As we attempt to get through the 5+ years at Uni, many of us may wrestle with thoughts about whether or not to practice as a lawyer after Uni, and where else a law degree may be useful.
We understand the struggle, so we decided to chat with Monash Arts/Law Alumni, and co-founder of Matcha Maiden, Sarah Holloway! This lawyer turned ‘funtreprenuer’ has definitely thrived in both the Law and Business life after she left her job as an M&A lawyer at King & Wood Mallesons to turn her amazing health food side-hustle into a full-blown global business!
This feature is for anyone who has struggled with juggling the Work-Uni life, those who have doubts about their degree, and inspiration that you can be a lawyer and fulfill your creative aspirations as well!
Hey Sarah, thanks for catching up with us! Could you share a little bit about your journey going into Law School?
All through my school life, I was interested in a little bit of everything and never really had my eye on one single career. I have always loved keeping a jam-packed extracurricular schedule, so I indulged a very broad range of interests in music, sport, dance, and the arts. By the time I finished high school, I still hadn’t narrowed down my career focus and wanted to keep as many doors open as possible, so I chose law because it seemed to be a very versatile degree with many different pathways that would teach you skills you could use no matter where you ended up. I also figured that if I never had a big career epiphany, being a lawyer was still a secure and respectable option that in itself could lead to many different areas of law, lifestyles, countries, and contexts.
I also paired law with an Arts degree to be able to keep up with my languages and to mix up the heavier law subjects with some creative humanities units. This also gave me a reason to head off on multiple exchanges during my uni studies as travel is one of my great loves! While there were definitely parts of my degree that I enjoyed more or less than others, I never really doubted the utility of studying law particularly because you get more and more exposure to the different things you can do with it. I also noticed that my critical thinking, time management, and other valuable life skills developed as a result of the intensive study. I also didn’t really become any clearer on what I wanted to do, so it made sense to continue with something sensible while I figured it out.
As you know, Uni can be an incredibly stressful time and can lead to many students experiencing depression and anxiety. What is your advice for anyone struggling with this while going through Uni?
Especially in this day and age, depression and anxiety are surprisingly common and thankfully it’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk about. We live in such an information-dense, high-pressure time and it’s natural for students (particularly A type, OCD, perfectionist students like most law students) to feel the effects of that physically and psychologically.
Anxiety, in particular, is absolutely something I have and still struggle with, but it’s very manageable if you do your research and stay in tune with yourself. I think the most important thing is to talk to trusted people around you about it for support and care. A problem shared is a problem halved and it’s so important to have good people around you. Do some research too on the many resources that are around these days for young people. I do a lot of yoga, meditate twice daily and walk at least 30 minutes every day, all of which are known to help anxiety symptoms.
There is no shame in accepting things can get really tough, it’s just how you go about it dealing with the symptoms when they do.
What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know what they want to do with their law degree?
That most people don’t and it doesn’t matter one bit. I still don’t really know exactly what I want to do and that’s just part of the journey! It’s better to be doing something than nothing, and gaining experience in the workforce (whether or not it’s in your relevant area) is going to teach you about yourself, the world and what does and doesn’t suit you-you can’t know until you start! So just because you’re not sure you want to be a lawyer, doesn’t mean you’re not exactly where you should be. If I’d started a business when I first graduated, I wouldn’t have had any of the skills or experience I needed to keep it afloat. I would have been too immature and without practical experience or professional resilience.
There’s pretty much nowhere in the world that a law degree isn’t recognised and appreciated for teaching you certain skills and self-management, so it will NEVER be irrelevant. Just keep at it and learn as much as you can, because you never know how much it will be useful to you later on. I’d also highly recommend talking to as many people as you can to see the paths they’ve ended up on and learn about the pathways that are even possible.
Many of us start off thinking it’s just lawyer or non-lawyer but there’s a HUGE gray area in between!
You are a successful entrepreneur and co-founder of an amazing health food business! How did you take that leap from being a full-time corporate lawyer to running your very own business?
Very much by accident actually! Which is why I’m a huge supporter of the idea that you don’t have to know where you going or plan everything 5 years in advance, you sometimes just have to go with the flow and equip yourself as best you can until the next adventure lands on your doorstep. I came back from a charity expedition to Rwanda with a parasite and got quite sick so was banned from coffee as it was too harsh on my adrenals. At the time I was in M&A at King & Wood Mallesons and was a 10 cups a day kind of girl! Luckily I got sent to the firm’s headquarters in Hong Kong where matcha was much more readily available and I discovered it was a much healthier form of caffeination that still gave me energy but without any jitters or crash of coffee.
