Here’s one way law firms can retain millennial lawyers

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For someone who wasn’t intent on entering the legal profession from a young age, Jacinta Goutama is proof that there much to love about being a lawyer. She’s now a senior associate at MinterEllison and is very much enjoying her work.

Like many millennial lawyers, she’s proud that she is successfully maintaining a healthy and happy work-life balance. In this interview, she shares how proactive law firms are tackling this issue and why this key area will separate firms that can attract and retain young talent.

She also shares her hopes for working environments of the future, and what makes her area of expertise thrilling for her.

Give us a brief overview of your experience and background.

Following a summer clerkship at MinterEllison in 2010-2011, I commenced as a graduate at the firm in 2012 and am now a senior associate in the Sydney real estate team. I am currently on secondment at AMP Capital in the property transaction team, which has given me a great opportunity to understand the commercial drivers of a key client’s business.

What attracted you to law?
To be honest, I was one of those students who initially studied law just because I had the requisite UAI [now ATAR] for law school. Throughout high school, I had a keen interest in business, economics, and even maths. I thought I’d just challenge myself by combining my business degree with a law degree, but I certainly never thought I’d enjoy law as much as I do now. I think the UNSW law school’s Socratic method of teaching was instrumental in helping me realise that I enjoy problem solving, negotiating, and helping others.

What legal profession figures do you look up to?
I have always admired former High Court judge Justice Michael Kirby for being courageous in the court room as well as in his personal life. His High Court judgements, especially the dissenting ones, would often reflect similar values that I believe in, and it’s encouraging to know that these more progressive ideologies were being heard in the High Court. He also had a talent for injecting humour and wit into his judgments, which always made studying case law much more interesting.

What do you want to achieve in your career and what has been your biggest achievement to date?
So far I have successfully been able to achieve a healthy and happy work-life balance, so I want to maintain this as I move to more senior positions in my career. I am also very proud of having been a finalist for the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards so early in my career, two years ago, and for also being promoted to senior associate this year.

Do you think firms are addressing millennial lawyers’ needs?
I definitely think some firms are being proactive in trying to address the millennial lawyer’s needs. For example, MinterEllison has implemented the “Empower Program,” which encourages and supports lawyers to find and adopt new ways of working to be their client’s best partner. By allowing lawyers to work flexibly at a client’s office or even at home, the program supports millennial lawyers, such as myself, through the different phases of our lives and recognises that flexible working is not a barrier to career progression. I personally believe that this cultural change will help retain millennial lawyers as they realise they can balance their personal needs and goals with providing a successful service to the firm and to clients.

What are your hopes and aspirations in terms of working environments for the future?
I hope that the glass ceiling will be non-existent in all professions and industries.

What makes your role interesting and different?
I get a thrill from being able to walk around Sydney and other parts of Australia and know that I helped to buy, sell, or develop that property.

Being a property lawyer also means that I’m in a fast-paced industry whereby transactions typically span over a period of weeks or months rather than years. This is perfect for me as I’m someone who gets deep satisfaction from seeing my clients frequently achieve their goals.

I also find it very interesting to see how the practice area is impacted by business cycles and trends in the economy, and every matter is unique and has its own challenges, which keeps me intellectually stimulated.

What’s your weirdest professional encounter?
I once had to simultaneously exchange and settle the purchase of a shopping centre late at night at Café Sydney, a popular Sydney fine dining restaurant. The vendor’s lawyer had commenced celebrating the transaction hours earlier. I was a bit worried he’d lose the circa $200m cheque that night.

What are your interests outside of work?
I love to travel. I’ve been to 41 countries so far and undertook international university exchanges in the USA and Denmark. I also spent time in China to try to learn Mandarin.

I also really enjoy going to F45 and xtend barre classes during the week, and bikram yoga in my spare time.


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