Finding my place in Law

I completed my schooling years at an Islamic school in Springvale and subsequently attained a double degree, Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in International Relations) at Deakin University. As part of my Law degree, I completed a unit in Personal Injuries and this enlivened my interest in the jurisdiction.

I have aspired to be a lawyer ever since the age of ten when I witnessed the most marginalised members in my community suffer due to a lack of awareness of their legal rights. I felt that becoming a lawyer would give me the necessary qualifications to help these people. As a lawyer, I have not only found a career that allows me to be an advocate for the disadvantaged, but I have also found a career where I am constantly learning and developing my skills.

For me, the real journey has been finding “my place” in law.

During my penultimate year at university, I was fortunate to secure an administration role at a large Plaintiff law firm. I was soon promoted to a paralegal position and in 2018 accepted into that firm’s graduate lawyer traineeship program. I was able to participate in learning and development activities and observe senior lawyers and barristers negotiate.  This experience provided me with a strong foundation to begin my journey as a Lawyer.

Whilst legal education and internships help develop the necessary technical skills, it was important for me to find a supportive mentor, one that would afford me opportunities, value my opinion and share their wealth of experience.

In July 2020 I saw an advertisement for an opportunity to work as a Lawyer at award winning Maxiom Injury Lawyers. Maxiom was a NewLaw firm that I had observed to be agile and flexible, and disrupting the traditional model of a personal injury law firm. My research found that they were receiving great reviews from clients, and this feedback demonstrated a very empathetic approach to the practice of law . The firm was founded by Sach Fernando, an Accredited Injury Law Specialist, whose career journey I had observed from afar. The opportunity arose during Melbourne’s lockdowns where most were concerned for their job security. Nonetheless, it was an opportunity I identified as one that would afford me valuable mentoring and allow me to grow my legal skills within a jurisdiction I am passionate about. Ultimately, the determining factor for me was the Principal Lawyer for whom I would be working with.

Having completed nearly twelve months at Maxiom, I can confidently say that I made the right decision. I have had significant mentoring, opportunities to present at conferences, negotiate directly with senior Defendant lawyers and to contribute to a positive culture at a firm whose values align with mine.

In addition to a fantastic mentor whose values align with mine, I have found my place where I am able to make a significant impact to the lives of my clients. In a boutique law firm, your efforts and contribution are valued. Everything you do makes a direct impact – to the firm itself and to the team you work with. When a case is resolved, your efforts are recognised and celebrated. I feel a great sense of pride knowing that my legal skills contributed to the outcome of my client’s case. Being able to see reward for my effort provides a sense of meaning and purpose. Similarly, I am an integral member of the team and have the opportunity to contribute to the growth of the firm including its culture.

Finding the right firm may take some trial and error, however I have discovered that it is the people at that firm and most importantly your mentor, that holds the key to your ultimate career success.

Zahida Popal

Solicitor at Maxiom Injury Lawyers

Zahida Popal