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Meet Christie Preston: Canadian Pilates Instructor turned Sydney lawyer
09 September 2022

Meet Christie Preston: Canadian Pilates Instructor turned Sydney lawyer

Published on 09 September 2022

“Never in the land of Ever” did Canadian-born Christie Preston imagine she would become a lawyer. Entrepreneurial by nature, Christie founded a fitness bootcamp during uni break, which burgeoned into a thriving business. However, a holiday to the far side of the world saw her change her life - and join our ranks as an Australian lawyer. We caught up with Christie to discover how it all went down - and how she came to work @coffeeandacasenote’s James D’Apice, Director at Chamberlains Law Firm.

From bricks and mortar BODSquad to Sydney university law student

In her life before law, Christie started an outdoor bootcamp workout class.

“My friends and I jokingly called it “The BODsquad” and it just stuck!” laughed Christie.

What started as a summer break project grew into an impressive little business, as did her love for all things movement.

“I took Pilates teacher training, personal training school, and yoga teacher training,” said Christie. “I had that classic nerd energy – I wanted to know all the things.

“BODstudio was born after five years of the BODsquad and although I loved it, I quickly realised that I was meant to be a movement teacher, not a gym manager,” Christie said. “A great life lesson!”

“On what was meant to be just a quick holiday in Australia, I fell in love with Sydney instantly. I couldn’t believe Australia had palm trees, and on my third day here I applied for a working holiday visa. I returned home to Canada and within two months I sold BODstudio, packed my life into three big bags and found myself crying (mostly happy/excited) tears on the plane ride on my way to start life Down Under!”

Christie came to Australia knowing she wanted to go back to school.

“Initially I was thinking about medical school, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to study something practical and do a degree that would make me think differently and hopefully open many doors.”

She attended a University of Sydney information night, and decided to slip into the law school info session.

“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just sit down and hear what they had to say,” said Christie. “It wasn’t so much the presentation but the room full of future students I found myself in. I immediately knew – I was with my people! Slightly neurotic, super overachievers, and relatively smart people. Perfect!!”

A real-life Legally Blonde experience

With this, she ditched her expat plans of spending a year as a surfer/barista/yoga teacher.

“Turns out I’m not the best surfer,” she admitted.

“When I applied to the University of Sydney Law School, I felt like I was having a full ‘Legally Blonde’ moment. I submitted my personal statement with Lululemon ambassador posters of me doing the splits in spandex! I was shocked when my acceptance letter arrived in the mail a few weeks later. I felt honoured to attend one of the best law schools in the entire world.

“First year was exciting and difficult all at the same time. Foundations of Law at USYD is a six-week intensive where you go to school every day – 9 am to 5 pm and there is a LOT of reading. I remember our (awesome) Professor Rebecca Millar saying, ‘Complaining that there is too much reading in law school is like going to the beach and complaining there is too much sand.’”

She soon developed a skill necessary to survive law: speed reading.

“I also discovered that I really loved learning about the law,” she said.

“For me, there has never been an academic challenge that has come even close to touching what law school put me through. And for that, I am grateful! I quickly discovered that the volume was the hardest part; one course in law would be challenging to complete in a semester, but you somehow must take four courses on a full course load. I learned along the way to not sweat the small stuff.”

Grounded in movement - and handstands!

COVID lockdowns hit Christie’s law school experience halfway through her studies.

“At first, it was glorious!” she enthused. “Listening to lectures in bed was a dream. This was until I started falling asleep and had to force myself to listen to everything twice to get the content clear in my head. Having friends to call and go on virtual walks together was essential.”

During Sydney’s lengthy lockdowns, Christie turned to her training in movement to stay balanced.

“Movement keeps me grounded, which is ironic considering my favourite way to move is to practice handstands! Studying law, doing the PLT and working in law can be extremely stressful. Being able to jog to the park and do a quick 20-minute workout can make all the difference between a rough day and a great one.

“I’ve always been about making movement a priority, like flossing, but not freaking out about it if I miss a day or if I’m an hour late to a workout. In my personal movement practice, I am anything but structured when it comes to a workout routine, I truly embrace going with the flow. It’s taken me years to understand how to listen to my body, but it’s been time well spent.”

After returning to campus for her final semester, Christie attended her graduation in person.

“It was great to be back, and have our graduation ceremony on campus too!”

Like the majority of law students, Christie chose the College of Law for PLT.

“I loved that the PLT with the College of Law was flexible and practical,” said Christie. “Meeting the lecturers online during the first week felt very personal. It was great hearing about their real-life experiences in law.

“Chamberlains were flexible in allowing me to take an hour or two off during days that I had assessments. I was grateful to them for this.”

She initially started PLT full-time, but alongside full-time work and Pilates teaching on weekends, she opted to switch up her study load.

“The College was so accommodating, and they helped me move my assessment times around so I was able to graduate within six months.”

Be bold, and carve your own path

Amid the myriad clerkships, judicial associate positions and government internships, Christie found her first role in the most millennial way possible - through Tik Tok.

“My friend, mentor and incredible Barrister, Jane Needham SC – who I met at Pilates — follows James d’Apice on Tik-Tok. She saw that he was looking for people to come work for Chamberlains and Jane sent me his video. James looked happy, kind, and fun so I thought I might apply!”

“Fast forward to now, nearly 8 months later, and I love working at Chamberlains. The culture is great, a lot of work gets done but they embrace work/life balance and support a flexible working environment. And I love corporate disputes and litigation. No two days are the same. We meet interesting clients and help them solve problems. It’s wonderful.”

As someone who career-switched into law, Christie had this advice for new lawyers:

“It’s OK to carve your own path. Clerkships are great, big firms sound cool but there are several different ways to work in the law.

“I knew that in law school I wanted to keep teaching Pilates on the side, and if I did a clerkship, I would not have time to do this. I felt a bit of FOMO at first not applying for clerkships, but I am so glad that I kept my balance. Personally, I knew that if I was going to school full-time in law and working part-time in law it would have been way too much for me. Looking back, this was 100% accurate. I would say I had on average at least one existential breakdown per semester, so teaching Pilates was a place I knew I could go and feel at some level of mastery. That was pivotal for my mental health in school and remains so even in legal practice today.

“For me, a great teacher, boss, or mentor has always made the biggest difference to what I am doing. When you’re interviewing for firms, remember it is a two-way conversation. You want to love them just as much as they love you! Stay true to yourself and you will never look back.

“I am so happy that the legal profession found me, especially here in Sydney by the beach, a little later in life!”

Related Resources

From ballroom dancing to the law: Meet PLT alum Helena Angela Hanna

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

In and out of Australia and postgraduate study: How Anne Salt forged her own career path

How to merge your love of music with your legal career: Cheslea's story


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