Lana Woltman: Step outside of your comfort zone and create your own opportunities
Lana is a Personal Injuries Lawyer and a Senior Associate at Ramsden Lawyers on the sunny Gold Coast. Lana ended up studying law after she was involved in an unfortunate motor vehicle accident. The encouragement Lana received from her Lawyer at the time was the final push she needed to have the confidence to commence studying Law and Lana hasn’t looked back. Lana shares plenty of helpful tips for law students – from getting your foot in the door for your first law job to creating relationships with Lawyers through networking and finding a mentor. Side Note: If you hear meowing during the podcast, that is Biggie (aka Biggie Smalls), Lana’s beautiful cat who you can meet through Lana’s Instagram account.
everything happens for a reason
Lana was working in hospitality at Palazzo Versace and one night driving home after her shift at around 11:30PM, she was involved in a motor vehicle accident. A young woman had run a red light and Lana’s car t-boned her driver’s side door. As a result of this terrible accident, Lana had to seek legal advice for the first time in her life. Lana’s meeting with her Lawyer was unconventional in that Lana had organised everything and came with all of the parties’ details, insurance details and photographs. Lana’s Lawyer commented that she had never had someone come to an initial consultation as organised as Lana and asked her whether she had considered studying law. Lana had thought about it and this comment gave her the confidence to apply to University. Lana was accepted into a Bachelor of Laws/Arts degree at Griffith University, having previously completed a Bachelor of Popular Music. The comment that the Lawyer made to Lana, while she may not have realised, changed Lana’s life forever. This is one of the main reasons that Lana believes in mentoring and supporting law students, graduates and early career lawyers.
your passion will keep you going
Lana has had many highs and lows during her studies and legal career to date. Like so many of us, Lana has at times questioned if she has what it takes to make it in the legal industry. Lana’s certainty that law was her passion meant that in those moments of doubt and when things were tough, Lana pushed through. However, Lana explains that if you start a Law degree and realise that it isn’t where your passion lies, there is nothing wrong with that and it is in fact really courageous to make the decision to leave law. Lana also explains that you aren’t a failure if you aren’t achieving high grades at university. Lana knows many Lawyers who started their careers in law but who left to do other things and have been just as successful.
just get your foot in the door
In the last six months of her law degree, Lana was really hungry to start work in a law firm. Lana applied for absolutely every job that was advertised. Lana was happy to make coffees, make the boardroom table sparkling clean, whatever she needed to do to get her start in law. Lana didn’t care what she was doing, she just wanted to get her foot in the door. Lana had no responses to all of the jobs she applied for. Lana continued to amend her resume and cover letter and went out of her way to improve her resume and cover letter each time that she didn’t hear back. A couple of weeks before Christmas, Lana was feeling like a failure because she hadn’t managed to get a job and after all the years of study, that was all she wanted. Lana’s family told her to calm down, take a break and enjoy the Christmas holidays. But, that is much easier said than done, I can tell you. Like me, Lana had it in her mind that she was going to find her first legal job and she wasn’t going to give up. After persisting, Lana got her first law job as a part-time administrative assistant at Shine Lawyers. Lana was really excited – she had made it into law-land! Lana then moved into a full-time administrative assistant role and then into a full-time paralegal role. While working as a paralegal, Lana completed her PLT full-time. Lana found the experience of working full-time and completing PLT full-time very challenging and stressful – but she survived! A few months after Lana was admitted, she then moved into a full-time Lawyer role at Shine Lawyers. Lana went on to work for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and Slater and Gordon before commencing her new, exciting role with Ramsden Lawyers. If Lana hadn’t of gotten her foot in the door and taken an administrative role, she may not have been presented with the opportunities to move into more senior roles. So – leave your ego at the door, get your foot in the door in a law firm and prove your worth! Lana explains that if you want it badly enough, you will do whatever it takes to get where you want to be.
