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The power of perseverence

Like most law students, Chris Grisenti completed his degree with the hope of securing a graduate role shortly after. But things did not turn out that way.

With a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) under his belt, he was instead faced with tackling his Practical Legal Training (PLT) and trying to find a job as a first-year lawyer.

Not letting the first hurdle in his career get the better of him, Chris focused on the task ahead. ‘I just tried to keep positive despite the countless applications I submitted and did my best to continue developing my skills in the meantime.’

He took every opportunity to conduct legal work, including a contract with a law firm, where he helped to review a large class action.

Completing his PLT with the College of Law, while working as a paralegal at Slater and Gordon, Chris eventually connected with a senior lawyer who took him under his wing.

He remembers this as a big turning point in his career. ‘In the end it was my focus on human connections that afforded me opportunities to complete tasks such as drafting pleadings and affidavits even though I wasn’t employed as a solicitor,’ he says.  

All the leg work and perseverance paid off, with Chris securing a position at Blackstone Legal Costing in 2014, two years after the completion of his degree.  

A few years on and you would not know that Chris had quite a bumpy start to his law career. Quite contrary, 2019 turned out to be one of the best years yet. He was promoted into his current role as Associate Director and also conferred as a Law Institute Victoria (LIV) Accredited Specialist.

This prestigious title is a significant achievement for any lawyer and awards practitioners with myriad opportunities to differentiate themselves through attaining a higher level of competence and specialist skills. On an academic level, it also offers exciting opportunities for further study, such as credit-for-prior learning arrangements into Deakin’s Master of Laws for example.

‘I’m very honoured to be recognised as an Accredited Specialist, particularly as there are not many specialists in the area of Costs Law,’ Chris says.

These days, when he is not advising clients, drafting bills of costs, appearing in the Costs Court, and drafting expert reports, he is busy travelling the world and following his favourite sports.

‘I’m a mad AFL and NBA fan; my teams are Geelong and Boston. My recent trip to the United States was incredible. I travelled there with my fiancé and got to watch the Boston Celtics play three times.’

‘To keep a clear head, I have also just started playing basketball again, which is interesting after a long time off. I enjoy reading, both fiction and non-fiction, and recently finished a series of books about a homicide detective who works in Los Angeles,’ Chris says.

When looking back at his time as a student and contemplating what helped him get to where he is today, Chris says the focus on practical knowledge and real-world experiences at Deakin were definite key factors.

‘I enjoyed the way the law program was run. There was a strong focus on practical skills, which are essential for day-to-day business.’

‘Having the opportunity to go overseas and to study was also amazing. I went on the India Study Tour in 2011 for example, which was incredible.’

Chris says that while Deakin provided him with a great foundation of practical knowledge and skills, the importance of networking and working in the legal industry while studying, and obtaining one or more clerkships at law firms cannot be underestimated.

‘The knowledge you gain doing these activities is invaluable, and it is important for when you are in your formative years in the industry. So, to current students I would say, “keep persevering, even if things aren’t going your way it will eventually work out. Be open to all opportunities which might present themselves to you.”’