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On the job in real estate and property law
Dean Balassis studied law and science at Deakin University and is now a lawyer in the Real Estate and Projects team at Lander & Rogers.
What’s your role?
I’m a lawyer in the Real Estate & Projects team at Lander & Rogers. I started with the firm as a graduate in 2015. I’m in my third year at the firm, almost two years of which have been spent as a practicing lawyer.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a Greek family in Oakleigh, Victoria. I went to the local primary school and then McKinnon Secondary College before becoming the first person in my family to study at university.
Where did you study?
I completed a double degree of Law and Science (with a major in psychology) at Deakin University.
What attracted you to law?
Throughout primary school, I was interested in becoming a veterinarian. But when I was finishing primary school, I realised that vets spend a lot of time ending animals' lives instead of saving them, so I scrapped that idea… What remained was the desire to help people and, after completing work experience with one of my uncle’s close friends, a criminal solicitor, I realised that law was the best way for me to do that. I still maintained my interest in science and math, but I was pretty satisfied by studying science at university.
What does your job involve?
It’s a mix of things, really - ‘Real Estate & Projects’ is a broad term that covers several different areas of the law. Day to day, I talk to clients about property deals that they’ve got coming up –purchasing, selling, leasing or developing properties. This involves drafting documents, overseeing transactions and liaising with the other side. We’ve also had a partner join recently who is focused on construction. Through my involvement with his clients, I have quickly learned that construction is a little more contentious than property, and involves a large element of dispute resolution.
Do you not enjoy the litigious side of the law?
I decided early on that I was interested in the transactional side of law, and that’s where my focus is now. It wasn’t an easy choice to make - I do enjoy the intellectual challenge of litigation, and having an opportunity to work on construction disputes certainly helps sate that interest. However, at the end of the day, I’m somebody who appreciates a positive outcome and typically you don’t have winners in litigation.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your current role?
Every day, you learn something new about the law. That’s both an incredible opportunity and an enormous challenge. It is a part of what motivates me to stay driven. Equally, it’s challenging because you’re constantly reminded of how much more there is to know - and this can come as a rude shock to people who have just graduated with hard-won law degrees.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of the role?
Good outcomes. Having a client thank you - well, it might seem like a small gesture, but it’s what I do this for. It’s hugely gratifying when you know you’ve helped a client and they appreciate it.
How important are interpersonal skills for success in your position?
They are just as important as your legal skills. For example, I’ve spoken on the phone to maybe eleven or twelve clients just today. It’s imperative during such conversations that you can understand what people want and be attuned not only to what is said, but to what is left unsaid.
What other personal qualities are required for success in your role?
Diligence is critical. You should also be enthusiastic. In my team, we deal with a huge number of files at any one time. There’s so much to learn, and organise, and manage – so you have plenty of opportunities to take responsibility. If you assume that responsibility, then you also make yourself accountable – so you need to be on top of what’s going on, especially when other members of your team are relying on you.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to your university-aged self?
- Give everything a shot. A lot of university students are very career-focused, which is great, but it can lead to an undue emphasis on preparing for the job market. Again, this is important, but it’s equally true that time spent joining clubs, or playing sports, or going on exchange is never time wasted.
- Don’t take everything too seriously. I saw a lot of my friends get really stressed about things like clerkships and paralegal opportunities - but it’s not the end of the world if you miss out on one. You can, and if you’re committed to it, will still be successful in the career of your choice.
- Stay involved socially. Go to more events, meet more members of your cohort and enjoy your time at university. Many of the friends you study with will be your peers in the industry. I still regularly catch-up with some of my best friends who work in the same building or nearby me!