“My wife is Brazilian, my father is Greek, and my mother is Aboriginal.”
I am the principal solicitor at my firm AMK Law.
I knew I wanted to be a lawyer from an early age. I was drawn to it because of the influence I believed lawyers wielded, and their ability to prevent others from being pushed around. I liked the idea of being able to take a strong stand and defend my views.
After high school I did a double degree at Flinders University – Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice & Bachelor of Commerce. As part of my university study, I had to get my Practical Legal Training (PLT) done. This is a final step that teaches law students the practical side of working in law: dealing with clients, business aspects, administration and record keeping requirements.
After I had completed my university studies, I was finally ready to start working as a lawyer.
Reality hit hard as I discovered that having a law degree is merely a ticket into the industry and does not at all guarantee success.
Many aspects of legal practice were foreign to me and I had to pick those skills up as I went. It was like being thrown into the deep end, either swim or sink.
My first job after I completed my degree was at ASIC, which is Australia’s regulatory body for corporate, market and financial services. That was a great experience for me. Working there taught me how government departments operate, and how the law applies to them.
My job there involved providing legal analyses of relevant legislation and applying them to different issues, such as complex merger relief applications. I often had to consider the impact of regulation on the relevant industries too, so it was a whole new education on the inside workings of a major Australian government department.
As a young graduate fresh out of university and starting my first job, it was a daunting challenge shifting from the school library to the hustle and the politics of a law firm, but at the same time, extremely exciting.
After all, this was what I spent my university years preparing for.
During 2008, I had learnt all I felt I needed at ASIC and decided to work in the private law firm. I got an opportunity to join Clayton Utz, which is one of the most well known and possibly one of the best regarded firms in Australia.
During my experience at Clayton Utz I really honed my skills and learnt how to produce work of the highest quality – their standards were exceptionally high and you had to reach and exceed them in order to succeed. It was hard work, but I’m grateful I got that training, as it is something I was later able to bring to my own firm.
In about 2010 I moved to HWL Ebsworth to take on an Associate role. There I worked in a team that handled corporate finance and capital markets. I learned a lot from the chief partner whom I worked under. He was probably only about 36 at that time and was an absolute gun. He taught me about the right attitude to work, and efficiency. I still have a good relationship with him today. He was also one of the first people to congratulate me when I branched out on my own.
All in all, I spent formative years working in large organisations, gaining knowledge and experience. There were pluses and minuses to being a part of that system.
I was fortunate enough to work with very experienced and fine lawyers, and it was a huge benefit to me to learn from them.
On the other hand, despite working in big fancy offices, and having many opportunities provided by the firm, it was still easy to get lost in the crowd due to the size of the companies. Which was one of the reasons why I decided to start my own firm.
I knew I had the experience and the excellence in my technical legal work that was required to be successful. I had compassion for people and wanted to achieve results for them in their legal matters. Most importantly, starting my own business was a chance to create a firm that would reflect my views on multiculturalism and ethics, and allow me to forge closer relationships with my clients.
I’m also proud to be principal solicitor of an indigenous law firm because I represent my multicultural family background at AMK Law.
My background is very diverse: my wife is Brazilian, my father is Greek, and my mother is Aboriginal. I believe that communication is not just about spoken languages, it is also about respecting each party’s culture and ethnicity.
I believed that understanding different cultures helps me to help my clients better. I hoped to grow my firm as a multicultural firm with a team that comes from a variety of backgrounds.
Starting a business from scratch was a lot of hard work.
There is so much more to starting up a law firm than just law. I was lucky to receive heaps of guidance from senior mentors, both on matters of business and of law.
I think the biggest obstacles I faced when I started were time and confidence. It was nerve-racking, knowing that the buck stopped with me now. That if everything went pear-shaped, it was my responsibility. Having key mentors to assist me has been one of the main things that has enabled successful results for myself, and clients, at AMK Law.
My main focus from the start was building solid relationships with my clients, I knew this was going to be the key to the firm’s success and longevity. And that work, along with the long hours and the weekends spent at the office, has paid off.
Another major factor of success was the first case that I took on after starting AMK Law.
It was a Supreme Court matter, an incredible opportunity to prove myself. Not only did AMK Law achieve an excellent result, but importantly, the firm did so within the first year of operation. This opened doors and got the name out there. I’m really grateful for that opportunity, it was a great step-up for AMK Law.
Of course there have been mistakes that I’ve made – they are a part of living and learning. I make it my goal not to waste them.
In fact, I often like to write my mistakes down to avoid repeating them.
I also have a series of questions that I ask myself every day to reflect on how I can improve. In my view making a mistake is fine because it offers a chance to learn and improve. I don’t accept making the same mistake more than once however.
AMK Law is growing and is very diverse – like I dreamt of at the start. My wife is in charge of business development and marketing. I have a new lawyer that joined the team from Pakistan, and a work experience student from Singapore whom we are looking to employ in the future.
These days, my day-to-day life involves meeting with clients, reviewing matters, meeting with barristers, drafting and submitting legal documents – the list goes on and on. I enjoy the fast-paced nature of this job. I also enjoy meeting people from all walks of life, which I get to do in this job.
The core areas of my practice are litigation, commercial and property law, dispute resolution, and.
It is very exhilarating to constantly face different issues across these sectors. It ensures that my job is never boring and no two days are the same. Even now, I regularly encounter many issues or permutations of issues that I have not faced before.
There’s always more work that can be done on any matter. It is a balancing act, especially when there are so many different matters to attend to in a day. Sometimes, because of that, the hours can get pretty gruelling.
In this industry, deadlines are very real and missing one can have grave consequences both for my client and I, so ensuring that I never miss one requires me to pay hawk-like attention to dates.
Jumping on board the technology bandwagon has made this easier, there are software programmes now that can help keep track of files.
Knowing what I know now, I wish I had been more confident when I first started the firm, more assertive.
I regret not starting my own business sooner. On the other hand, I am still grateful for the experience I gained working for others.
Looking forward, my goal is to grow a tightly-knit team who work together to create beautiful working relationships with our clients. I see the firm going beyond myself, standing strong together as AMK Law.
I believe we have all the hallmarks to be a magnificent mid-size law firm in the near future.
I think that success is about mindset: having the right mindset for each step of the journey, from having the courage to make a start, to taking on and winning the first case, to concentrating on growth and development.
Away from work, I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
It helps relieve stress that the law business creates. But I also find that the lessons I learn from martial arts can be transferred to litigation. I see litigation often as a battle, so I apply the strategies from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there.
In law, there are no fixed answers for anything, so every day is a hunt to find the most suitable answers for each particular problem. One lesson I learnt from my martial arts instructor is to always think outside the box to find an answer; and not to allow problems remain unsolved and turn into a weight to be carried around.
If I had any tips for anyone starting out in any career, it is to start with a mindset of accomplishment and focus on understanding what your clients need.