What parallels exist between a lawyer and a fitness instructor? DDCS Lawyers senior associate Tim Nicholls says it’s a perfect mix.
Now an accredited specialist in family law, Tim pursued an athletic career in his early years. He competed in triathlons around the world and was a fitness instructor for 10 years at Fitness First in Canberra, leading Les Mills body pump, GRIT, RPM and Body Attack classes.
Tamworth born and bred, Tim moved to Canberra when he was 21 to study commerce, with no intention of ever getting into family law.
“I started doing commerce at university and I realised I hated it,” he says. “I wanted to connect with people, so I switched to law. I thought, law can’t be much worse than studying commerce.”
It was that desire to connect with people that convinced Tim to retire from triathlons and start studying.
“I’m a sociable person and I found the type of training and the life I was leading incredibly isolating,” he says.
“While it was all well and fun, I wanted to find something else and develop a purpose through that.”
Tim showed an interest in debating and interacting with people in high school. This helped his skills develop when he became a lawyer.
“I love being around people and hearing their stories, that personal engagement,” he says. “Family law’s a very dynamic field of law to work in. I really enjoy how it’s centred on people and their relationships.”
Tim’s connection with DDCS has now come full circle. While studying, he worked as a clerk in an administrative role in his first job in a law firm – at the front desk of DDCS.
After completing his studies, he headed to Sydney to work in various specialist family law firms to gain as much experience and exposure as possible.
Tim moved back to Canberra in 2020 to be closer to his parents and three younger sisters.
“I enjoyed my work in Sydney, but I never intended to stay there long term. It was just stretching my legs and trying something different.”
Tim recently returned to DDCS Lawyers as a senior associate and accredited specialist in family law.
He says his strong relationship with the partners at the firm influenced his decision to return.
“I felt very nurtured and comfortable with them. It’s a firm where differences and successes are celebrated. I felt like I was coming home.”
Tim says being a fitness instructor for so many years has taught him the power of connection with people and the value of making them feel comfortable and welcome.
“People are always nervous to go to the gym when they’re starting out for the first time. Likewise with family law because people usually only come and see us once in their life.
“No-one has any real idea about what family lawyers do to support our clients, or the kind of practice we do day to day.
“When people come to see us, their backs are up against the wall and they can be pretty vulnerable.
“It’s a deeply personal thing when you’re dealing with someone’s children or their finances and financial security. It’s actually quite amazing to see people become stronger and blossom through the process.”
As for his fitness career, Tim says working out and exercising is a release from everything, including the stresses and responsibilities of the job.
“I tend to specialise in complex litigation.
“Fitness is really a way for me to detach from my day-to-day life. It’s a mechanism for me to keep my mental health in check.”