Today’s guest, Sheetal Deo, wears many hats (it’s over-said, but true). She is the co-founder and President of Ethnic+, a not-for-profit that provides access to justice for the ethnically and linguistically-diverse Rainbow community and its allies. In the day time she works with Law students at QLS and in February of 2020 she became the fabulous, multi-faceted and ethically-driven owner of Shakti Legal Solutions.   

Read on for more great content or, to really get to know this marvel of law and human life and where she’s coming from, listen to the podcast! 

On the front page of Sheetal’s website is the slogan, “Lawyer by qualification. Advocate by choice,” and nothing could better sum up the attitude, or the movement, that she represents passionately throughout this episode. Embedded in her business model are several innovative ways of creating income while directly improving access for a community and, throughout our conversation, she gives a generously detailed rundown of each of her methods and how they work. 

Some of the details that make Shakti Legal so unique: 

  • Charging different fees based on a client’s means, like a ‘pay-what-you-can’ supermarket 
  • Low-bono, not pro-bono work 
  • Reaching out to and working with other firms at discounted rates in exchange for their expertise  

As well as being an advocate, Sheetal is a brilliant businesswoman, aided in part by her highly entrepreneurial brother who, I feel, deserves a shout out. What I really admire is her ability to find and know her niche, combining personal satisfaction with business acumen to boldly go where too few lawyers dare to.  

She says: “I felt an obligation to actually do something with the degree I have, but also I wanted freedom. Remember, back in the day, when we wanted freedom?!”  

I feel you, Sheetal. So many junior lawyers feel stuck on a conventional pathway and that is, after all, a big part of my motivation to make this podcast. We, as lawyers in general, aren’t the most progressive bunch and we tend to only make changes when we absolutely have to. Sheetal and I talk about what those changes might be in terms of freedom for ourselves, as people in the business of law, and for our clients.  

Why not work remotely if the work can get done anywhere? Why not charge people based on what they can afford? Why can’t we collaborate with other firms, why do we have to be in competition with them? There are, without a doubt, myths to be debunked here and listening to today’s episode might just be a great starting point.  

A summary of the topics we cover: 

  • Why it’s important to improve visibility of ‘non-conventional’ careers in law (traditional doesn’t = success). 
  • Alternative law firm models and how they can improve access to justice for the many that can’t afford it 
  • New, innovative ways of using your law degree to create income without sacrificing your morals 

About our guest: 

Sheetal Deo is first generation Canadian to migrant parents from Fiji with Indian ancestry. She came to Australia for law school and has been here since. She was admitted to legal practice in 2016 and after 3 years PAE worked towards opening her own firm, which she did in February this year. 

Her ‘day job’ is with Queensland Law Society as the Relationship Manager – Future Lawyers, Future Leaders. The purpose of this role is to support law students in their journey from law school to lawyer and then in their formative years of practice.  When she’s not advocating on behalf of her lawyer peers, she’s working alongside them to advocate for members of marginalised communities or moderate means through her own private practice, Shakti Legal Solutions. Shakti Legal is Sheetal’s contribution to improving access to justice.  

Sheetal is also the co-founder and President of Ethnic+, a not-for-profit member association for the culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) Rainbow community and its allies. The purpose of this group, according to Sheetal, is to help bridge the gaps in awareness and understanding between ‘the affected’ and their allies. 

Sheetal Deo quotes 

  • “I’m never going to be that very wealthy person but I’ll be that someone who was, hopefully, pivotal in providing access to justice to a wider community.” 
  • “If you’re considering doing law differently, don’t think about why law needs to be done differently, it obviously does, but why is it particular to you? What’s your driving force? That’s going to get you through those tough times when you face tension and friction because that’s change, it’s outside of your comfort zone and it’s outside of the legal comfort zone.” 
  • “Knowing the how is so pivotal because the why has been done now. The future is coming, blah blah, the future was like five years ago. The hesitation to adopt is a resistance to change which you get in lawyers generally and the unknown of how to do it! It’s very difficult to be the first people to jump into something new.” 

Find Sheetal online 

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