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Nicole Paul: Finding a career in law that you love

After graduating from Griffith University in 2011, Nicole obtained a graduate job and completed her PLT part-time through the College of Law. Nicole was admitted in 2012 and has practiced exclusively in personal injuries law. During this time, Nicole had two years of maternity leave with her two daughters, now aged four and one. Nicole was promoted while on maternity leave with her second daughter and is now an Associate at James Law here in Brisbane. 

having it all

Nicole currently works three days a week from 8:30am to 4:30pm which means that she can drop her daughter off at day care on her way to work and leave early to pick her up. Nicole has deleted her mail app on her phone so that she is not receiving emails when she is away from work. This allows Nicole to share special moments with her young daughters, as well as spend time with her friends and maintain a work/life balance. Nicole acknowledges that when she is busy, she will work from home after putting the children to bed, or work back later, but has learnt to be more productive when she is in the office.

When Nicole started her career in law, she didn’t realise how difficult it can be for women with children. While Nicole understands that everyone’s definition of having it all is different, for Nicole, having it all means the ability to balance having a young family while working part-time in a career that she loves.

find a good employer

Nicole was promoted to Associate when she was on maternity leave with her second daughter. Nicole believes that nothing will get in your way of having a really rewarding career if you want to have children, or already have children, if you find the right fit with your employer. Nicole says a good employer will recognise your hard work, even if you are only there three days a week. It is Nicole’s opinion that while it may be easier to obtain promotions before you have a family, it is not always a barrier to career progression.

p’s make degrees

Nicole felt a lot of pressure during her time at law school as an internal, on campus student. Nicole’s experience was that there was a requirement to have a GPA of at least 5.5 in order to apply for clerkships and get a job in a top tier law firm. Nicole’s advice is that P’s make degrees. It’s more important to be well-rounded by volunteering, playing sport and working because employers, especially those in smaller firms, will find that more impressive than a resume with a great GPA but no extra curricular pursuits.

find the right fit for you

Nicole’s advice is that if you do start out in a graduate job, and it isn’t a job that you enjoy – you don’t need to stay. When Nicole was a graduate, there was a belief that you needed to achieve two years’ experience before you could leave your job. Nicole says there is nothing wrong with leaving a job that you are unhappy in and telling your prospective employer that you left that job because it wasn’t the right fit for you.

Nicole also warns against sticking it out in a job you dislike because it can often make it difficult to transition to another area of the law that you may be interested in. For example, if you are working in commercial law and you would really like to be working in family law, if you stay in your commercial law job for two years – a family law firm may be reluctant to hire you, to work in an area where you actually have no experience.

don’t give up so easily

Nicole says that if you have a bad experience with an employer or manager, it’s okay to look elsewhere if it is going to be the reason that you leave the law. Nicole has friends who quit law before they even had two years of experience. Nicole’s advice is that if you find yourself unhappy in your first law job, move to another firm or try another area of law before you decide to quit. After all, you have worked so hard to get your degree in the first place!

work experience

Nicole’s advice is to gain as much work experience during university as possible. Nicole worked as a legal secretary across multiple areas and then as a law clerk. This assisted Nicole in being able to determine the area of law which was of interest to her prior to graduation.

using social media

When Nicole was a law student, like me, she didn’t know anyone or have any family friends who were lawyers. The difference now is that law students have access to many tools that weren’t available to Nicole when she was a student. Finding the right fit with your employer, while it often involves some degree of trial and error, can be made easier by using tools such as LinkedIn. If you create relationships with lawyers in your desired area, you can mention a prospective employer’s name and they will be able to tell you their experience of that person as an employer. The other benefit of these relationships is that you may be offered a position by a word of mouth recommendation, rather than just being another resume in a pile from Seek.

find a mentor

Nicole also believes it is really important to have a mentor so that you can talk to someone who has been where you are. Nicole believes that most lawyers are happy to share their knowledge and experiences. Nicole’s advice is to get on LinkedIn, the sooner the better, search for lawyers in the areas of law that interest you and send them a message! Tell them a little bit about yourself, whether you are a law student or graduate, and ask them if they would be willing to meet up with you for a coffee and a chat. Nicole says there is nothing wrong with reaching out to lawyers, especially considering how difficult it can be to network as a law student and graduate.

Nicole is happy for anyone reading this, who is interested in personal injuries law, to reach out to her. Nicole is happy to help you with any questions that you may have or to meet up for a chat over a coffee.

nicole’s awesome tips

Find an area of law that you love so that you enjoy going to work!

Find a supportive employer or manager who will acknowledge your hard work!

Don’t quit law just because you are unhappy in your first job – it may just be the firm or area of law you are working in!

Being a woman with a family/who wants a family doesn’t mean you can’t have a fulfilling career in law!

If you want to reach out to Nicole, you can contact her by messaging her on LinkedIn or sending her an email:

Nicole’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-paul-personal-injury-lawyer-14a058117/

Nicole’s Email: npaul@jameslaw.com.au