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Immigrant Girl to Australian Law Partner (Part 2)

By

Fiona Wong

Posted

November 23, 2021

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09:23 AM

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From Hong Kong to Sydney....

A continuation of Fiona Wong's personal immigration journey from Hong Kong to Australia where she discovered her passion for Immigration Law.

Three months into my first immigration lawyer job

When I finally finished my law degree and graduated, I really wanted to keep working at this law firm, but now as a lawyer. It was a small firm, though, and they weren’t really looking to hire another lawyer, so I had to start looking for other jobs. I applied to a couple of entry-level Australian immigration lawyer positions and was lucky enough to get an offer from Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Their presence in Australia was still pretty small, but I saw that it was a bigger firm and I was excited to get the offer.

And with that, my legal career was off to the races – I had a good job practicing Australian immigration law at a growing firm, and with a team I really got along with. About a month or so into this new job, one of my teammates left to join Deloitte. I was happy for her but didn’t think anything more of it until I received an unexpected phone call about two months later.

It was a partner from Deloitte, asking me to come into their office for a meeting. “Uh, sure,” I agreed, kind of nervously. When a partner from Deloitte calls you and asks you for a personal meeting, you take the meeting.

Then that former colleague who was now at Deloitte called me too. We hadn’t worked together for that long – only about a month when she moved from BAL to Deloitte – but she told me that I had made a good impression on her, and so when she heard that Deloitte wanted to bring someone else on board, she recommended me.

Aha, that’s what the partner call was all about.

Long story short, my conversation with the partner went great, and shortly after they offered me a job. It was a hard decision, but at the time I wanted to go bigger, and faster. Deloitte, one of the Big Four, is a well-known company with a big immigration team in Australia. I had really liked my experience at BAL during the time I was there, but I felt that the best thing for my career, at this time, was to move to Deloitte. So I accepted the offer.

My team at BAL was understanding, and I’m forever grateful to them for helping me make that big life decision with confidence.

For the next three years, I bounced around Deloitte, working first as an Australian immigration lawyer and then, for about a year and a half, working on purely corporate matters just to get the experience. In law school, before I was first exposed to Australian immigration law, I always dreamed of being an M&A lawyer. When the opportunity to be in-house legal counsel at Deloitte came up, I figured that could get me closer to trying out M&A, knowing that my passion for and experience in immigration could bring me back there if anything.

So I made the internal move.

I stayed in Deloitte’s in-house legal team for long enough to work on multiple acquisitions and learn to draft commercial contracts, but more importantly to discover that this was not my passion. So much so that one day, I just quit.

No job. No interviews lined up. No plan. I had to explore my dream and I’m glad I did – but this just confirmed that I actually loved immigration law. I wanted to find something that felt right, for me. And that’s when I came across Gilton Valeo.

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George Street, Sydney

Finding my way back to Australian immigration law

After two interviews with other members of the Gilton Valeo team, I met Troy Andres, the firm’s founder and managing partner. Troy, however, was not like any other lawyers I had previously come across. He came into the interview wearing a t-shirt – with a stylish pocket on it, tattoos on both arms, and when he sat down, we just started talking.

Our interview was substantial, but also casual and comfortable. It was a conversation, not a test. This time, I wasn’t looking for an idealised version of what I thought my career should be – big corporate corner office at a large multinational. No, I was looking for a firm that fit my values, let me be me, and would give me room to take charge. This time I was going to work where I wanted to work, and those were exactly the vibes I got during my interview with Troy.

At the same time, I was interviewing with another firm that, actually, made me an offer pretty quickly. That firm was really nice, and the offer was good, but something drew me to Gilton Valeo. I called Troy and told him that I had just received an offer from another firm, but that I was really interested in joining Gilton Valeo.

After a bit of back and forth, Troy called me with good news – I got an offer!

Truth be told, I really liked the other firm too, and, honestly, their offer was actually higher than Gilton Valeo’s.

But I connected with Troy and Gilton Valeo on a level I hadn’t with anyone else during my entire legal career. I knew I had to follow my gut, and so I accepted.

It’s been almost five years, and during that time we’ve brought in more clients, added a lot more staff, and grown as a firm. The progression has been quick, perhaps quicker than I even imagined, and because I came from the corporate world and had cultivated relationships, those relationships started bringing me clients, almost immediately.

As the years went on, I was getting promoted at the firm time and again. I couldn’t have imagined the kind of growth anywhere else, and it felt good to finally grow at a rate I knew I was capable of.

In the fall of 2019, about three years after I joined Gilton Valeo, I started thinking about next steps for me at the firm, and with my life. In other words, a promotion to partner. I knew that I was ready to go all-in and that Troy and the team were impressed by my initiative and felt that I could bring real value to the business.

So we started negotiating. By the way, if anyone reading this has ever negotiated for equity in any business, whether a technology company, an accounting firm, or a law firm, it doesn’t happen overnight. But it was the fall, and I wanted to go into 2020 with certainty that my career was continuing to move. As we kept negotiating, and as time kept moving forward, we were getting closer to the end of the year.

If my 5:59pm immigration filing was foreshadowing to other times in my life, this was certainly one of those times.

It was New Year’s Eve, and I was getting ready for a party at my house when I got a call from Troy. “I have the agreement ready to sign,” he told me. So I asked myself – could it wait? Probably. But did I want to wait? No way.

I told him I’d see him soon. I hung up, put on my shoes, hopped into my car and drove to Troy’s house, where a party was also underway. I signed the paperwork, popped some champagne, and got a built-in celebration for my partnership agreement!

That’s how my 2020 started.

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New Year's Eve 2020 in Sydney, a city (and world) clueless as to what the year had in store for it....

What’s next for me and Gilton Valeo

As 2020 recently came to a close, thinking about how the year started for me as compared to how it ended is its own story and one that I won’t get into now. But despite the challenges that 2020 brought, it also brought learning and growth for many around the world, including us.

The firm has had to restructure the way we work, offer new services, and bring value to our clients in new ways that made sense during the COVID-19 pandemic but I suspect that a lot of what we’ve done this year will continue to bring value, even after the world regains some sense of normalcy.

Plus, we’re now doubling down on our online presence and branding, reaching new audiences, and using our legal expertise to truly change lives. Moving forward, we’re building differently, and as we enter 2021, instead of feeling like I’m personally in over my head with all these changes during my first year as a partner, I feel ready to roll my sleeves up and meet the challenge.

Considering Migration to Australia? Learn more about Moving to Australia

Gilton Valeo Lawyers is a Sydney based incorporated legal practice specialising in corporate migration, founded in 1982.

Connect with Fiona to know more about life in Australia and inquire on your personal immigration options.

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