Judicial Bullying: a (brief) Beginner’s Guide

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I have been coaching new lawyers for many years now, either in group workshops, or privately as an individual, and the one conversation that I can always count on having is the conversation about judicial bullying. Whilst not every new lawyer has experienced judicial bullying, most have, and the ones that have not experienced it directly have seen it happen to colleagues and live in fear of it happening to them.

Alarmingly, those that report having been bullied by judicial officers, describe their experience in terms that are almost identical to how victims of verbal and psychological violence in a domestic setting describe their experience. For instance, they talk of being frozen in the moment, unable to respond for fear of exacerbating the bullying, being unable to flee (as a practitioner cannot leave the Bar table without permission) and feeling sick to their stomach, distressed, and sometimes unspeakably angry, but at the same time feeling completely unable to defend themselves adequately due to the power imbalance between them and the judicial officer. They speak of being so thoroughly humiliated that they have sometimes resorted to taking days off after the event. They speak of having a sleepless night or two where they mentally run through everything they have done – should I have said this? Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. They think if they can identify what it is they have done to deserve the bullying, they can make sure they don’t do it again and they will therefore not be bullied in the future. Usually they then speak to me of plans they have come up with to try and stave off the next bullying attack. Finally, they ask me hopefully if I have any tips for them. I never enjoy the look of fear and disappointment that crosses their faces when I advise that actually there is nothing they can do to stave off the next attack. Absolutely nothing.

Relying on the lived experience of new lawyers that confide in me, judicial bullying often includes (but is not limited to):
– Shouting at them;
– Deliberately saying things to embarrass or humiliate them;
– Asking them to justify themselves in circumstances that are unfair;
– Calling them names;
– Calling into question their professionalism in circumstances that are unfair;
– Accusing them of incompetence in circumstances that are unfair;
– Using various facial expressions to demean or intimidate them;
– Setting unrealistic time frames;
– Making them work through lunch breaks;
– Refusing to give them time to formulate an argument or response in circumstances where it is unfair to do so.

Apart from being obviously degrading and damaging to lawyers, judicial bullying can be disruptive to the court process itself (it can sometimes take an awful long time to pontificate), and it can also be damaging to lawyer/client relations. The client is unlikely to be able to objectively assess the judicial officer’s words or looks and can sometimes take their words, for instance, as statements of fact from a higher authority. The client then leaves court feeling that the lawyer has not done their job properly or has otherwise failed them and that, therefore, they have not had a fair hearing. Likewise, other lay people sitting in the body of the court would be forgiven for watching a judicial bully in full flight and wondering whether it is even possible for justice to be done in such a chaotic courtroom.

Of course, we are not talking here about justifiable complaints made by judicial officers. I have never had a new lawyer complain about a justifiable complaint made with grace and tact. I have received many complaints about judicial officers using the inexperience of a new lawyer as an excuse to vent some of their own inner stresses.

And this is where it gets interesting. I think we can all agree that psychologically healthy people do not bully others. The same goes for judicial officers. Psychologically healthy judicial officers do not bully others. If they do feel that the advocate has not performed to their expectations, they may say so tactfully and gracefully. Healthy judicial officers do not resort to name-calling, shouting, or facial expressions designed to humiliate or intimidate the advocate. Judicial bullying, seen in this context, stems from a mental health crisis in the judiciary which impacts, in turn, on the wider profession and the community as a whole.

So what is to be done? How do we make judges healthy so we can work in a healthy workplace?

Happily, this question has already been asked and answered in part by the Judicial College of Victoria who recently launched Australia’s first online wellness resource for judicial officers aimed at assisting “judicial officers to respond optimally to stress in themselves and others.” http://www.judicialcollege.vic.edu.au/judicial-wellbeing. Naturally, the idea behind the resource is to promote wellness among judicial officers who are renowned for suffering from stress, anxiety and even vicarious trauma associated with their unrelenting work schedules and the nature of the proceedings that play out before them.

At the same time, the government is also taking steps to bring about some much needed accountability. In 2015 the Andrews Labor Government announced that they would establish a new commission to investigate complaints into the conduct of judicial officers in Victoria. The commission will not only be able to investigate complaints, it will also have a process for especially serious cases whereby it can refer judicial officers to a special panel with coercive powers. In some circumstances the panel could recommend removal from office. The Judicial Commission of Victoria Act 2016 comes into operation 1 July 2017. Under s5 and s6 of this Act an individual or, a professional body on the individual’s behalf can make a complaint into the conduct or capacity of a judicial officer or a non-judicial member of VCAT. This is important, as many individuals may be reluctant to report poor judicial behaviour if it may mean jeopardising their career. The Heads of Jurisdiction, the AG and the IBAC can also make referrals. The Act provides the commission with coercive powers. Judicial officers can be made to produce documents, appear at hearings, undergo a medical procedure and the Commission even has the power to issue search warrants.

