What makes a best lawyer?

More than 10 years ago, I walked into a martial arts club and took a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class. This class was around 50 minutes of combat sport based on grappling with particular emphasis on ground fighting. I took this class in Adelaide, South Australia as part of a team which is now known as South Australian Brazilian Jui-jitsu (“SABJJ”).  I know now that Jiu Jitsu is considered a martial art. However, it is also more than that. It is character-building, disciplinary way of life, and develops a healthy mindset. I walked out of there dripping in sweat and I would not realise how much this translated to into my legal profession, making me the best Lawyer I can be.

Our latest opinion shared with Lawyers Weekly: How practising Brazilian Jui Jitsu has taught me to become a better lawyer

Jiu-jitsu has been a terrific hobby and has taught me many valuable lessons in my own development personally, emotionally and professionally in the practice of being the best lawyer possible for myself and the legal profession.
The lessons below are some of the things which I have learnt from jiu-jitsu which have helped in my endeavour to become the best lawyer that I can be. I hope that some of these might be useful to you so that you are able to use them to progress in your own career.

Attention To Detail

The consistent focused approach towards attention to detail are key components in both Jiu-jitsu and the work of a lawyer.  There have been so many lessons which BJJ teaches and through the application of these lessons I have become the best lawyer I can be and also the best version of myself possible.
Jiu-jitsu is taught with the instructor demonstrating a technique and often some athletic moves. Students are then required to go and repeat the same with a training partner and apply each of the minor details that the technique can come off properly in practice and sparing.

As lawyers, we are required to pay careful attention to detail when applying mental aptitude, performing under pressure and when negotiating problems. The ability to give attention to detailed tasks is a critical requirement. On the pursuit of becoming the best lawyer a young practitioner is taught by those more experienced to pay close attention and aiming to read materials closely will assist in becoming the best lawyer.

Healthy Lifestyle

Jiu-jitsu inspires a healthy lifestyle because a leaner fitter student is more likely able to learn faster and attend more classes which brings with it greater levels of skill development and achievement.

In striving to perform at your best emotionally, psychologically and professionally you need to live a healthy lifestyle. As a lawyer, when proper diet health and fitness strategies are in place clearer focus, greater energy and higher levels of productivity are achieved.

The physical side of Jiu-jitsu strongly encourages a proper diet and the art encompasses body, mind and spirit where together these elements bring unique abilities into the practice of law and make yourself the best lawyer in your own work.


I have learned the value and need for developing skills and learning knowledge which is gained through having mentors.

I have great mentors both in Jiu-jitsu and in the law. In the legal profession my mentors have taught me the skills as a pathway to developing the knowledge needed in the law and in assisting me to become the best lawyer version of myself.

My Jiu-jitsu mentor is Thiago Stefanutti. He teaches me both at the Absolute MMA and privately in his own home. Having Thiago as my mentor means I am shown techniques and given solutions through the passing of direct knowledge which leads to a more rapid learning path as a result.  I often apply these lessons into my profession endeavouring to become the best lawyer.

Staying Positive

I have previously competed in the Jiu-jitsu World Championships as a blue belt, which were held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Learning how to deal with the pressure of Jiu-jitsu competition has helped me to learn how to deal with the stress of being a lawyer and aiming to become the best lawyer possible.

In Jiu-jitsu it is important to stay calm, focused and to think positively so that you stay in control and these mindful resources can assist in the practice of law.

Law is often thought of as being a stressful profession which can sometimes lead to anxiety and stress. I have learnt through Jiu-jitsu that staying focussed and positive can help with the more difficult and stressful times in the law.


In Jiu-jitsu, discipline is required to attend all classes, complete all drills and to keep the consistency of training. Likewise, excellence in law requires repetition and discipline to become best lawyer and achieve your best results in the profession whilst aiming to become the best lawyer.

Jiu-jitsu is one of the more difficult systems to progress through the grades, from white to black belt, which can take ten years or more. A typical class involves rounds and rounds of sparring with often heavier or more skilled opponents. Sometimes staying positive and disciplined is the only way to complete each of the rounds.

When proper discipline is applied to the practice of law, it allows skills to develop and then a lawyer can achieve higher quality work in less time and with less stress. A young lawyer must repetitively do the right actions before reaching their highest potential and it is only after enough disciplined repetition of technique and skill that a lawyer develops the knowledge and experience needed to excel.

In law I have learned to recognise that sometimes doing those things I don’t want to do are in fact a key component to success. For example when working on a large size transaction or a complex litigation matter you might need to work longer hours, not because you want to, rather because the disciplined approach requires it.

Matthew Karakoulakis (pictured, left) is the founder and principal solicitor at AMK Law. Photo by Melissa Stefanutti

Overall, I hope these lessons that might be of assistance in the development of your own legal career and in the journey of you becoming the best lawyer you can be. Jiu-jitsu has been a fantastic asset to my life, so has law and both do bring lessons, triumphs and disappointments.

A belief I have learned to adopt is that when one has applied themselves to achieve a goal, there are only ever really two outcomes which can result: either to “win” or to “learn”, come back and try again. Just like in law, trying again and again to be the best lawyer possible.

The main thing is to keep consistency, stay positive, have great teachers and to do your best in all that you do.