Kripi Bhatt is Legal Counsel at CPB Contractors. Prior to moving to Australia, she worked at a top commercial law firm in India in the banking and finance sector. Despite her extensive experience, Bhatt struggled to find work when she first arrived in Australia. Now employed by a leading construction company, Bhatt talks about her career and the committee she’s set up to support foreign qualified lawyers migrating to Australia.
Tell us about your upbringing?
I grew up in a small town in the centre of India. To give you an understanding of how small it is, malls were only built there a couple of years ago. There were not many opportunities growing up. I decided to do law because in India you see extreme human rights issues every day and I wanted to help. Fortunately, I was able to get into one of the top 10 law schools in India and from there I was placed in a top-tier law firm in Mumbai.
What is it like working as a lawyer in the building and construction industry?
I’m a first-generation, female, foreign qualified, Indian lawyer working in Australia. Being a woman in construction adds another dimension. I make sure I’m extra prepared, even if it’s the simplest of meetings, to subvert any potential presumption. It is an extremely interesting industry and working with CPB Contractors, I get to be part of the most iconic projects in Australia. Even in 50 years, I’ll be able to tell my kids “I worked on that”.
What has been a particular obstacle you have had to overcome?
When I first arrived in Australia and started applying for jobs, recruiters told me “you will never get a job” or “why don’t you just change your career?” I applied for hundreds of legal jobs and was rejected from almost all of them. Despite having experience at a top-tier law firm in India I was rejected on the basis that I had no local experience. But how was I meant to obtain local experience when no one was willing to give me an opportunity in Australia?
Tell us about the Foreign Qualified Lawyers Sub-Committee
The Foreign Qualified Lawyers Sub-Committee is a group I founded within the NSW branch of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA). It’s for overseas lawyers who come to Australia and have to re-qualify and break into the legal profession. I created this sub-committee because I lacked mentorship when I arrived in Australia. I wanted to create a network for foreign lawyers and equip them with the skills they need to adapt to the Australian legal market. I want to grow this group and bring awareness to the struggles and barriers foreign qualified lawyers face.
What has been your career highlight?
I am really proud I am now qualified in two different jurisdictions and that I overcame the identity crisis I had when I first moved. I’ve been able to move from a one day a week position into a full-time role in a top-tier construction company. I’ve also set up a committee where I can help foreign qualified lawyers. I’m passionate about getting people to talk about the issues foreign lawyers face as it has largely been ignored in Australia until now.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love reading. I’m someone who usually has five books going at any one time. I also enjoy bushwalking, so I try and go up to the Blue Mountains and catch a sunrise every now and again. Every year I also try and learn a new skill. Last summer, I learnt surfing and this year I’m looking to go skiing.