In conversation with Margarita Varigos
In this blog post, we speak to Amazonian lawyer, Margarita Varigos. When we say she is Amazonian, we mean she works at global online retail giant, Amazon, as an in-house lawyer! We love Margarita’s story, especially her incredible experiences in various in-house roles, including in the beauty and pharmaceutical industries, her work overseas in Seattle, and her advice to law students that there are so many options open to you if you have a law degree. Couldn’t agree more!
TLC: What made you want to study law?
MV: When I graduated from high school I had no idea what career path I wanted to pursue, so I enrolled in an arts degree majoring in communications. After my first year, I decided I wanted to study something more, so I also enrolled in law, purely because I thought it would be interesting to study and a useful degree to have. I never intended to get admitted or practice law, and especially not work at a law firm.
TLC: Tell us about your journey to how you got to where you are.
MV: As mentioned, I only chose to study law because I didn’t know what else to do. I never intended to become qualified or practice as a lawyer, but when I finished my degree, I thought I might as well do my legal traineeship, get admitted and see what happened after that. I did my legal traineeship at Herbert Geer Lawyers in Melbourne (now Thompson Geer) and ended up in commercial litigation, where I remained for 5 years. Working at a firm developed my technical skills and was fascinating, however it was clear that law firms were not for me. I was still not sure what else to do, so before throwing in the law towel forever, I decided to try being an in-house lawyer and I eventually landed a generalist role at Australian Pharmaceutical Industries (API), the parent company of Priceline. It was the perfect first in-house role and gave me exposure to all aspects of a publicly listed Australian company. API also signed me up as a member of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), which made me feel part of the in-house community.
When I relocated from Melbourne to Sydney, I commenced as Legal Counsel at Jurlique, a global Australian skincare company, which was a fantastic experience as I was 1 of 2 lawyers supporting a global consumer goods company. During this time I signed up for the ACC mentoring program, and my wonderful mentor encouraged me to attend ACC events to meet other in-house lawyers and to join the ACC NSW Executive Committee (which I did).
Whilst attending my first ACC social event, a peer of mine told me she’d just accepted a role as a lawyer at Amazon in Seattle. Given technology was always a passion of mine, when Amazon looked to Australia to hire its second round of lawyers later that year, I submitted my application, and after many months of interviews, I was offered the role of Corporate Counsel and moved my life (and my cat Nero) to Seattle, where I supported Amazon Canada and Amazon’s US Global Store. Working at the head office of such a huge and complex company was the most scary and amazing experience of my life. I met incredibly intelligent and interesting people from around the world and was really pushed to be the best lawyer I could be. In the meantime, Amazon.com.au launched in Australia, so I eventually accepted a role in the Sydney office, where I now support Australian Operations and Seller Services.
TLC: What is the funniest or weirdest moment you've had in your legal career?
MV: Definitely serving a subpoena on a Greek priest at a church, and then seeing him go through security at the Supreme Court, where he had to take off all his religious jewellery.
TLC: What is your one piece of advice to law students of today?
MV: Clerkships offered by commercial law firms to uni students tend to give students the impression that working in a commercial law firm is the only legal career path to pursue. But there are so many other ways you can practice law, whether it be criminal, family, not-for-profit, or in-house. Whilst the formality of a law firm was not for me, being part of the business as an in-house lawyer suited my mind and personality far more, and I really love what I do now.