In conversation with Melissa Le Clerc (Destination NSW)
In this blog post, we speak to my dear friend Melissa Le Clerc. Melissa and I met during an ACC trivia night and quickly figured out we both have a passion for dance - and boy can this girl move! I was instantly drawn to her warmth, kindness and hip hop moves! Melissa is an in-house lawyer at Destination NSW, and has had an incredible career so far - all of it in-house! Melissa speaks in this blog post about combining her passion of entertainment with her career in law, the importance of mentors, and how saying yes to opportunities got her here!
TLC: What made you want to study law?
MLC:When I finished high school, I went right into a Communications degree at Uni and started working in the music industry thereafter. It was such a great experience, and the knowledge I gained will forever be incomparable. I was looking for the next challenge early on…I love to talk, I love to read, and I love the analytical debate between right and wrong in any situation. I came across Law as an option and I took the chance. It took me a while to believe that I was good enough to complete such a complex degree, but I was so glad I did! Perfect match! Call me completely nerdy, but being able to learn and understand the power of law in a social science context completely got me. The law isn’t just a set of rules, but a practical example of how the majority of society lives.
I also admire how the law continuously provides a learned experience and challenges the way we think about things. Generations after generations are taught to live in a particular way and react in a certain manner, however studying law helps to challenge and reinvent ethics…..- not to redesign what is right and wrong, but to understand how to best use ethics in 2019 and beyond, you know – using it to provide justice in areas which were not even brought to the legal table in the past.
TLC: Tell us about your journey to how you got to where you are.
MLC: As I mentioned, Law wasn’t really my desired career path at the beginning. I wanted to be in music, I wanted to be a presenter, I wanted to be an actress (ha!), I was (and still am) completely enthralled by entertainment. I have tried to make decisions with the thought process of – “will I be proud of who I am when I look back”…”Is this journey going to further me or make me a better person?”
I have to say that my journey thus far is based on hard work and saying yes to opportunities. I’m so thankful for the experiences I have been given to date.
During Uni, I met one of my biggest and dearest mentors. She offered me a job at Sydney Showground in their legal department and I remember at that moment I had the biggest epiphany – “I could actually study law AND do it in a field that I loved?” I didn’t have to work in a law firm, I didn’t have to live a life completing timesheets. I could be connected with an industry at base level and in an operational context, working in-house. I remember that moment as being one of the most defining in my professional career. I’ve been in this industry ever since.
People tend to think you have to look a certain way, or have to have a set standard aspiration to become a lawyer, but what they are lacking in understanding is the diversity that is becoming encouraged in law, and how law in an in-house sense is becoming more and more valuable. You’re taking lawyers and putting them into companies where they then become new age teachers of ethics and interpretation of the law. It’s about making lawyers approachable. Whilst you teach the company about the law, the company is in turn teaching you how to think with innovation, be commercial and become relatable.
I was so thankful that I was able to grow in the position I had at Sydney Showground. I was nominated for Lawyers Weekly Sports and Entertainment Lawyer of the Year in 2017 and this lead me to my job at Destination NSW. Working with major events and tourism for NSW in a government capacity has continued to provide a well-rounded experience with reward.
Through work I was connected to the Australian Corporate Counsel, and more recently, was welcomed as a part of the NSW Division Committee. I now co-chair on the Social Committee and am a Mentor in the Mentoring program for this year. I have met so many incredible in-house lawyers via this amazing association, and have been lucky enough to have a network of wonderful peers to deliberate and socialise with. I’ve recently been interested in the bigger network the ACC offers, and hope to widen my legal network to other ‘corners’ of the world.
TLC: What is the funniest or weirdest moment you've had in your legal career?
MLC: I have to say the most interesting moments were whilst working at Sydney Showground. You can provide rules and regulations to Easter Show participants, but it’s not always that easy to translate them to their animal exhibits. Ha!
Funniest moments are always working to deadlines whilst getting ready to attend an event at the same time. Putting on heels whilst completing advice, or jumping into a cab in a gown whilst I check emails….I love it.
TLC: What is your one piece of advice to law students of today?
MLC: To this day, I am the biggest supporter of anyone who has these crazy professional dreams and actually puts in the hard work, and then completes it no matter how many setbacks they have. So the biggest advice would be to network, say yes to everything, find your confidence, invest in yourself and ALWAYS stay learned. Subscribe to legal newsletters, go to seminars and actually listen. Becoming a lawyer does not stop at the end of your degree or clerkship program. As long as your instruction is germane, people won’t mind taking your advice.