It was quite an unusual chain of events that brought me into banking, but I'm very glad it did. I think there's a misconception that when people come out of law school and start at a law firm, it's all about working your way up to partnership in a very linear way. But there's more than one way to build a legal career and wonderful things can happen when you follow unexpected opportunities.
I started my career in Queensland as a property lawyer (as many did back in the early 2000s) and over time this brought me to Melbourne. When the GFC hit, our local property market was badly impacted, as was our banking sector. Many of us practising in these areas felt our careers take an uncertain turn. However – ironically, and happily for me – this was when I was first offered a role in one of our major banks.
Initially, I was unsure if this was the right move – the stories were trickling in from overseas about extensive job losses in banking and a long downturn was predicted. But things seemed more stable in Australia. I figured there would be big opportunities ahead for recovery and growth, and all the great legal work that goes hand-in-hand with that, so I decided to go for it.
Working in-house for a bank taught me that retail financial services is very much a people business. You're dealing with other people's savings, investments and homes. It's all about the customer and putting them at the centre of everything you do.
Working through the Royal Commission only served to re-emphasise how important that mindset is, and it's what brought me back to private practice – the sector was about to go through a once-in-a-generation shift and I saw an opportunity to use what I had learned in-house to support our clients through this intense period of change.
At the end of the day, our job is to enable our clients to deliver the best outcomes for their customers. The law is complex and our role often requires a fair bit of 'regulatory gymnastics'! The thrill of finding a solution to a difficult issue that I know will lead to a good result for both our client and their customer never gets old.