When John Bui told his parents he wanted to study law, they were far from keen. “Lawyers and police are corrupt and can’t be trusted,” they told him, urging him to study medicine instead.
Their view was based on experiences living under a corrupt regime in Vietnam, which they fled by boat in 1979 with their first daughter.
The family settled in Sydney as refugees and three more girls were born followed by John, their only son. He attended Patrician Brothers’ Fairfield then studied finance and law at the University of Technology, working nearly fulltime as a law clerk at Kazi Portolesi Lawyers in Fairfield while he was studying, despite his parents’ reluctance.
Three years ago, at age 26, he set up his own practice, JB & Associates in Canley Heights. Bui now has a team of five working with him in a general practice that involves a lot of family and commercial law.
We meet at Parramatta Family Court where Bui is representing a woman, aged 71, seeking a property settlement on a house and superannuation worth about $900,000. The woman met her ex-husband online and left him after six years because she was tired of him restricting how much money she had.
“A friend asked me to take it on because the client had very little,” Bui says. “I took it on because I felt really sorry for her. She had no financial independence, has no family here and no access to social security because she hasn’t lived in Australia for 10 years.
“This kind of case is exactly why I studied law. People call you up in times of distress and you can be their beacon of light.”
“I initially went into law to improve access to justice because I felt that members of the Vietnamese community didn’t have a strong belief in the legal system, whether it be in police officers or solicitors or magistrates or judges. They tend to think they are corrupt and that’s because of their upbringing back in Vietnam.