When did you know that you wanted to be a lawyer?
I actually didn’t really know I wanted to a lawyer until I started working in a law firm. When I was finishing school I wanted to be a vet or a physiotherapist. It was the 80s (the time of power suits and the glamour of “LA Law”) and a stint of work experience with a vet confirmed I did not like blood, so I enrolled in Commerce/Law degree. Given the way law was taught back then, law school seemed so unconnected with real life. It was not until I got a part time job in a law firm doing personal injuries cases and started to meet with injured workers and their families that I realised the law could assist people. It was then that I decided I wanted to be a lawyer.
What attracts you most to the profession of law?
So at first it was helping individual people, then I worked on a few cases that had broader social implications and I was attracted to the law as a tool for broader systemic change. It was important though to build my skills as a lawyer. I think it was Justice Kirby who once said that if you want to use the law to make change then you have to be a good lawyer first and foremost.
If you had your time again, would you choose to practice in law? If not, what else would you choose to do?
I think I would be a lawyer again. I would love to go to law school now with the new focus on teaching social context and therapeutic jurisprudence. I do worry about the graduates coming out of law school now given how hard it is to find graduate positions and sustain a living in the industry.
What was the single moment, case or event that you feel defined you as a lawyer?
I can’t think of a single moment and I wonder whether this idea of the heroic lawyer with THE big case is healthy for lawyers. For me the types of moments that defined me as a lawyer were when I was able to show compassion to someone who needed my assistance. Maybe it’s these little moments that lawyers should celebrate more. They can happen every day if you choose to practice in that way.
If you could only give one bit of advice to new lawyers, what would it be?
Try to expose yourself to as a many experiences as possible before you decide which area of the law you want to focus on. The law is so diverse and it takes a while to find out what will excite and sustain you.
What is your best tip for maintaining sanity in the law?
It might be hard but try to find a job that you love where you feel you can make a difference. If you can’t find that job then try to make a difference outside of your day job e.g. volunteering at a community legal centre advice night.
What will the legal profession look like in twenty five years time?
Lawyers in all areas of the law will work in multi-disciplinary teams where the lawyer will work with social workers, financial counsellors, drug counsellors to deal not only with the legal problem but with the impacts of the law on the individual and the broader community. Their work will be informed by the law but also other disciplines like addiction medicine and behavioural science. Therapeutic jurisprudence, the maximisation of the therapeutic impacts of the design of the law, legal process and the roles of legal actors, will become part and parcel of how lawyers work.
Her Honour was appointed as a Magistrate with the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria in 2006. She currently sits at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court one of Victoria’s busiest mainstream courts. Her Honour previously worked in as a lawyer in private practice and in the community legal centre movement. Prior to her appointment, she was the Executive Officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the peak body for over 50 community legal centres in Victoria. Her Honour has an interest in therapeutic jurisprudence; improved responses to family violence; and improving connections between the court and the community. She is a member of the Advisory Group for the International Therapeutic Jurisprudence in the Mainstream Project: www.mainstreamtj.wordpress.com