Plexus Engage Lawyer Spotlight: Nektaria Vasilopoulos

Lawyer Nektaria edited

Nektaria, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to go into Law?

I have quite a unique legal experience. I left school not knowing what I wanted to study at university. I had been working in a shop selling predominantly gift cards and merchandise from the age of 15 and then as a nurse’s assistant in a nursing home. It was getting to the stage where I thought, I probably should do more.

I ended up applying for a job as a receptionist in a Sydney boutique law firm which I was successful in getting. After about three months, a legal secretarial role came up at the same firm. I clearly remember the other legal secretaries encouraged me to apply for that job. So, I did and I got that job. I thoroughly enjoyed this role. It was a great law firm to work with, I learnt a lot and the Partners left a positive influence on me. As a legal secretary I was exposed to many areas of law and matters. I became more and more interested in the law and wanted more. After being in this role for a few years I decided to apply to study law. I chose to study law at the University of Technology Sydney simply because I could continue to work full time and study part time. I graduated and was admitted as a lawyer in 2006.

As I was with that law firm for 10 years prior to completing my law degree and being admitted, I thought I should explore other types of work environments and try the government space. I ended up working on some special projects at the Federal Court and Federal Magistrates Court followed by various stints at high profile law firms before moving in-house.

So, I've been practising as a lawyer for about 16 years now.

What drove the decision to take the leap into in-house legal?

Although I really enjoyed my time in private practice, I was interested in working in-house which was becoming a popular alternative. I was attracted to the wider commercial and legal opportunities in-house offers. These opportunities, together with the flexibility, which was available in-house, coincided with my personal goals as I was getting married and planning to start a family.

How did you find yourself at Plexus?

I worked as part of a small in-house Legal team in a worldwide office supplies B2B organisation for a few years and was exposed to all areas of the business advising in various areas of law. Following this and looking for another challenge that aligned with my goals, I thought “contracting sounds interesting, why don't I try that next?”.

I applied to a few companies when Plexus stood out because it was a relatively new law firm at the time that seconded lawyers to in-house positions. It had some well-known and reputable clients.

Plexus’ process was streamlined and effortless.

I completed three different secondments during my first time working with Plexus. The last secondment was with a global professional services organisation, which subsequently offered me a permanent position I accepted. I stayed for about three years before deciding I wanted to go back to work with Plexus. Plexus is a supportive and an enjoyable work environment. Everyone is so lovely and accommodating.

How did you find your first secondments?

The first organisation I worked with was an Australian energy and gas company as a Commercial Lawyer. As I had returned to work from my second maternity leave, I was only working three days a week which was a fantastic work life balance at the time. It was my first time exploring working part time and Plexus was really supportive in facilitating that. After that I worked at a global integrated retailer and manufacturing organisation, which extended my secondment. Then Plexus found me the role at a global professional services firm.

What is advantageous about Plexus is that the roles have continued. I have not had to wonder what my next role would be or feel inclined to look for other roles. There was that continuity, even though it was a secondment. Plexus is consistently supportive and keeps to the brief when it comes to what I am looking for.

How have you found your current secondment?

I was excited that Plexus found this role for me within ANSTO. It has been the most interesting role so far and I enjoy the area and the work that ANSTO does. The Legal team consists of paralegals and lawyers of various levels. The senior lawyers have been with the organisation for several years and are not shy of sharing their knowledge.

Like Plexus, ANSTO is supportive, family friendly, helpful, provides true flexibility, and I work with clever lawyers. My secondment has been extended.

Why did you come back to Plexus?

The reason I came back to Plexus was because of my positive experience during my first stint. I knew that if it was going to be anything similar to my first experience, I would get an interesting role at a reputable organisation, that would allow for flexibility. I also knew that Plexus would be there to support me. Being part of the team and feeling supported makes great things happen.

What were you looking for in your secondment?

The culture, a flexible and supportive environment, common goals and values were key together with challenging and interesting work. Achieving a work life balance especially with a young family and other carer responsibilities was of prime importance.

I was looking for a senior role, and one of my main requests was to be able to work flexibly. I also wanted to work with a legal department that worked as a team and supported each other. So far everything has been met.

Plexus has been supportive from the outset. I couldn't ask for a better employer.

Do you have any advice for someone making the move from private practice to in-house?

It depends on what you're looking for. Just like private practice might not suit everyone, the same could be said for in-house roles. Hearsay cannot compare to first-hand experience, it's just not the same as someone telling you what it's like. If you can take the opportunity to work in-house, even if it is on secondment, it is well worth it.

Go in with clear expectations of what is required in the role, but don’t underestimate the in-house role. Unlike private practice, in-house has internal clients which allows the opportunity to more easily foster repeated and continued positive working relationships.

Approach it with a positive attitude. Everyone's experience will be different. Avoid going in with preconceived expectations as, from experience, all organisations and legal teams operate differently.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about becoming a secondee?

The main reason I like secondments is because I like to continuously learn and the challenges that come with that. I actually like the contrast between the different organisations. Going from one organisation to another isn't a daunting experience but an exciting one. You get to meet new people constantly, work on an array of matters and experience new challenges.

You need to be clear about your expectations, like your flexibility and the type of matters you’d like to work on. When you go from one company to another you might think, “I know how they run, all organisations run the same” but no one organisation runs the same. If you're open to learning, flexible and agile, you'll really enjoy the experience. You need to take time to gauge what that workplace culture is, so you can work effectively as part of a team.

Nektaria is currently on her fourth secondment with Plexus since first starting as a secondee in 2018.

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