Alumna Laina Chan shares her career insights

23 February 2018
Tips from barrister and Sydney Law School graduate

International Women's Day MC, Laina Chan (BSc Hons LLB Hons '94), shares her career journey and tips for women entering the legal profession.

A barrister at 3rd Floor Wentworth Chambers, Laina Chan specialises in insurance, construction and property as well all forms of complex commercial disputes.

In the lead up to the International Women's Day (IWD), we asked Laina Chan, who will MC the University's IWD panel event on 7 March, to share with us her journey and insights since leaving university. 

Who inspired you to enter the legal profession and why?

After graduating university without a clear idea of what I wanted to do, I started working as a researcher to Clarke JA and Kirby P for 2 years. It was during my time in the Court of Appeal that I discovered my love for the law. After the Court of Appeal, I worked as a solicitor for 8 years in some large law firms but eventually realised I wanted to become a barrister to focus purely on the law without the distractions of admin.

What is your fondest memory of Sydney Law School?

One of my fondest memories is of my weekly meetings with Professor John Carter who was my legal research and writing tutor. That relationship developed into a lifelong friendship, mentorship and professional association. Look out for Chan and Carter on Contract and Consumer Law (LAWS6250 Controlling Liability by Contract) in the latter half of 2018!

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Make every moment count. Set your career goals and strategy.  Believe in yourself and realize that hard work and tenacity will eventually get you there, although you will probably have to navigate a few disappointments and road blocks along the way. And once we achieve our goals, the challenge is to remain relevant and to set your sights even higher.

What have been your proudest career highlights?

My most significant career highlights include running a 9-week construction case unled, in the Melbourne Supreme Court after only having been at the bar for 1 year.

However, even more rewarding is that I have been able to apply my skills to help those less fortunate who would otherwise not have access to quality legal services. In one case after a drawn out battle, I secured payment of the death benefit plus interest for a client in circumstances where her husband had missed his last premium payment of $8 before he died of a terminal illness.

Most rewarding is that I have also used my skills to prepare multiple grant applicants and in particular, a grant application for Tribal Warrior Association under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy of the Federal Government, to ensure the continued survival for the Clean Slate Without Prejudice Program in Redfern.

What advice would you give to women entering the legal profession?

Remain focused on the end game and don't let yourself get caught up in the perceived bias against women. Climb resolutely towards your goal and smash through the glass ceiling along your way up. You will find many supporters along the way. Finally, use adversity as a catalyst for positive change.

Celebrating International Women's Day