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5 creatives on pursuing their passion over a career in law

IMAGE VIA @VIOLETGRACE_/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY JASMINE SHEPARD

“I wouldn’t have been able to create the business I have created if I had not studied law.”

Life as a law student seemingly presents a linear path. Obtain the highest grades to be offered your top-tier graduate lawyer position, and begin a life of critical thinking, oral advocacy and hard work. Simple.

And women are dominating the field. For the first time this year, there are more women in the Australian legal profession than men, and law schools have more female students than ever before.


Looking for more career advice? Head to our Life vertical. 


So what happens when, despite the length and difficulty of completing a law degree, passion projects and creative pursuits come calling? While study and practice of the law go part of the way to stimulate those engaged in it, its rigidity doesn’t leave much room for creative pursuits. 

Having personally experienced the magnetic pull of the creative industry despite studying for a law degree, I decided to find out how those previously engaged in the law took that leap of faith to pursue their passion. These women set aside their legal careers to forge extremely successful paths in fashion, journalism and editing, and they told me how.

Cjay Aksoyoglu, Junior Sub-Editor at Mecca Brands

 

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A post shared by Cjay 🦪🍷👀🍒 (@ceejeats)

Paint us a picture of your career journey so far.

Since I was a kid, I knew I was going to be in the law as a barrister. I did an arts degree, then I started my postgraduate masters in law. Throughout my time at uni, I worked in a couple of different Mecca stores. Eventually, I worked my way into Mecca HQ, and I was offered a really cool opportunity to build [a] community management team for the company. It was kind of a mix of customer care and social media.

Recently I got to the very pointy end of my law degree, where naturally it tends to make sense that you are just going to go onto a commercial law pathway. Eventually, I decided to let the top tier law firms know that I would be taking a sidestep and seeing where my career will take me outside of commercial law, which was a really hard decision to make. But I was recently offered the first-ever junior sub-editor position at Mecca, which is really cool.

Did you always intend to pursue a creative career, over a commercial career?

I always really enjoyed the commercial aspect of the law, but I also found it a bit dry at times. Even now, I think it is such a myth that creative roles do not have that commercial element. My entire day now [at Mecca] is spent making sure I take into account so many different stakeholders of a business, making sure all of our brands are satisfied, and our customers, and our internal stakeholders. It’s actually equally as commercial now as it is creative.

If you could give first-year law student Cjay one piece of advice, what would it be?

Approach all opportunities with gusto. From the get-go, even if it is really scary, throwing yourself into everything is so important and it may open doors for you in the future.

@ceejeats

Rachel Akhidenor, founder of Self-Care Originals

 

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A post shared by Rachael Akhidenor (@rachakhidenor)

Paint us a picture of your career journey so far.

It definitely hasn’t been very linear! I studied commerce law and a diploma of languages in Mandarin at Monash. At that time, I had always loved writing. I interned at the Urban List, and at Willow and Blake, copywriting and marketing. That was purely a passion project. I didn’t have any knowledge as to where that would eventually lead me. From there, I got more into copywriting. That naturally progressed to having a few freelance clients, [some which] were in the health and wellness space. That is how I kind of got more entrenched in the wellbeing side of things, and that kind of led me to start my brand [Self Care Originals]. 

Do you think your legal studies aided you in establishing your business?

[Studying the law] shaped how I see the world, and I think it still does. Just the way in which you have to engage in deep analysis made me have a real appreciation for language. And I could not have been a copywriter if I had not studied law, that’s just a definite fact. My ability to write and use language in a certain way came from my studies. Even with my business, which is so mission-driven and message led, I wouldn’t have been able to create the business I have created if I had not studied law.

If you could tell first-year law student Rachael one thing, what would it be?

Push your boundaries. Explore. This is the time to do all that. To really self-discover. And in terms of career, it will all work itself out, so long as you follow your truth.

@rachakhidenor

Gladys Lai, Editor at Vogue Australia

 

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A post shared by Gladys Lai 🍋 (@gladys__lai)

Paint us a picture of your career journey so far.

Gosh, it’s been a little bit non-linear. I think it’s like that when you do a degree that dabbles in two different areas. Basically, I did a double degree in art and law at [the] University of Sydney. At the end of my arts degree, I got an internship at Vogue. At the moment, I work [at Vogue Australia] as an editor, and I still have a year of law electives to go, which I am planning to space out alongside work, which I am yet to figure out. But that is a problem for future me to decide.

How did you deal with self-doubt when making the decision to pursue a career in journalism over law?

Everyone to some extent struggles with imposter syndrome and I feel like that is definitely amplified when you get into a degree that is incredibly vocational. When you bring up [a creative career path] in a group of very well-meaning friends, the response is immediately [one of] concern: “Are you okay, are you sure you don’t want a backup plan?” So, I feel like there is definitely always going to be that doubt. I had to back myself when I felt like other people were a little more uncertain as to where I was going. You just have to be brave sometimes and take the plunge.

If you could tell first-year law student Gladys one thing, what would it be?

My first-year law student self was so anxious, and paranoid, and so unsure. I would tell her that it is going to be okay. Because I never thought anything was going to turn out the way it did!

@gladys__lai

Violet Grace Atkinson, creator and intellectual property law writer

 

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A post shared by Violet Grace Atkinson (@violetgrace_)

Paint us a picture of your career journey so far.

I worked in a commercial litigation firm focusing on insolvency and contract disputes. From this, I moved into the creative space full time as a creative director creating content and campaigns for fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. I’m also a PhD candidate on the topic of intellectual property law and fashion design. I have been researching this field for over six years now, [and] have [been] published and spoken on the topic in France and Italy. 

How did you move into the fashion industry and establish yourself as a respected voice in that space?

Essentially fashion, styling and creating beautiful images was always a hobby of mine. Then social media came along and it was a fun creative outlet for [me]. The beauty of working in a law firm meant I had a decent income, so I never compromised and never took jobs that didn’t align with my brand or values. [It’s important] never to let other people shape you, and not to be afraid to be unabashedly creative and yourself. People might eye-roll at first, but then they’ll appreciate it.

If you could tell first-year law student Violet one thing, what would it be?

One of the most poignant things I go by is that ‘nothing good comes easily’. So with that my advice is: push through, give it time and then listen to your gut. 

@violetgrace_

Alyce Tran, co-founder of In The Roundhouse

 

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A post shared by Alyce Tran (@alyce_tran)

Paint us a picture of your career journey so far.

I studied law and commerce, and I actually applied for a lot of jobs at Adelaide law firms and was not very successful. I moved to Sydney when I started working at [a firm] King & Wood Mallesons. I moved to a small law firm which really facilitated the start of my first business, The Daily Edited. They were very supportive of my extra-curricular activities, aka my side hustle. I left that firm when The Daily Edited really blew up, and now I have co-founded In The Roundhouse

How did studying law and working as a solicitor at a top tier commercial law firm shape your work ethic?

One of the things about having my previous background is that I am very commercially astute. Not only am I able to create products and market them, [but] I can do it in a way that is very logical, makes sense to others, and gives people confidence in what I am doing. When you are a lawyer, you have to write very concisely – everything you say needs to make sense.

If you could tell first-year law student Alyce one thing, what would it be?

It will all work out. At the time, it is so devastating… and you think the world is going to end. But you will find something. It will all work out.

@alyce_tran

For more on finding the right career for you, try this.

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