Like a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Chris Koikas grew up directly next door to his Greek grandparents. However, instead of working in his parents’ travel agency like the protagonist in that film, he’s become one of the youngest barristers in NSW.
At only 26, he is surrounded by some of the brightest legal minds in Australia and is involved in significant cases that have taken him from the Local Court all the way up to the NSW Court of Appeal.
Chris has chosen to specialise in Planning and Environment law, which aligns with his interests in property development. (Did I mention he is followed by some 32,000 people online?).
Greek City Times sat down with him to get the inside scoop.
Full name: Chris Koikas
Where is your family from in Greece?
My paternal grandmother is from Titani, and my paternal grandfather is from Nemea, which is in the mountains near Corinth. My maternal grandmother is from Patra, and my maternal grandfather is from the Island of Samos, where the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was born.
Both sets of grandparents arrived in and around 1957. They came by plane, not boat, a fact of which they like to remind me. They were all very active in the Greek community from early on. Both of my grandfathers had some involvement in starting the Greek Orthodox Church in Kogarah, where I eventually attended Greek School.
Where is your favourite place in Greece to visit?
There is this spectacular part of the Island of Samos where you are surrounded by waterfalls in what feels like a tropical jungle, but nothing beats Mykonos with a good group of friends!
What is your favourite memory of being in Greece?
Competing in the 2009 Karate World Championships in Athens with my older brother. I was the only one who walked away with a medal.
Where did your interest in Law come from?
Being the middle child, I had lots of opportunities to argue with my two brothers. It occurred to me that I really enjoyed arguing. Law was a natural choice. I also thought it was incredibly relevant, and interesting and I thought I would enjoy the challenge.
What subject was your favourite at University?
My favourite subject was ‘Evidence’, which is a subject where you learn the rules that dictate how evidence is admitted and used in Court. When someone says “I object” in court scenes in movies, it’s probably because whatever was, or is about to be said, breaks one of the rules of evidence. It was a very practical course where we got to see how all the rules worked together, and I found it fascinating and enjoyable.
What made you want to be a barrister?
The Hollywood movie, ‘Legally Blonde’ (joking). I asked my Evidence lecturer what area of law people go into if they enjoy Evidence and she said they become barristers. I then reached out to a few barristers and after meeting with them and hearing about what their day-to-day was like, I decided it was the perfect match for me.
How did you know it was time for you to go to the bar?
I felt I had learnt a lot in the short time I was as a solicitor. I had good training, and was lucky enough to work with really great lawyers and that gave me the confidence to go as early as I did. I also knew it was what I ultimately wanted to do and senior barristers I had spoken to told me it wouldn’t be a mistake to go so early if I knew it’s what I wanted to do. My parents were also a good support network.
How did you become interested in Planning and Environment law?
I chose the area because I enjoy property, development, and environmental issues, and my dad happened to be an expert acoustic witness in the Land and Environment Court, which is where planning and environmental law matters are mostly heard. So growing up, I heard lots of stories about court cases in that area, and it intrigued me.
How do you stay motivated to work so hard? (I can imagine it was a long process and you would be working some big hours)
I thoroughly enjoy my work and the people I work with, so it doesn’t feel like work to me. Maybe ask me again in 5 years.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face on a daily basis as a barrister?
None of my clients has told me they enjoy attending Court. It’s stressful and uncertain. People go to court when there is a lot at stake. I play a role in the decisions that ultimately get handed down. That weighs heavily on me.
How do you find being one of the youngest barristers in NSW?
I don’t notice it. I don’t think I’m treated any differently from any other barrister. I get judged on the quality of my work, which is what matters. On the other hand, I don’t mind challenging the idea that you need 10+ years of experience as a solicitor before you should go to the bar. I’m not the first barrister to come to the bar young, and I definitely won’t be the last.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
I enjoy socialising with friends, and I’m a huge foodie! My favourite restaurant would have to be Alpha on Castlereagh Street.
Where is the first place in Greece you are going to go to this summer, and what is the first thing you are going to order?
Athens and a taxi.
Any advice to those interested in a career in law?
Speak with people who are in the profession like I did. My door is always open.
Read also Kafedaki with Julian Hill