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The importance of placing ‘trust and confidence’ in junior lawyers

This young lawyer managed to become a director at his boutique firm before turning 30 — and said it all came down to his founding director believing in him from the onset.

user iconLauren Croft 26 June 2023 Careers
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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 and what he hopes to bring to the table.

Pragma Lawyers was established almost a decade ago — and Mr Malone said it was a “proud Subiaco firm”.

“Aaron McDonald, who’s our founding director, set up the firm when he was 29 and grew it really from just him on level one of a building in just one room to now what we have, which is lawyers continuously joining us.


“We had another employment lawyer join us last week, I think that takes the count up to about 23 lawyers and just sitting under 50 staff in total. But we’re based in Subiaco. Our point of difference is trying to resolve disputes early. We’ve got a number of different areas we practise in, but it’s all litigation-focused,” he said.

“The plan for us is to continually grow, find new people who are good people, not only good lawyers, to help us be the best firm we can be. We’ll stay in Subiaco for a while. Plans nationally or anything more than that, I think, are little while off, but certainly grow, find good new young lawyers to join the firm.”

Mr Malone has also recently been promoted to the directorship at the firm, something he said was particularly “huge” before turning 30.

“It’s certainly not the typical way, and I appreciate that, that lawyers of our generation when we were coming out of uni thought it was possible, but for me, it just really is a reflection of the support I’ve had from numerous different people along the way,” he said.

“Aaron, obviously being the main one, took me on as a sort of a paralegal clerk whilst I was still in uni and has developed me into what I think is a pretty good lawyer, but then also family, my wife, we met at law school. Just having that solid commitment early has helped out to really shape where I am today.”

Mr Malone has helped grow the dispute resolution team within the firm and wants to focus on team culture in his new role.

“I’m really interested in creating a workplace that people want to come to work every day and genuinely actually enjoy each other’s company because I know when you go through careers fairs and the like, firms really do pay a lot of lip service to how their firm is the best firm for culture and the like, and then you find that lawyers are really just working very hard with very little care or concern about their personal welfare,” he explained.

“We’re trying to do that a little bit differently, and particularly, my focus will be on that. That’s part of growing the firm in number, but it’s also part of keeping the lawyers that we have now because not only do we think they’re great lawyers, but they’re really good people.”

This stems from the confidence and trust Mr Malone received from his founding director early on, which he hopes to continue while recruiting law students in the future.

“Every law student goes through the clerkship season where they’re supposed to get their 10 clerkship offers, take eight of them, love six of them, and get offers from four of them eventually, but the truth of the matter is that’s not what everyone does, and in fact, it’s not what most people do. There are those exceptional students for whom that will be their future, but really, it’s not for most,” he added.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t great lawyers out there or individuals who will be great lawyers if they just have some trust and confidence placed in them early and someone really fulfils them with a bit of belief about what their potential is. That’s really the area of focus for me, in the same way that I got that when I was coming through uni and coming out of uni.”

In terms of what this meant in practice, Mr Malone emphasised that he had vocational assistance and direction — as well as a push for personal development, which made him a better lawyer.

“A part of it for me was around the types of matters that I was involved with. We were a very small firm at the time, but we had a number of pro bono matters we’re helping clients out on. That was part of it, to say that even for a small firm, there’s still a genuine commitment to trying to assist people out there in the community, and Aaron’s gone on to do that through things like the Subiaco Justice Centre, which he redid a couple of years ago with the help of various people,” he concluded.

“But for me coming to work every day, it was being able to be involved in client meetings, genuinely assisting in the drafting of documents rather than just have a go at this and then it gets thrown out, and they start again. The time it takes to develop the skills to be a good lawyer, and especially a good young lawyer, can’t be underestimated.”

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

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