arrogant and think that you know everything!

Start some habits while you are in law school that set you up with a structure for when you finish your degree and are out in the real world working in law!

Find yourself a mentor who you can go to for advice and to check that what you are thinking of doing is what they would do!

Be a sponge and absorb as much information that you can – seek out connections with people who inspire you who you can learn from and understand that you will be learning until the day you retire as a lawyer!

Check your motivations for wanting to be a lawyer earlier rather than later – if you are motivated by a desire to learn or to help others, then you’re more likely to push through the challenges that you face in your degree and your future career than those who are motivated by money or status!

If you do well or not so well in a University subject, don’t put too much emphasis on this as an indicator of the area of law that you’ll ultimately end up practicing in as it isn’t an accurate reflection of what the law is like in practice!

Jacob is happy for you to reach out to him on LinkedIn if you have any questions –

Jacob’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobjamescorbett/