Member Spotlight – After dipping his toe into accounting, James Conomos was tempted away by the law

James Conomos has built up a successful boutique legal practice during the past 30 years, but early on he was destined for another career altogether.

James has been practicing law – commercial litigation and insolvency – for more than 35 years and for much of that time he’s headed up his own firm, James Conomos Lawyers (JCL). He’s a well-known legal figure in his native Brisbane and works closely with senior lawyers and judges across Australia, New Zealand and further afield. Ironically, law wasn’t his first career choice; initially, James trained as an accountant. For this, he blames his education – or rather lack of it.

I liked the way that in law every factual situation is different. Every problem a person has is different

“I wasn’t the greatest scholar,” he laughs. “My sisters were much better students, but I managed to get into university and eventually received a degree in commerce.”

This degree landed him a role at a small accountancy firm sampling documents for audits, a job that he admits was repetitive and deathly dull. Staring at a possible 40 years of poring over audit forms for a living, James decided to switch careers and return to university to study law.

“Now, I enjoyed that degree,” he says. “I liked the way that in law every factual situation is different. Every problem a person has is different, so you get to help people in relation to different types of things. Whereas in accounting all the work was exactly the same.

“After doing this for 35 years, I still really enjoy it. That’s important. With law you get lots of enjoyment out of it, make lots of good friends, meet people and get to be involved in organisations like IR Global. Of course, it also helps that you’re well remunerated.”

The downside to this is that you’re often dealing with people’s personal issues, particularly with litigation, or with the tragedy of people’s businesses when they’re going through an insolvency. “It is kind of a thankless job,” James says. “You’re dealing with everybody else’s problems and if you want to be any good at it you have to take all that on board. You constantly carry the problems of someone else with you and you care about these and end up taking them to heart. Dealing with that is a challenge, but that’s the job.”

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