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How setting three-year career plans helped Sheryl Lee become an Australian lawyer
11 July 2022

How setting three-year career plans helped Sheryl Lee become an Australian lawyer

Published on 11 July 2022

Before becoming a lawyer, Sheryl Lee enjoyed a successful career as a senior marketer and real estate developer and investor. We follow her journey from the fast-paced world of Chinese telecommunications to media and real estate, to requalifying in Australia as a lawyer and planning her next steps. 

Mastering the intense, high-energy world of Chinese telecommunications 

Having graduated from South China Normal University with a Bachelor of Economics, Sheryl started her career working for several Chinese-based telecom companies. It was an experience that made her career, pushing her to grow and empowering her to learn on the go. 

“Telecommunications is one of the fastest growing industries in China,” said Sheryl. “The pace is intense. It is imperative to manage your time well, so I always set a three-year plan. I love to think about what I can achieve after three years and prepare accordingly.” 

Over the next decade, Sheryl went on to work as a Regional Manager and Head of Marketing at organisations including TVB Australia and Asia Media Australia. She also runs her family business, which involves real estate development and investment. 

“Through these experiences, I accumulated extensive experience that informed my advice on a wide range of commercial and corporate matters,” explained Sheryl. “It also saw me build relationships with a broad range of clients, ranging from multinational corporations to high-net-worth individuals.” 

Next stop: the journey to becoming an Australian lawyer 

“Truth be told, Australia was completely different from what I expected,” admitted Sheryl. The chief differences were Australia’s cultural and economic environment, which presented many challenges as she settled into living and working in her new home. 

“For me, this reinforced how much I needed to learn and get more involved in Australian life,” she said. 

Through the University of Sydney, Sheryl pursued two Masters’ degrees, plus a Bachelor of Laws through Deakin University. 

“This helped me progress to the next level in my career,” said Sheryl. “It’s also helped me achieve a good work/family life balance and enjoy my personal life far more than I could have imagined.”  

Entering the orbit of ‘Planet Law’ 

Through her roles in media, telecommunications and commercial real estate, Sheryl was all too familiar with the complexities law might involve. However, becoming a lawyer in Australia elevated her understanding to a whole new level. 

“The study of law is akin to entering a new planet,” said Sheryl. “By learning law in Australia, I gained a better understanding of Australian life. For example, Constitutional Law helps you learn about Australia's history. Corporations Law could help you learn more about how Australian companies are managed.” 

Conversely, Practical Legal Training (PLT) through the College of Law stress-tested her knowledge in practice. 

“The PLT program at the College of Law is more like a boot camp,” said Sheryl. “It helped me to exercise my knowledge through simulated situations, guiding you through various approaches to analyse, research and resolve a legal problem.” 

“The College of Law PLT program encourages collaboration, discussion, and communication among students, to simulate your future as colleagues in a law firm,” explained Sheryl. We collaborated as a group for research and discussion, but we also acted as prosecution/plaintiff and defence to defeat each other in mock trials!” 

She particularly enjoyed the subject of Planning and Environmental Law Practice as it aligned with her passion for real estate. 

“I believe experienced planning and environmental lawyers should be involved in the project development process from the beginning, as it could help project managers save time,” said Sheryl. 

From PLT ‘bootcamp’ to real life law 

Sheryl credits her PLT experiences with helping her easily transition to life as a lawyer. 

“PLT taught us how to think critically, manage clients and conflicts of interest, and approach the issue of costs disclosure early on,” said Sheryl. “It really helps you navigate many complex issues associated with legal work, especially in the early stages of your career.” 

According to Sheryl, PLT provided new lawyers a safe space to ask questions before they moved into a live office environment. 

She has found her new career immensely fulfilling. 

“A lawyer is someone who helps people,” said Sheryl, who was drawn to law because she had seen how valuable it was in her previous roles. 

As a next step, she would like to explore providing legal services to non-profit organisations in need, particularly those who support women, children, and the broader community who might lack access to justice. 

“These groups have many legal issues, and often experience injustice because they can’t access legal advice. I would like to see if I can pro bono legal services to the underserved in our community,” said Sheryl. 


Related Resources

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