find a work/life balance
Lana was 30 years old when she was admitted and she really wanted to be able to have a work/life balance. Lana says that we work so that we can enjoy our lives and it is really important to celebrate and appreciate our lives outside of work. Lana explains that if we don’t balance our work life and personal life, burnout can happen. Burnout is particularly prominent in the legal industry because it is a particularly stressful and demanding job being a Lawyer. Lana also explains that as a Lawyer, you are often dealing with clients who are coming to you at a really stressful period in their lives, asking for your help to fix their problems, and it can be really hard to balance all the demands of the office with your personal life as well. Lana’s advice is to make sure you manage your time so that you do have down time and space to reconnect with who you really are. Often, our identities can be so focused around what we do at work – being Lawyers – that we can lose sight of who we really are and what makes us happy. Lana believes that taking the time to do the things that ground you – spending time with loved ones, your cat (if you are a crazy cat lady like Lana and I), your dog, your children, exercising, getting outside… can really help you be the best version of yourself in the law.
network, network, network!
Lana really enjoys attending networking events with her peers and feeling a part of the community. Lana explains that when we feel connected and part of a community, we feel less alone. Lana started a networking event on the Gold Coast called Southport Social because she realised there was a lack of local Friday afternoon drinks events. Southport Social isn’t structured like a typical networking event, there is no RSVP, cost and everyone is welcome. Lana has seen the success that networking has helped bring others from jobs to opportunities like podcast interviews and columns in Proctor. So – if you live on the Gold Coast, or you want to drive to the Gold Coast on a Friday evening – come along! Lana explains that for many law students, networking can be really daunting and you may be concerned about saying the wrong thing, etc. But Lana explains that while some networking events may feel like job interviews, they aren’t all like that and Southport Social is a welcoming, comfortable event for law students and there is no invite needed. Lana also recommends the networking events run by your University, the College of Law and the ones run by your local district law association. Lana says that it is often who you know and if you have already been building relationships while you are at University, when the time comes to find a job in a law firm – people are going to know you and know you are looking for work. You don’t have to go to an event every week, as Lana understands as a busy student that isn’t going to be achievable, but to try and attend at least 5 events a year.
find a mentor
Lana explains that networking with people who are in law and finding a mentor can be really helpful in the times where you may be doubting whether law is for you, or you might have questions. While having the support of your loved ones is wonderful, it can sometimes just be so beneficial to have a conversation with someone who is in law and who actually gets it. There are actually many Lawyers out there who are more than happy to mentor law students and law graduates. Like Lana, they find it really rewarding.
utilise social media
Lana says it is really important to be able to generate work for the law firm that you are working for. While our focus out of law school is on being the best lawyer we can be, and that is important, it isn’t the only thing we should focus on. Lana explains that in order to differentiate yourself and add value it is important to be able to build relationships with other people and businesses. Lana says that law students must have a LinkedIn account – go and create one today if you don’t have one, take a photo, connect with Lana (and me). Lana recommends putting content out there on social media and interact with other people’s content by liking and commenting. Lana’s advice is to connect with people who are like you, people you aspire to be like, people who are in a profession that you want to be in and people who inspire you in other industries. Lana says that while some people may not accept a request to connect, don’t worry – you don’t know them anyway and most people are happy to connect.
lana’s awesome tips
If you are passionate about law – that will keep you going through the hard times;
Get your foot in the door and take any job you can in a law firm to get your start!
Learn to manage your time so that you can have a healthy work/life balance!
Attend networking events – and find the events which fit who you are and that you enjoy because it is really helpful to feel like you are a part of a community!
Find a mentor in the law who really understands what it is like and can help you in the difficult moments or can answer any questions that you may have!
Utilise social media – create a LinkedIn account, connect with others, post content and interact with other people’s content!
Don’t be so hard on yourself – take a breath, connect with other students and remind yourself that it is going to be okay!
Get out there and be bold and brave – get outside of your comfort zone even if you are scared and create your own opportunities!
Lana is happy for you to reach out to her on LinkedIn or on Instagram if you have any questions –
Lana’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lana-woltman-4a63a416a/
Lana’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theinjurylawyer_/