The ‘shift’ in the number of in-house roles being offered to grads
While going straight into an in-house role from law school has historically been considered a more alternative career pathway, this legal counsel said things are changing – and that law students are now being offered more variety.
Chloe Giamadakis is a legal counsel at Yarra Capital Management and she was a finalist in the Rising Star In-House category at the recent Australian Law Awards.
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Speaking on a recent episode of The Protégé Podcast, she emphasised the importance of exploring career pathways outside of private practice and the current shift away from traditional pathways.
Ms Giamadakis worked casually as a paralegal throughout university in small suburban law firms before eventually taking an in-house paralegal role for an outsourced superannuation trustee company, in a move she said she thought was “a bit of a gamble” at the time.
“I had no idea what superannuation was, other than a portion of it appearing on my pay slip and going to my super fund. I also had a misconception that the financial services industry was predominantly numbers and I was a little bit worried going in that I would be a little bit out of my depth. I realised, though, that I actually really loved the financial services industry,” she said.
“It wasn’t all numbers and that was a big plus for me. I also realised that I loved working in-house and I got to get involved in all sorts of different projects and lots of commercial aspects of the business. Presently, I work at Yarra Capital Management as a legal counsel and they’re an independent Australian fund manager offering diverse investment products and strategies across institutional, wholesale and retail clients, predominantly through financial advisers.
“While I was at uni, there was a big focus on going into private practice and alternative career paths. In law weren’t really discussed all that much, and so an in-house legal role or an in-house paralegal role really was something that wasn’t talked about at uni and so I didn’t know much about it. And so going in while everybody else was going into private practice firms felt a little bit out of place and to me felt like a little bit of a gamble at the time.”
Nowadays, however, Ms Giamadakis said there’s been a “big shift” in the variety of pathways being offered to law students.
“I think now there’s a lot more awareness of alternative career paths and law, and I think that’s also a big credit to the individuals that have pursued alternative career paths. So, I have friends that went into government, I’ve got friends that went into the public sector. And we’re all pretty vocal about how we got to where we are now and how we didn’t need to go down the traditional route of a law firm to get there. So, I think now it’s a lot more prevalent. I see lots of posts on LinkedIn about it, and I just think that the industry as a whole is getting better at talking about what else is out there,” she added.
“But I think some of the roles that are being glossed over are in that legal operations space. And I think now, particularly given the role that tech is playing and AI, we hear about it all the time, all these buzzwords, but there really is an entire legal piece that sits behind a lot of that tech and that software. And so, I think that’s a space that’s really growing and that will see a lot of development over the next few years.”
While Ms Giamadakis went straight into in-house work, she said that it’s still harder for grads than going into private practice.
“At the moment, a lot of organisations don’t have a clear graduate program for in-house roles, I know that there are organisations out there that do have it. So, if you feel that an in-house career path is a good move for you, then definitely look into it. I still think that it is hard work and you need to be really passionate about it and have that motivation and drive to make it happen. And I just think that if it’s something that you’re passionate about, really go out there, network with people, ask those questions and that’s how you get in,” she explained.
“I wasn’t really aware of these alternative career paths, but I think more and more now there are organisations out there that are sort of raising awareness. I think a lot of companies are a bit more vocal about the alternative career paths that are out there. I also think that the in-house legal counsel and general counsel individuals in Australia are a lot more vocal about how they got to where they are as well.
“And so, a lot of them are quite keen to talk to students. I know I reached out to a number of different people while I was still at uni, trying to get a feel for where I wanted to land, and a lot of people are very happy to just have a chat. Everyone loves talking about what they do.”
Ms Giamadakis also advised law students to try a variety of different things to determine what career path they might want to take.
“A lot of universities offer internships and so I think that’s a really good way even to just narrow it down and see what areas of law that you like. A lot of suburban law firms are a lot easier to break into for paralegal roles while you’re still studying. So, I think it’s really good to get a foot in the door that way as well and see what you like. Even just going to career events and speaking to the individuals there,” she concluded.
“So, I knew that I wanted to end up in-house, but I still went to all the networking events that were predominantly law firms because at the end of the day, their clients are businesses that I might have worked for later down the track and that was really valuable experience as well.”
The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Chloe Giamadakis, click below: