By Arna Delle-Vergini
Recently I almost had cause to change my entire career. Sort of. Maybe. Quite possibly. Perhaps not. Well, not at all really.
It happened innocently enough. It was a Friday afternoon. I was casually reading a copy of ‘In Brief’ (newsletter for Victorian Barristers) when I saw it: a call-out for all interested barristers to audition in a ground-breaking, all- barrister cast, of ‘12 Angry Men’. You may remember the 1957 American movie produced by Reginald Rose and starring Henry Ford. Or you may be too young to remember or even care. Suffice it to say ‘12 Angry Men’ is a classic, up there with ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. How could I say ‘no’?
More importantly, how could I deny BottledSnail Productions (the company producing the play) my talents? Afterall, did I not play ‘Kate’ in the High School Production of ‘Kiss Me Kate’? And did not my mother and other disinterested spectators suggest that Cole Porter himself would have been proud of my rendition of a newly married shrewish harpie?
Of course I had to audition, and audition I did. Not just once, but twice! I realised I had it in the bag when the producer (or it could have been his assistant or some other associated person) said: “you’re so talented” (although it might have been, “you have some talent- we’ll call you”). In any event, I was so confident I began texting my friends and telling them if they needed me I’d be in my trailer. I may have also even hinted to my clerk once or twice that he may have to block out some days in September. He looked suitably bored.
I like to think that I’m the modest type – but make no mistake, while I was waiting for my acceptance call, I was busily building castles in the air. ‘12 Angry Men’ was just the beginning. After I was discovered by a talent scout – inevitable – I’d then be quickly cast in a small speaking role in Rake, before picking up a lead role in Paper Giants and before I knew it I’d be a Melissa George, living in LA, appearing in supporting roles in B-Grade American movies and complaining that nobody ever recognises me for my true talents.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear – the road to stardom is such a slippery slope!
As it turns out, BottledSnail forgot me first! Put another way, twelve other barristers showed more talent and I never got a part in the play. I didn’t even get a back-stage role which says a lot, I think, about the calibre of the production since I wouldn’t know my AC’s from my DC’s. The producer was suitably apologetic but under no circumstances would he accept a (not insubstantial) sum to give me a role. Purist!
Getting into law these days can be a little bit like turning up for the same audition time and time again only to be told that there is no part for you in this particular play – ‘please apply again another time’. The current legal landscape for new lawyers – like it or not, is that there are just not enough jobs out there. Graduate lawyers face constant rejection while looking for work they have spent years (and a lot of money) qualifying for. How disheartening!
I’m not in a position to create jobs but I can (hopefully) influence attitudes. My suggestion is that you give it more time. I know that you are ready. I know that you are anxious to get started. But I also know that there is high competition out there just to secure voluntary placements at local community legal centres! The reality is the road to getting where you want to be is a lot less direct than when I started out. My suggestion is so simple it is challenging – embrace what cannot be changed. Embrace the reality of underemployment for new lawyers and find a way to turn it into an opportunity for you. That means, allow yourself to meander a little. Do other stuff, whether legally related or not. Broaden your ideas about how to get to the end goal and come at it from new angles. But above all, enjoy the journey now, whether or not it immediately resembles the journey you first dreamed of. And who knows, while on your travels you may happen to find yourself cast in a grand theatre production. If so, great, go for it! You wouldn’t be the first lawyer lost forever to the entertainment industry!
BottledSnail is The Production Company for Melbourne’s Legal Industry. BottledSnail aims to promote wellbeing in lawyers by providing creative opportunities and producing amazing events and productions. Check them out at www.bottledsnail.com