find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Property lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Property Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Impressive client list, national firm · Well-led and high-performing team
View details
Senior family lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Family Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Outstanding national firm · High-calibre family law team
View details
Litigious awakening

Litigious awakening

Nick Cole is a late starter when it comes to the legal profession. He talks to Kellie Harpley about alternative routes to a career in private practiceFrom the set of Australian drama ‘Water…

Nick Cole is a late starter when it comes to the legal profession. He talks to Kellie Harpley about alternative routes to a career in private practice

From the set of Australian drama ‘Water Rats’ to solicitor with Phillips Fox seems an unusual leap to make, but Nick Cole’s career has actually come full circle.

It is not that long since he was directing some of Australia’s most recognised actors as they chased each other around Sydney Harbour, but six weeks into his new role in Phillips Fox’s technology, media and communications team (part of the corporate and financial services group), Cole is confident he has moved in the right direction.

After completing his law degree in 1987, Cole forewent the process of networking and interviews and took a job as a runner on a feature film instead, against all expectations. “I went from law school to the complete bottom of the tree in a completely different and unrelated industry,” he says.

“At the time, my heart wasn’t in the law and I don’t think I would have been very good because with anything you do, unless you’ve got passion and commitment, you shouldn’t do it.” Cole says he had a wonderful time “following his dream”, which saw him work his way up through the television and film industries. He has production credits on some of Australia’s leading feature films, including ‘Green Card’ and ‘Strictly Ballroom’, and has worked as a freelance director.

“But at a certain time, I just decided that it was time to start a second phase career,” he says. “Because I have film and television clients, I still regard myself as being in the film and television industry, just in a different capacity.” When ‘Water Rats’ was cancelled, Cole took a look at the industry and decided it was about to undergo a “profound change, prompted by reality TV and by new and emerging formats”.

He decided to end his career as a director on a high note and enter another that would offer his growing family more “structure and stability”.

“Having that life experience and maturity is a great asset to my being a lawyer. I think I’m doing the right thing at the right time, in my working life and also my personal life. When you’re a lot younger, you perhaps aren’t in sync like that.”

That experience has given Cole some unique insights into the profession, and he says he found the legal recruitment process to be “a complete shock”.

“I had been freelance for the best part of ten years, so going out and getting work and finding jobs, or creating jobs was nothing new to me. But I’d never been in a situation before where I couldn’t talk to the person who was going to give me the job.

“Having to go through a recruiter was a complete shock to me and basically I decided it was a waste of time. I abandoned that process and basically made direct approaches, and I would say to anyone that that is the way. You just need to talk to the person who is either going to give you the job or is the gatekeeper to the job, and recruiters aren’t that.”

It is also important to research the firms and know where you want to go, he says. Cole was particularly specific about staying closely aligned to his commercial background, which meant going into a media practice. By this time, he had paralegal experience with specialist entertainment firm Lloyd Hart Lawyers and had been working with the Film Finance Corporation as an in-house lawyer for more than two years. During that time he had also undertaken a Masters in Law.

However, his experience was not always looked upon favourably. The smaller firms told him they only recruited from the larger firms. The larger firms told him they only wanted “young pups” that they could “mould”.

“This is against the context of me being completely outside the square,” he says. “They were looking at ticking boxes rather than looking at the context of what people had to offer.”

His break came when he approached Phillips Fox, aware that Katherine Sainty had left Allens Arthur Robinson to establish the technology, media and communications team. “That, to me, represented a very exciting opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the practice and be a part of its development and growth.”

Cole says he was also keen to work with Sainty, recognised as a leader in her field. “Fortunately for me, she was very open minded and looked at me in an overall context, and saw a fourth year lawyer who had industry experience, very good connections and could actually offer a lot more than a candidate who only had legal experience.”

He says this gives him the ability to understand his clients’ needs and wants, offer them solutions, and “essentially, speak their language”.

Although he sometimes misses the creative buzz inherent in working on set, there are definite consolations. “There’s a great energy and excitement in building this new practice,” he says. “I feel that I’m in a very positive environment.”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Litigious awakening
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Warning
Aug 23 2017
NT Law Society sounds alarm on mandatory sentencing
The Law Society Northern Territory has issued a warning over mandatory sentencing, saying it hasn’...
Unite
Aug 22 2017
Professionals unite in support of marriage equality
The presidents of representative bodies for solicitors, barristers and doctors in NSW have come toge...
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...