Being in law school was, as you can imagine, much easier than the workforce, due to the controlled environment of the school. We would do mock trials under the guidance of our tutors and it was not as vigorous or as strenuous on us as, say, actual clients and judges. We also had the advantage of knowing the people that we were going into these mock trials with (fellow students) and therefore felt much more comfortable in that environment.
After graduating from law school, I found it difficult for me to start my legal practice in 1996 as I didn’t have any financial backing and it was very hard to obtain a business loan from the bank at the time, due to being self-employed. The bank would not lend any money unless you had property as security, but after six months of saving every dollar I eventually managed to get an overdraft that allowed me to start my practice.
However, it was not just financial difficulties that made it hard for me to to start CM Law – the profession was definitely much more male-dominated then than it was now. I had no mentors in the inner west – most of the solicitors in the area were male and viewed me as someone very different to what they were used to, due to me being female. The manner in which they dealt with me was very different to, say, if they were dealing with other male colleagues.
After being in this field of work for two decades, the advice I would give to a young woman wanting to start out in a legal profession in this day and age would be, firstly, to excel in her results at university to give her the greatest advantage in entering the workforce. It is also probably worth her while to try and specialise early on in her profession in an area of law that she enjoys doing. Most importantly, if she intends to work for herself in the future, it is vital to have a strong and steady savings record in order to be independent and have the flexibility to take her career in the direction she wants.
When I entered the legal profession back in the 90s, there were fewer female lawyers than there are today. Now, it appears that the representation of female lawyers is possibly on par with men – if not greater.
I think it is also important to have some type of mentorship within the profession. I personally joined the Women Lawyers Association of New South Wales, a group of female lawyers and barrister that would give support to each other. Indeed, I found it very supportive, due to the shared common goals and interests within the group. However, more importantly, it is beneficial to develop positive relationships with other solicitors and colleagues in other practices that they come across in their day-to-day work and build up friendships in that manner. This allows you to be able to call upon other colleagues for advice and assistance further down the track.
Another society to be aware of is the Law Society of New South Wales, which provides mentoring and counselling for solicitors, both male and female. I believe it is essential that all solicitors touch base with the Law Society of New South Wales as that gives them a good basis for support, both in their private lives and in their working lives as solicitors.
About Christine Manolakos
Christine Manolakos (pictured) offers a fresh, feminine perspective to the practice of law in Australia. Of Greek background, Christine has excelled herself in legal practice to single-handedly build a thriving suburban law firm with a diverse client base.
To read more from Christine, and her husband Alex, visit CM Law News