When did you know that you wanted to be a lawyer?
When I was in Year Twelve and we had to work out our choices for future study. My parents and teachers had other ideas and I wanted my future to be my decision. So I went through various career books until I came across Law.
What attracts you most to the profession of law?
I think it was in my blood. My Father was a lawyer and my Grandfather was too. They both started off as barristers. I think for me it’s about helping people and solving problems.
What are your passions outside of the law?
I love music and art. I love listening to music in the car and when I am at home. I have eclectic tastes; so I am happy to be introduced to someone new. I enjoy going to art galleries and exhibitions and I do paint and enjoy craft activities. I know I have a strong creative drive and so I aim to make time to do something creative when I can.
If you could only give one bit of advice to new lawyers, what would it be?
In the past year I have worked with volunteers and law students and I have said to them “Learn to say YES.” By this I mean, don’t be afraid if you don’t know something or feel you haven’t got enough knowledge. You can say YES and you can say you would like to learn more about X or Y. Then you really give it a seriously good go and see where it leads you. I think you will find it truly rewarding.
What makes a lawyer a great lawyer?
I think the first thing is being able to create TRUST very quickly with your client. Your client must feel that their case is the most important and that you are really listening and are committed to assisting them.
Keep learning; not just for keeping up CPD points, but study or learn something not related to your particular area of interest. It is also important to learn from your Teachers/those Senior Personnel you work with and find some Mentors who are happy to support you in your career goals. Don’t be afraid to ask; just do it!
How do you balance life and work?
I think the balancing act is tricky for most people. In my case I was a single parent and what I did was I learnt to delegate both at work and at home. I also learned to be very organised; both at home and at work. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be concerned by what others say. It’s your life, so live it your way. If that means you have a cleaner to clean your home or you have a nanny to look after your children, do it.
What do I love about being a lawyer?
I do love what I do. I enjoy working with and helping others. I love learning and I also enjoy ‘the thrill of the chase’; doing new things learning new things.
As I say to people “I love the law and for the most part I have enjoyed all my roles. I haven’t always enjoyed working with the people I have had to work with.” This is not unusual and sometimes it has been very difficult. Ultimately, it’s what we take away from those situations. So I ask myself – “What did you learn?” and “How can you do things differently?” This is the gift of these situations.
Monica has developed a strong career providing policy and legal advice in both the public (local, state and national) and private (corporate and private practice) sector. Currently, Monica is the Chief Executive Officer of Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV), a Specialist Community Legal Centre that assists the most disadvantaged and socially excluded members of the community with their social security issues.
Monica has managed the ‘jobvoice’ project for SSRV. JobVoice is an online technological portal to provide jobseekers with a space to provide stories of their experiences with job service providers and also obtain information on which provider may be the best match. The project will be officially launched on Monday 2 March 2015. Visit: https://jobvoice.org.au/