When did you know that you wanted to be a lawyer?
I did law simply because I got the marks to do so (not a good enough reason and something I counsel others against….). However, I realised I was interested in certain aspects of law when doing Professional Legal Practice at Springvale Legal Service with Adrian Evans and Family Law with Dorothy Kovacs at Monash Uni. Doing Professional Legal Practice showed me that I enjoyed interacting with and helping clients. I still feel the same way. Dorothy Kovacs brought family law to life. Again, it is the interpersonal aspect of family law that I find so interesting. Black letter law can make me yawn…
What are your passions outside of the law?
Singing and my family (I guess not in that order?)! I have been singing all my life and as a professional jazz singer for about 20 years. I love that my kids are very musical and into music.
If you had your time again, would you choose to practice in law? If not, what else would you choose to do?
I would have liked to have become a psychologist or an opera singer!
What would you say are the hazards of this profession?
How do you balance life and work?
I don’t! I feel like my work is my life and my life my work. I like to think of ‘life balance’ as something that I aspire to daily. I think that working in a way that accords with your values – for me that means working in family law in an ethical non-adversarial manner through mediation and collaborative law – whilst being immersed in all the other aspects of life such as family and music means that there is not such a division between non-work and work. I work from home running my practice in family law mediation and collaborative work. I also lecture at the College of Law and RMIT so I have a lot of flexibility to spend time with my family and pursue my interests. I am also involved in the Wellness for Law Network, which aspires to develop health, well-balanced lawyers, and sang at their recent conference dinner with the “Wellness Band”!
What will the legal profession look like in twenty-five years time?
Hopefully it will have a stronger focus on ethical practice including creative dispute resolution. By that I mean understanding disputes as a symptom of often complex conflict that, where possible, ought to be managed in a non-adversarial, inspired and principled manner.
What are your hopes for our profession?
That it truly becomes a caring profession. This will involve lawyers learning to think outside the square to find non-combative pathways. Too many lawyers are quick to automatically litigate when there are alternative options to assist clients. In family law I have never failed to be astounded by the number of lawyers who over-empathise with their clients, blindly take on their cause and perpetuate the animosity.
Mary Louise practices as a collaboratively trained Family Lawyer, Nationally Accredited Mediator and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. She also teaches Family Law, Dispute Resolution and Professional Legal Training at RMIT and the College of Law. Away from her day job, Mary Louise is a professional Jazz singer. Contact Mary Louise at: firstname.lastname@example.org or see her website at: www.spectrummediations.com.au