In conversation with Lana Woltman (Slater & Gordon)

Lana is Associate Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers who practices in mixed practice personal injuries claims in Queensland. We met Lana over LinkedIn - and from her photos and posts she seems to be everywhere! Lana is so passionate about helping the next generation of lawyers, that we just had to feature her on our blog. Lana tells her fascinating story and explains how a car accident led her to the law, and she has generously shared her top tip (OK, she has 8 top tips) for law students. Keep up the great work Lana!

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TLC: What made you want to study law?

LW: After completing high school in 2000 I wasn’t sure what I wanted to commit to career wise. I was working in retail and hospitality and singing in a corporate covers band. I was making really good money and enjoying the work I was doing. During these years I also studied a Bachelor of Popular Music, specialising in music recording, production and sound engineering and I loved it.

In around 2007 on my way home from work at around 11:30pm a driver ran a red light causing me to T-bone their car at full speed. I arranged to meet with a lawyer to discuss a potential claim. This was the first time I had ever met with a lawyer. Prior to attending my first meeting I thoroughly prepared the information and documentation I thought my lawyer would want to see. When I met with my lawyer she was surprised at how organised I was and said something along the lines of “have you ever thought of studying law”. I had been thinking about returning to university to study something more “serious”. I had always excelled in English and creative based studies and thought I had enough maturity and real-life experiences to tackle a law degree. So, I applied to commence a Bachelor of Laws at Griffith University and was accepted. The rest is history.

TLC: Tell us about your journey to how you got to where you are.

LW: In the final six months of my Law degree I was applying to any and all positions that were advertised in the legal industry on the Gold Coast. I didn’t receive any responses, call backs or interviews in six months. I started working hard on researching and talking to people about how to draft a good cover letter and resume. If a particular draft of these documents didn’t result in a response, I would amend them every time. I had the Albert Einstein quote, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” I knew that if I wanted an interview I would need to do the work to get myself noticed and I knew this started with my cover letter and resume.

In the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas I refused to give up on the endless list of job applications as I was fiercely determined to get a job prior to the commencement of the following new year. This was despite my family telling me it might be a good idea to give it a rest and to just enjoy the Christmas holidays. I am not stubborn by nature, but I was incredibly stubborn about this. I continued to apply for jobs and finally received my first interview with Shine Lawyers.

I got the job and commenced in the position as Administration Assistant with Shine Lawyers in early January the following year. I got my foot in the door and was over the moon to just finally be working in a law office after four years of study. I proved myself in this role and was eventually successful in moving into a Paralegal role. While I worked full-time as a Paralegal I also studied PLT (Practical Legal Training diploma) full-time (I would not recommend this haha). I was the admitted as a Lawyer to the Supreme Court of Queensland in October 2013. Standing up at the Supreme Court and being admitted as a Lawyer after five years of study and sacrifice was and still is the greatest achievement in my life to date. After I was admitted I was successful in moving into a Lawyer role at Shine Lawyers when one became available.

In my role at Shine Lawyers I made a connection with the person who recommended me for my next role as a Lawyer at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. The experiences I had at Maurice Blackburn and the connections I made lead me into my role at Slater and Gordon Lawyers where I now work as an Associate Lawyer. Lesson – who you know in this industry is imperative, it really is “who you know”. I have worked exclusively in personal injury law in Queensland by chance. I did not choose this area of practice but kind of feel like it chose me. I was given an opportunity at Shine Lawyers, which I will always be grateful for. I have continued to practice in this specialised area for the last 6 years. I am the lawyer I am today because of the opportunities I have taken, the experiences I have had, and thepeople I have worked with who have put time into supporting my career and development for which I am incredibly grateful.

TLC: What is the funniest or weirdest moment you’ve had in your legal career?

LW: I was born on the Gold Coast and I have lived here my whole life. As I have lived on the Gold Coast my whole life it had not occurred to me that one day I would receive enquiries from people I know. One of the funniest and weirdest moments I can remember is when I received a new enquiry call at work one day from a woman with a very unique name. I have only ever known two people with this name and one who spelled it in this particular way. I answered the phone and introduced myself. I very quickly figured out that the person on the other line was my childhood babysitter whom I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over 15 years. Such a small world!

Lana’s top tips for law students:

1. Go out and make your own opportunities – nothing will be handed to you on a silver platter

2. Be unapologetically yourself

3. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others

4. Don’t take yourself too seriously

5. Take time to enjoy life because you only have one and time goes by very quickly

6. Never stop learning

7. Business development, marketing and making connections are all in your job description and imperative to your success

8. Lawyers are in the business of customer service and sales, learn how to service your clients well and sell your product (your service).