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Young lawyers should ‘be open to changing and adapting’

This young lawyer managed to become a director at his boutique firm before turning 30 — and had a wide range of advice for law students and future lawyers on setting themselves up for success.

user iconLauren Croft 10 July 2023 Big Law
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Nick Malone is the newest director at Pragma Lawyers in Perth. Speaking on a recent episode of The Protégé Podcast, he reflected on getting to a high leadership position at a young age after being recently promoted to the directorship.

Coming out of university, Mr Malone said he didn’t quite know which area of law he wanted to practise in — but that having support early on his career at Pragma lawyers, where all three directors, including Mr Malone, are under 40, made all the difference.

“When I landed at Pragma, it was a big part for me to find somewhere that not only accepted me, but really clicked with me in terms of what we focused on as a firm,” he said.


“That’s how I found it, just really by luck, some might say, but it worked out really well for me. So that’s how I knew where I wanted to go, and that’s why I’ve stayed ever since.”

For younger lawyers who are looking to stay on a pathway that is true to themselves, rather than heading down the road most travelled, Mr Malone said that for him, being open and putting his name out there led him to the best roles.

“Be cognisant of what jobs are out there, what jobs you might actually be interested in, but be open as well. I’ve worked at a criminal practice before I worked here. I worked at another small firm in the city and loved it for what they provided to me, but I could see that wasn’t where I was going to be long term at either of those places,” he added.

“So, be open, be ready to change, and don’t be too proud. I think law schools are sort of intrinsically, because of the types of people who go there, fester this culture of, well, you have to know where you want to be in five years’ time today, and you have to commit to that, and you ultimately have to be successful. The truth is that’s not the case. Those who came out of uni at the time I did, a lot of them have moved jobs numerous times, and some move overseas, and some get out of the law.

“I know some who’ve gone on to be teachers and the likes. Don’t be too proud. No one around you is going to, in 20 years time, have any concern or influence on your life in the way that you think they do in the moment. So be informed, get out there, try and find as many jobs as you can, but be open to what the future might hold.”

However, there are also a number of questions junior legal candidates should be asking themselves, according to Mr Malone.

“If you can’t provide a clear answer to yourself as to why you’re doing what you’re doing, that might tell you something about whether you should stay or go. Another question is, what does my future look like here? It’s not to say that every moment is rainbows and butterflies. You can have some really tough moments in a variety of different ways, but ask yourself, ‘Well, is there a future here, and if so, what does that look like?’

“My main takeaway for students coming through is really about the feedback loop and just allowing them to understand, well, take out of feedback what you need to take out and leave the rest of it behind. So, whether your feedback is given to you in a bad tone but it’s actually good feedback, take out the message and leave the tone behind. If it’s the case that really what’s being said to you is the person who’s giving you the feedback is stressed, take that feedback and leave the rest behind,” he outlined.

“For students, it’s about understanding once you do get into the professional environment that the people you’re dealing with are people too, and really at the end of the day, if you don’t want to come back to work day in, day out with them, you’ve got to like them. So, find people that you like and find something you’re interested in, but that’s a lot easier said than done, and I appreciate that.”

Having reached the director level before turning 30, Mr Malone has also found that enjoying his work has led to increased success, as well as defining his own version of what that might look like.

“Part of being a lawyer or part of being a good lawyer, I think, is actually enjoying what you do, being engaged in what you do and always wanting to get better. So if you find yourself in a rut where you’re not interested in what you do, you’re not interested in the place you’re doing it at, or you’re not interested in the area of law anymore, you’re simply not going to be the best version of yourself. My personal view is that, like any other job, law’s not for everyone.

“There’s plenty of really intelligent people who are really creative or otherwise who undertake a law degree and complete it; that doesn’t necessarily mean that they all need to be lawyers or, in fact, that all of them will be good lawyers. So absolutely, being a director under 30 doesn’t need to be the goal for everyone. In fact, I don’t think it should be, and for most people, frankly, they might not even want it,” he added.

“There’s been through the decisions not made, I guess in a lot of ways, if I can put it that way, I am where I am, but I know plenty of my contemporaries who are over in international firms in the Middle East, in America, in Europe, that being a director under 30 for them may not be as possible, but they’re enjoying their life in the way that they want to lead it. So certainly, have a goal in mind when you come out of law as to what you want to be and where you want to go, but be open to changing and adapting.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Nick Malone, click below: