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Rise of the slashies: lawyers with a creative streak

Rise of the slashies: lawyers with a creative streak


Remember that time your father sat you down and told you, "Son, it's time to get a real job, and here's $10 for a hair cut." OK, well since this isn't the 1950s, this probably never happened to you. But the pressure to get a "real" job still exists for many students as they approach graduation. Lawyer2b tracked down three lawyers keeping their creative dreams alive and kicking, the slashie way. Laura MacIntyre reports.

The Illustrator/Lawyer

Whimsical is the first word that comes to mind when describing Nikki Greenberg's graphic novel adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Her latest work is populated by fantastical sea creatures with mournful eyes that jump out of the pages. Greenberg's fascination with The Great Gatsby started when she studied the novel in her year 12 literature class.

While most of us box up our books after high school and quickly forget all about them, Fitzgerald's characters stayed with her throughout her student days, when she was studying Arts/Law with a major in literature at Melbourne University.

Greenberg graduated and completed articles at Slater & Gordon, but continued to nurture her creative project.

"I was getting up very early in the morning each morning and doing an hour or an hour and a half of drawing, working on the Gatsby before work," she says.

"I always had in mind that one day I'd like to change the hours so that I could work part-time in law and really devote a lot more time to the drawing, and ten years down the track that is now the case."

Now a precedents manager at Holding Redlich, Greenberg seems to have found her niche in a role that she says "lends itself very well to part-time work".

"I work three days one week and two days the other week. It's a position that's become progressively more part-time - when I started five years ago I was working four days a week."

With more time to devote to her illustrations, Greenberg has an even more ambitious project in the works - a graphic adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Despite the difficulties inherent in an adaptation of the bard's work, she says she wouldn't even consider working from more simple source material.

"The graphic novel demands just so much work that you really want to choose a theme or an adaptation that you love passionately, otherwise you wouldn't put in that amount of painstaking work," she explains.

The Actor/Lawyer

Adam Booth had been working as a corporate lawyer specialising in energy and resources for two and half years when he realised something was missing from his life.

"I realised that there was a big section of myself and part of my life that I wasn't really attending to and that was my creative side," he explains.

"I decided to audition for NIDA, so I auditioned in 2003 and was accepted and started in 2004. Then I moved to Sydney, and studied acting fulltime from nine to six Monday to Friday [for three years]."

While studying, Wood kept up contact with former employer Freehills, working as a paralegal on weekends. After stepping out of NIDA and facing the endless rounds of auditions that are an actor's lot, Freehills made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

"Rebecca Maslen-Stannage - who was originally a partner in the Perth office - offered me a part-time position at Freehills in her mergers and acquisitions practice, so that was perfect timing for me. I was just graduating from full-time study and was just about to commence the auditions circuit of a newly trained actor, so it was just a perfect opportunity for me."

Since then, Booth has worked part-time at the firm, taking time out of the office to work on Home and Away and for a stint in the US working with Steven Spielberg. Booth is currently working on a production called Ladybird at the Belvoir St Theatre with his own not-for-profit theatre company, Small Things Productions.

"We've found this really special little piece of theatre and we've basically pulled together a pretty amazing group of artists and we're about to commence a month-long season," he says.

Booth says the key to achieving a balance between his demanding professional life and his acting has been communication, but he's still on a learning curve when it comes to the foreign concept of "relaxation".

"I think one of the things to do is be clear and honest with your colleagues in the law firm that you work for and your colleagues in the creative field as to what your commitments are on either side and be open as to the timing and process which you need.

"I've basically been doing this for more than two years now, and you need to manage your own downtime really well. I find that, of course, generally the time I take away from the office is time I spend working on something else.

"I'll probably need to look at how I manage that [balancing act] over the years, but at this stage in my life, I find both really exciting."

The DJ/Lawyer

Kaman Tsoi started his DJ career on the 21st birthday party circuit, after word got out among his friends about his impressive record collection.

"I had been collecting records since the age of 13, and used to make hip hop in my school years and continued to do that into uni and started doing a radio show through the student station," he says.

Since then, he's never looked back, DJing throughout university all the way through to his first full-time job as a lawyer at Freehills Melbourne office. Those first few years were a lesson in sleep deprivation.

"When I first started working full-time that was a bit of a challenge because I was DJing on Thursday nights until quite late, sleeping for about four hours and coming into the office and doing a full day's work on Fridays. I did that for two years before going part-time so that was definitely tough going."

He now works part-time, so Kama's lifestyle is slightly less frenetic, but he's still keeping busy, playing regular nights at popular Melbourne nightspots including Spice Market and The Panama Dining Room.

"I usually do one or two gigs a week, and I do a radio show every Friday on RRR - it's on from midday until 2pm.

"I do other things on the side, I write a bit of music and do consulting projects, like I'm doing some stuff for the Melbourne Fashion Festival at the moment and putting together music for the parades."

He advises students to keep their options open as they enter the workforce, and to hold onto their creative pursuits wherever possible.

"I think there are a lot of law students and lawyers that do have creative passions and skills in all sorts of different creative areas, and I think it's sad when people have to let things go because of their work.

"I think it is an important message to get across to people that there are ways of combining your work with other pursuits."

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