Young lawyer Tejas Thete finds herself on an exclusive industry list
Last month 30 of Australia’s best lawyers under the age of 30 were recognised for their achievements at an exclusive function held by Lawyers Weekly, Australia’s top authority on all matters relating to the business of law. One of the youngest winners was 24-year-old insurance solicitor Tejas Thete who is nearing the end of her first year as a practising lawyer.
The awards are presented to thirty lawyers spanning ten categories and recognise young lawyers as leaders in their field, showcasing professional performance, leadership capabilities, ability to influence the client experience, and personal achievements.
Speaking to Indian Link, Tejas (whose name is Sanskrit for ‘brilliance’ or ‘lustre’) reveals that it was a surprise just to be shortlisted as a finalist for her category, insurance. “It was extraordinary. As soon as I received the call, when they told me, I couldn’t believe it. They said they’d send a follow up email and so I was checking my email all weekend just to make sure they hadn’t got the wrong person! Unlike a lot of other applicants, there was no expectation of success whatsoever. I was already happy at that point.”
Tejas continues, “I do want to say it’s quite humbling, extraordinarily humbling. Everyone works hard, everyone wants to do well, and it is wonderful for this to be acknowledged.”
That was just the beginning of the ride for Tejas, who recalls with noticeably fresh excitement the moment on the night of the awards when all three winners’ names were displayed on the screen: “It was one of the best moments of my life so far. I just couldn’t believe it. I thought perhaps it was a typo, maybe my name was up there by accident!”
As an insurance lawyer at law firm Gadens, Tejas feels blessed to run a diverse litigation practice under the oversight of her team partner, including fields such as education, non-workplace discrimination, medical negligence, professional indemnity and personal injury matters. It is this diversity that saw Tejas work for a client in relation to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, which she labels a key highlight of her first year as a solicitor, and certainly one which contributed in no small part to Tejas receiving the honour.
This year, 21 of the 30 award winners were female, reflecting data which shows that 65 per cent of law graduates are female. Tejas, who graduated from Macquarie University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Applied Finance/Bachelor of Laws, states that although women are underrepresented at partnership levels in the legal profession, she believes the dichotomy is partly the result of a generational gap.
“It’s inspiring to see a new generation of legal practitioners diverse in gender and in culture. It changes your way of thinking, it’s really good and it’s really thought-provoking.”
At Gadens, Tejas is part of the Affinity Group which discusses cultural diversity and aims to take advantage of opportunities for increasing cultural diversity. As Tejas stresses, “People of the Indian subcontinent are underrepresented in private practice – many of them do study law but they don’t seem to go on into private practice. I think it’s an issue side-by-side with gender diversity.”
For Tejas, the competitive atmosphere of commercial law, where there is high productivity, is offset by the exciting and dynamic nature of her work. “Having studied law, you’re usually imagining what it’s going to be like going into court, speaking to clients, having that feeling of winning or losing a case. It’s the same idea [in what I do] – you’re running cases, either winning, losing or settling. It’s fast paced. If you’re someone that likes multidimensional work with many things happening at the same time at different stages, it’s very satisfying.”
This environment makes it even more important to relax outside of work, stresses Tejas. “Having an outlet, some type of work life balance [is very important]. To maintain your own mental health and wellbeing, every now and then you need to break away and enjoy yourself. I like to read, go out with friends, socialise, all that sort of typical thing. You should really just do the exact opposite of what you do at work!”
Tejas has some sage advice for young lawyers that professionals of all ages would do well to keep in mind: “The key is being very mindful. If you’re mindful, you keep asking yourself – am I working really hard or am I working really hard for no reason?
Speaking of her plans for the future, Tejas is pragmatic: “I am really enjoying private practice, so I would like to keep growing and learning here for as long as possible.”
And with such a perfect start to her legal career, there’s no doubt that Tejas is destined for even bigger achievements down the track.