Theo Kapodistrias – Lawyer, University of Tasmania
In this blog post, we speak to good friend and multi-award winning lawyer, Theo Kapodistrias! Theo went from being a law student at the University of Tasmania straight to being an in-house lawyer for the University (and yes, he even advises his old law lecturers)! Theo is one of those incredible humans that just seems to be doing everything, so we just had to feature him on our blog. He has some great pearls of wisdom to share, particularly on the importance of networking and being open to new opportunities.
TLC: What made you want to study law?
TK: I had a few motivations for wanting to study law. I am really passionate about people. As an extrovert, I love networking, meeting new people, and working with them. I also have a tendency to also look at issues from a different and interesting perspective, so I felt that a career in law would allow me to combine my passion for people, my analytical and problem-solving skills with my argumentative side!
At school, I found that many of the things that I liked seemed to correlate really well with a legal career. I really enjoyed subjects such as English, drama and sociology and legal studies so it seemed like a natural fit for me to continue a career in the law.
TLC: Tell us about your journey to how you got to where you are.
TK: I was a student at the University of Tasmania. I loved law school life and took advantage of the many awesome opportunities that were available. I competed in the ALSA Negotiations competition in 2012 and 2013 and really loved gaining that practical experience. While studying, I had a casual job as a pharmacy assistant, which was amazing fun and what provided me with my skill to interpret complex information in a simple way.
Throughout my studies, I thought that I really wanted to pursue a career in family and criminal law. My plan was to kick off my legal career working somewhere like Legal Aid to gain some of those critical legal skills and gain really strong practical experience, and then move on to a prosecution role. I really loved the advocacy side of things, so I always envisaged that I’d end up in the courtroom.
But a different opportunity came along and I’d never looked back. After I completed my PLT, I applied for my first (and my current) legal role as a lawyer with the University of Tasmania. I saw the job advertised in my local newspaper (old school!) and thought how interesting it’d be to launch my career as an in-house lawyer. When I finished my PLT, it was a time where there weren’t many jobs about. It was a competitive environment and it was a really stressful time. I applied for a job which wasn’t what I was looking for but I think being open to new opportunities was the best thing in could have done for myself.
I’ve been there for nearly 5 years, and the practical and varied work I’ve had has been really incredible. I’m really lucky to be a generalist lawyer so I get to practice across a wide range of areas of law including contracts, IP, property, discrimination, privacy to name a few! I have been really fortunate to work on some really interesting and innovative projects, and have really learned a lot being thrown into the in-house environment as a graduate. My role continues to grow as well. As a legal team, we believe that we are “more than just lawyers” as we are act as trusted advisors to the University. I also encompass a much broader role than just providing legal advice as I am also involved in governance, compliance, risk and often commercial advice as well.
I’ve been really fortunate to have been recognised nationally for my work winning the 2017 and 2018 Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 (Corporate Counsel), the 2018 Lawyers Weekly Corporate Counsel Award for Academia, Training and Education Lawyer of the Year, and included in the 2019 Legal 500 Guide to Australia’s Rising Stars publication.
In addition to my day-to-day legal role, I felt it was important to get involved with the community and legal community. I’m the Tasmanian Divisional President and Non-Executive Director of the Association of Corporate Counsel Australia, an Ambassador for World Idea Day, Tasmanian Ambassador and Industry Champion for Business Events Tasmania, mentor and coach for final year law students, and the Immediate Past President of the Tasmanian Young Lawyers Committee. These activities have provided me with a lot of opportunities and enabled me to meet new people locally, nationally and internationally, which has been really incredible!
TLC: What is the funniest or weirdest moment you've had in your legal career?
TK: Working in a University is pretty wild. Because the University’s activities are so diverse, I deal with a lot of unusual projects and interesting circumstances. Everything from dealing with abandoned cars on campus, the development of a new app, clinical trials, interesting research projects - I get to see it all. There have been a lot of funny and weird moments in my job but it’s often the “I have a quick question” phone calls that provide the most entertainment. Those are always the funniest and strange little queries.
But even after almost 5 years, I always find it weird when I provide legal advice to my old law school lecturers! I always think, why am I telling you this when you would already know all of this anyway!
TLC: What is your one piece of advice to law students of today?
TK: Don’t be afraid to try something new. It is important to have an open mind about new opportunities as you will never know what you might enjoy doing. If you hated studying the subject, you might find that as a lawyer it is really fun. My other key piece of advice is to get out there and meet people. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, connect to someone on LinkedIn and go out for a coffee. You’ll find that people are really generous with their time and more than happy to help if they can.