When I came home, I couldn’t really find it anywhere so decided to get some online – like many businesses, it literally all began on Google! We could only get 10kg which was way too much, so the idea came up for my partner Nic and I to sell some as a creative side project just as an experiment. We sold out in a week completely unexpectedly, so it’s been matcha madness since then! I left my job six months later when Urban Outfitters in the US found us through Instagram and ordered a huge amount of matcha that we couldn’t fulfill without someone going full time. It was definitely a big, scary life decision but also an easy one – while Law would always be there, the matcha rush might not be.
Sometimes you have to take a risk and see what happens!
It was actually an even bigger decision because at the time I had secured a Judge’s Associateship with Justice Kiefel (now the Chief Justice) of the High Court to start a few months later. So it really was a matter of a fork in the road where the two options were mutually exclusive. Self-doubt nearly overcame me many a time but my favourite quote got me through – doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.
I always feel like if a dream doesn’t work out it has to be because you tried, not because you were too scared to. You have to give yourself the chance to succeed rather than always assuming you’ll fail. Because often you’ll prove yourself wrong! We’re all capable of more than we know, we’re just very happy in comfort zones (but that’s not where the magic happens!)
Law students are known to be Type A personalities who attempt to heap tons of work experience and extracurriculars on their plate. How do you deal with the stress and pressure in your work life- back when you were a lawyer, and now as a business woman?
Interestingly, I found it easier at the firm in hindsight than I do now. Even with the long hours and occasional weekends, employment comes with boundaries and structure that actually helps the body be able to know when it needs to be on and when it can rest.
After a year of experimenting, I got into a good routine in the second and third year of making sure I fitted in some exercise at lunchtimes, got outside everyday even just to walk around the block and made time for meditation. Once I left the firm, however, I thought “oh yay, I’m moving into wellness and can do yoga all day, everyday – I’ll be the picture of health!” The irony of running a wellness business though is that you’re so passionate about it that your own wellness takes a back seat. There’s no difference between weekends and weekdays, there’s no sick leave or public holidays or hierarchy or rules to help you tell the difference between work, rest and play. Working with your partner too means there’s even more of a smoosh together of your personal and business worlds. So it’s taken a while to adjust to that new environment and MANY a lesson have been learned along the way.
It’s still a balancing act that I’m not exactly on top of, but putting in some basic boundaries again has helped a lot. Sundays are no phone days, we try to switch off after 9pm, we don’t work from home all day every day and we make sure to exercise throughout the week. We take little weekend trips to get out of town where we can and I still meditate regularly which is one of my greatest tools. Again, we get it wrong often and I burn out every now and then, but it’s all a work in progress!
On that same note, what do you believe are the first signs of burnout and how have you tried to avoid it?
I think that’s the big step – we all need to learn what our thresholds are as they’re different for everyone. The problem is the signs are there, but there’s so much noise in our worlds these days that we ignore them. My big lesson has been becoming more in tune with my body and mind so that I can react quicker before it’s too late. My tell-tale signs are my glands going up, I sometimes get a mouth ulcer or two, and my anxiety flares up again.
The key in those moments is not to think “oh I’ll just push through a few more days”, but to react immediately as your body is FAR smarter than you are.
So now, I’ll move back meetings or skip the gym, up my water, sleep earlier and try to knock it over the first time. It’s a constant battle in my mind between progress-driven crazy business woman versus sleepy yogi who loves resting!
What is one wellness tip you really advocate?
Meditation! It can be frustrating, takes time, and often won’t feel “worth it” but over time it has become my most valuable skill. My mind goes far too fast for my body and meditation forces me to stop to let everything catch up. It’s that gap that causes the burn out and the world moves way too fast for what our bodies are built for. Meditation really helps me resist the “glorification of busy” and the need for urgency when nothing, really, is urgent if you’re not a paramedic or a surgeon!
The other thing is pampering – it seems indulgent but really, it can be a HUGE health-promoting exercise that really enhances productivity and wellness. I do regular facials, massage and baths and they keep me on track. It’s hard to “wind down” and if you can find something like a massage that fast-tracks your relaxation, embrace it!
Serial! I’m a sucker for crime!
Favourite brunch spot?
Books you’re currently reading?
I haven’t been! I’ve been Netflix binging instead!
Thanks for your time and words of wisdom Sarah! We can’t wait to see what else you do in the Matcha world!