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Being open about one’s setbacks ‘balances out’ false perceptions

A director of a family law firm details the setbacks he’s had throughout his career and discusses the importance of being open about setbacks.

user iconJess Feyder 04 May 2023 Big Law
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Recently on The Boutique Lawyer Show, host Jerome Doraisamy speaks with Gale Family Law director David Gale.

Mr Gale discussed his recent decision to share on his LinkedIn some of the personal and professional setbacks he has experienced over the course of his career.

I don’t believe that any of my setbacks are anything particularly special,” he said


“However, I have noticed on social media that people tend to paint a very rosy picture of their personal and professional life.

“We tend to post the milestones and the achievements,” he outlined, “and I’m also aware that there’s a lot of law students and young lawyers are feeling increasingly isolated because [of] post-pandemic work arrangements, and maybe aren’t always having those conversations to see how people got to where they were”.

“I wanted to even it out and show some balance,” explained Mr Gale.

“I’ve had a few challenges along the way.”

“The first one, which should be relevant to law students or law grads, is that I really struggled to find a position after university. 

“I was one of about 70 graduates of the legal practice course in Tasmania, and I recall that only about 10 or 12 of us had jobs by the end of that course.

“Getting a job took a lot longer than I’d thought.”

Mr Gale explained that it was a surprise for him, as he was successful at university — he was valedictorian, had a high distinction average and got first-class honours.

“I thought I would land a job a lot more easily than I did,” Mr Gale noted. “I had my eyes set on BigLaw and applied for all of the biggest nine firms.”

“I really had my hopes set on getting into one of those firms,” he continued. “I got three interviews and flew over to Melbourne for them, but didn’t get any offers for clerkships or positions.”

“It kind of shattered me at the time,” he said.

“I started questioning what I had done wrong. I thought I had interviewed well; I thought my resumé was in order.”

“Further down the line, what was the hardest setback I experienced was when I decided to go into private practice and I was stoked that I landed a job at a city firm in Melbourne,” continued Mr Gale.

“It was my first time in private practice, and it was a pretty significant undertaking. 

“My wife and then two infants relocated over to Melbourne. We spent our deposit that we’d saved for a home and would’ve been enough to buy a home at that point in time — we spent most of that relocating over to Melbourne, where the cost of living is very high, and that job was very good.

“However, unfortunately, it didn’t last. By the end of the probation period, it wasn’t continuing.

“That was quite devastating to me because, again, I was wondering what’s wrong with me? I’ve really tried my best,” Mr Gale said.

“I’d told all my friends and family, I’ve made it. I’ve got this job, and then it was like, well, actually, I don’t have this job anymore.” 

“I had a lot of questions to ask of myself. I felt very down. I wasn’t sure where I’d go,” he explained.

“I was lucky that I did manage to stay on my two feet and keep going and then find another position.”

“At the time these things happen to us, it can be emotional and overwhelming. 

“But for me, in the long term, when I look back, I don’t have any regrets,” stated Mr Gale. “I think that they’ve made me a stronger person emotionally.”

“It’s important to glean insight and not blame employers or blame the market or blame the economy or blame where we were born in life, and focus on what we’ve actually done ourselves,” illuminated Mr Gale.

“I can look and I can see — at uni, I did get very good marks, but maybe I could have gotten a job at a law firm when I was a student or networked a little more.

“When I didn’t get those jobs, maybe I shouldn’t have just limited myself to the big firms. Maybe I should have applied to some smaller firms.” 


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