Meet Jing who is running her own practice as a barrister

It all started with a goal to chat to entrepreneurs over 60. Then out of curiosity we decided to talk to entrepreneurs under 30. We believe these two very vast generations can learn and grow from each other. 

This week we chat to Jing Zhu who is running her own practice as a Victorian barrister.

Can you tell us a little bit about your business and what you do?

I am a female barrister at the Victoria Bar. I have been a practicing lawyer for around seven years, with the last three years running my own practice as a barrister. I specialise in personal injuries, also appearing and advising on areas of insurance law, employment law and general commercial matters. I practice in a range of personal injury areas including workers compensation, transport accidents, crimes compensation, hearing loss, medical negligence, public liability and product liability areas.

I was recently the proud recipient of the Women Barristers Association Scholarship to attend the Australian Women Lawyers Conference in Sydney in 2018 and was nominated for Barrister of the Year in the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards 2018.

I balance my work life with a number of volunteering opportunities including being a Committee member of organisations such as the Law Institute and Asian Australian Lawyers Association, as well as having previously been a board member of Shelford Girls Grammar, Foster Care Association of Victoria and the Law Institute of Victoria.

What were some of the struggles you faced when you first started?

As with all businesses cash flow, unexpected expenses and motivation were all difficult in the first 18 months. It also took five weeks to get my first brief. When you are working hard, both substantially and networking but seeing very little flow in, it can be demotivating, especially if you’ve left stable income to take a risk. There are certainly periods of self-doubt where you wonder whether your decision was the correct one but I was lucky enough to rely on family and friends who often had more belief in me than I had in myself. I was fortunate enough to land a job at Monash University Law School which, while only taking up a day or two a week, was enough income to sustain me through the tough first financial year. I would joke to others at the start of my life at the Bar that my career at the Bar was really a hobby, sustained by the income of Monash. I’m happy to report that things did improve substantially in the first 18 months but the initial hardships were a worthwhile lesson and make some of the day to day challenges now more manageable.

What do you like most about having your own business? 

The freedom to choose my own hours and ways of working that are the most productive for me. Sometimes it means I work longer hours, some rare times I get a weekday off. But overall, on the days when i’m not in court, I feel a better sense of well being and balance in my life. Previously as a solicitor, my life was prioritised around work, all other factors-socialising, rest, family time, health all came second and would fit within the corners which weren’t encompassed by my work. Now factors like my fitness and spending time with love ones takes equal priority as my work and all three factors equally need to fit around each other. I believe this is only possible from the freedom I have to work from home when needed, go to gym in the middle of the day and work at 11:30pm. There’s no judgement from others that I need to worry about (except the judicial kind) or trying to impress anyone by staying in the office to get the work done.

What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Stress less. Seriously. There’s a lot of factors in life that are out of your control. The earlier you accept that, the easier it will be to accept the challenges in life. Oh, and not everything will turn out the way you expect. But some things will turn out better!.

Who is an older person that you admire and why? 

My grandfather is the person I admire the most in the world. He lived through very difficult times when he was young, growing up in rural China, near Shanghai. Despite being a brilliant student, he was only able to receive very limited formal schooling before being called to perform work, out of necessity and a love of providing for his family. Later on, after my parents and I immigrated to Australia, my retired grandfather came to Australia, a land whose land and customs he wasn’t familiar, to take care of me while both my parents worked full-time. Despite being 65 he had a passion for learning, was an active member of the local community and always making friends in English class. I even remember his making friends with a lovely British ex-pt by the name of Rose. His never-complaining attitude, hard work and tenacity to continue to inspire me to this day.

If you could jump into a time machine what era would you visit and why? 

As much as i’m fascinated by the Middle Ages and would love to check out 19th Century England. I’d have to pick 1930s Shanghai. A tumultuous time for China and a city struggling with its identity, torn by many masters. I was born in Shanghai and my Great Grandparents and Grandparents lived through this period. I would love to see the history of my cultural heritage and find out what its like to live in the country of your birth, under the control of other nations.