The late stage career changer (Mark Adams Story)

The following is a series of posts made on LinkedIn by Mark Adams (a former student of LawStudent.Solutions founder, Cathryn Nolan) and is republished here with permission. They tell a story of hard work, good luck, strategic thinking and commitment to a process that we think all law students can learn from.

Where it started.

When I decided to become a second-career lawyer in 2014, I hadn’t anticipated COVID… something about mice and men? Being admitted in August after years of study while working was a thrill and I am grateful for all the support I received.

Jarringly, nearly every law firm was on a hiring freeze until the end of 2020 and Lockdown 2.0 was not a friendly market for a newly minted lawyer to launch themselves into practice. Thankfully things worked out and I’m about to commence a contract as an in-house Legal Counsel.

How?

Contacts and networks (and a helping of luck). I want to encourage people looking for opportunities during this time – it’s not impossible and the world isn’t bleak. Stay true to your vision and keep focussed, use your networks as they are your most valuable asset in your search.

The improbable can happen. I wish job seekers the best of luck.

The next day

In my last post I wanted to express some good vibes only. My hope was to share some light with job seekers during this harsh COVID time; a positive story to keep someone motivated to make the improbable happen.

The ensuing 24 hours surprised with many PMs from strangers asking for more of my story.
I see LinkedIn as a great resource for networking and developing one’s own personal professional brand. Over the past few months I have cringed at professionals repeating sordid media talking points and tarnishing their reputations with strident, negative opinions. That’s not my Cup-of-Chino™. I intend to counter the negative and be an expander for someone else seeking manifest their next role.

Over the next few days I will share some notes about my personal journey of job searching during COVID Lockdowns, making a large career change, and becoming a second career lawyer.
Firstly the most often asked question – why the hell law? Of all things man, LAW?? Are you nuts???
Possibly.

More tomorrow

Part 2.

Picture this – Dubai, 2012… I was happily and successfully working however unexpectedly and abruptly fired for the egregious sin of being part of the LGBTI community. It happens, that’s life in the UAE, get over it.

It also gave pause to reflect.

During the process of returning to Australia, I asked myself if I was happy managing shopping centres and the unstoppable changes unfolding. I was not.

Being unhappy is a time to ask for help and allow someone to guide you. A Careers Counsellor sent me off to do the Morrisby Report (www.morrisby.com) to evaluate career opportunities. The testing sat amongst year 11 kids at a high school – they were working out what to study at uni, I spent much of my time telling people I was not a parent.

The report suggested law or radio – use my words. I was already volunteering in community radio at JOY (www.joy.org.au) supporting the LGBTI community, initially on air now 8 years later I serve on the Board. It’s enormously enjoyable volunteer work, and the report was right. Radio has been a place of happiness and success. Ask for help and listen to a great counsellor – thank you Rosalind Allen.

Morrisby 1, Mark 0.

Part 3.

Committing to a second career takes not only guts, it takes opportunity. Don’t underestimate the courage to start again.

As an adult you have a better sense of yourself, what inspires you and who your tribe is. When you find it, embrace it. A big change will cost you short term, the long term rewards are immeasurable.

I had always been a frustrated lawyer. Law school was an opportunity that presented itself later in life and I fell in love with the profession. I learned that I may have rocked up late to the party, but the party will go on all night, as will the study.

Do you have the support you need, if not, how can you acquire it? People will try and keep you in their own comfort zones, be alive to the fact that other people may not be enthusiastic about your change and what that means to them. You need to be prepared to be a student on the first rung of the ladder – and what that may pay you when you start working.

Prepare. Commit.

The opportunity for me came at RMIT with the Juris Doctor – who knew you could study law and work full time? I got in to law school and embraced it.

Morrisby 2, Mark 0.

Part 4.

So how the hell do you study law while working full time? And again, are you nuts?

Good question – studying law is hard, it’s all consuming and it’s eye-wateringly expensive. If you want it, you can have it, but you will pay in time, work, stress and cash.

I embraced the pain. I studied with fantastic students and RMIT’s JD lecturers were excellent. I not only received an excellent legal education, I forged some excellent relationships.

It was hard.

Law’s hard.

It was worth it and I loved it.

Not all unis teach law while enabling students to work full time. Ensure you can get the qualification sustainably – RMIT was the best option for me and set me up for success; no other uni offered the mode of education that suited me and I am grateful to the RMIT GSBL for the program. RMIT enabled me to embrace the theory and the academic rigour while maintaining full time employment. I was able to complete the Juris Doctor in a combination of full time and part time over four years while maintaining a distinction average – while studying in Melbourne’s CBD. The stars were aligned.

Morrisby 3, Mark 0.

Part 5.

The next step to admission is the Grad Diploma in Legal Practice. I chose Leo Cussen and it was great. I didn’t expect it to be as much work as it was – and it pushed me. I graduated Leo Cussen with the skills and qualifications to be admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria in August 2020.

And I loved it all. I loved the challenge, I loved being pushed into a place of learning – sometimes fear. Mostly frustration. I met mentors and classmates who I really like; we were frequently exhausted by the workload. Sometimes into a glass of wine or two. Always falling more in love with this profession.

There was innovation in a staid, conservative profession which allowed our admission to take place. Thanks to the Supreme Court for their flexibility, and Jennifer Allamby for her magic pen.

After Admission, what next? I knew this was the career for me and I was motivated and excited. Let’s go!
Wait a moment – I was trying to get a job during a Lockdown where nearly all employers are on a hiring freeze.

Oh, karma. You’ve got a great sense of humour.

Morrisby 4, Mark 0.

Part 6.

When no one is hiring, it’s an opportunity to engage in existing contacts and develop your networks.
I wasn’t going to give up, I worked hard to enter a profession and I had fallen in love with work. I needed to again innovate. I looked at my commercial real estate career and any lawyers I had engaged with while completing transactions or dispute management. I was delighted with the generosity I was afforded.

I recommend engaging with your current network and be grateful for what time they can afford you – they will tell you when and how much time they can give you. Be ready and clear on you are seeking to do, and have precise questions to ask. Appreciate their time, it’s professional gold.

My questions were – what would you do if you were me? Who would you talk to?

Not only were my networks thoughtful, generous and eager to help, I found networking defied the reputation of an adversarial profession. People were interested, motivational, available and generous.
I was introduced from one person to another and it resulted in a job offer. Take that, COVID.

Morrisby 5, Mark 0.

Part 7

My cohort will forever be the COVID Cool Kids Club™ admitted “on the papers”.

We missed the formality and ceremony affirming our oath before the President of the Supreme Court.

Thankfully Stefani Janson and Stefanie Costi organised an online Admission Celebration for newly admitted lawyers – it was good to feel a moment of ceremony and connectedness during an extraordinary time. Thank you both.

I am now finalising paperwork to join a team as an in-house Legal Counsel next week. I am excited to commence practice in the area of my interest and look forward to working with a team of outstanding practitioners and fantastic people.

I know that I have worked hard to change my career, there’s no doubt. I also acknowledge it comes with luck and support from many people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. I am grateful I took the Morrisby test and followed the recommendations, I am grateful for everyone who has given me guidance and support.

I will be happy to assist as many people make this journey as I have capacity – feel free to PM me.

Morrisby 6, Mark 0 – although like golf, the lower score wins.