Unfortunately, the legislation does not identify what type of conduct is reportable. Likewise, it does not refer specifically to judicial bullying and it does not provide a definition of it. For a long time conversations about judicial bullying have been complicated by the lack of any universally accepted definition of what judicial bullying is. We do, however, currently have two definitions of ‘workplace bullying’ within the legal profession that we can draw from. For instance, under Rule 123(c) of the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015 – a barrister must not in the course of practice, engage in conduct which constitutes workplace bullying defined as: “unreasonable behaviour that could reasonably be expected to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, isolate, alienate, or cause serious offence to a person working in a workplace”. The Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitor’s Conduct Rules 2015 has a similar provision but its definition of workplace bullying is, arguably, broader. It defines bullying, as “bullying that is unlawful under the applicable state or territory anti discrimination or human rights legislation If no legislative definition exists, it is conduct within the definition relied upon by the Australian Human Rights Commission to mean workplace bullying. In general terms in includes the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice. It includes behaviour that could be expected to intimated, offend, degrade or humiliate.”

Putting definitions aside, the twin approach of assisting judicial officers to be psychologically healthy as well as making them potentially accountable for their stress-related behaviours has to be a recipe for success.

While we are patiently waiting for the effects of these latest innovations in the legal landscape to trickle down here are some tips to assist the new lawyer to manage their experience of judicial bullying.

• Place the behaviour in context. It helps to understand judicial bullying as a reflection of the psychological status of the judicial officer, rather than being attributable to something you have done or haven’t done.
• Don’t show fear. Be firm with the judicial officer, particular if they are resorting to name-calling, shouting, or accusations of unprofessional conduct. You are entitled to defend yourself. You might say for example: “Your Honour’s accusations are unfair. They are unfair because…”. It is not a sign of impertinence to defend yourself against unfair statements.
• If you have made a mistake and the judicial officer has taken delight into causing you to feel even more humiliation about it than you already do, please go easy on yourself. The judicial officer is suffering from what the writer calls SSMS, or, Sudden Short Memory Syndrome, where they suddenly cannot recall any of their early career mistakes and hold all lawyers to the same standard whether the lawyer has been admitted to practice for one week or twenty years. You don’t have to allow their SSMS to bring you down.
• De-brief with colleagues. It always helps to talk about the experience and your colleagues will no doubt have stories of their own to share.
• Do not go over and over the incident in your mind and wonder what you could have done to change it. You are never responsible for the behaviour of a judicial officer. Never!
• If it is a very serious case of judicial bullying, report the matter to the LIV or Vic Bar (whichever is your professional association) – they are able to take the matter on your behalf to the Heads of Jurisdiction.
• After work, go home and be extra kind to yourself. You have just been through an ordeal. Don’t just sweep it under the carpet. Process it by talking, writing or meditating but at the same time tell yourself quite explicitly that you are going to look after yourself now as you have been treated poorly and you deserve better.

Good luck!

What you See is What you Get

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by Arna Delle-Vergini

This actually happened.

Just before Christmas I was arriving home from work and as I pulled up in front of my house I saw a young man, approximately aged fifteen, entering my house and pulling the security door quickly behind him. He was tall, thin, and clearly adolescent with scraggy blond unwashed hair, very thin gangly limbs and wearing a bright fluorescent pink singlet and board shorts. I only managed to get a glimpse of him before he entered the house but it was enough of a glimpse to know that he definitely was not one of my nephews and, since I don’t know any other teenage boys, it rather seemed to me that he had no right to be there.

I quickly sprung into action and called 000. I was immediately told a car was on its way and not to enter the house. Of course I was not going to enter the house! I didn’t even feel comfortable in my car so opted instead for crouching behind the car and peering through the driver’s window. I reasoned that I could bolt if he came out of the house whereas if I was in the car, I might fumble with keys; struggle to start the car, all sorts of things could go wrong. The police hadn’t yet arrived when I saw the same teenage boy walk out the side door into my garden. I saw the top of his head over the fence. “What’s he doing in the yard?” I asked myself. I decided that he was going to carry all of the electronic goods out into the yard, protected from onlookers by the fence, and then ultimately leave through the side gate. Of course! That’s what I would do if I were committing a burglary on a house like mine! I felt a little bit proud of him.

When the police arrived I told them that he was out in the garden and I gave them the keys. There was a male and a female officer. Both were well kitted out with guns and batons and capsicum spray. I was surprised to see them wearing bullet vests. (‘Is there going to be a shootout?’ I thought. ‘Good god, I’d rather just forego the electrical goods.’) But by this stage it was well out of my hands. The male police officer took up position at the left side of the property where the front door was and the female took up position by the side gate. She ducked down so that the offender couldn’t see her and peered through a gap in the gate before quickly ducking down again. She must have seen him straight away!

This was all getting a bit much for me. Crouched low behind my car, I considered, quite seriously, just leaving the cops to their business and hitting my local for a glass of prosecco. What I did not want – what I was quite sure I could not cope with – was to watch the police arrest an emaciated teenage boy, drag him out in cuffs and then throw him in the divvy van. As much as I wanted to avoid watching that spectacle, I decided to stay. After all, I would be a handy witness in the event of any potential ‘police brutality’. A strange thought, I am aware, given that the police were there to protect me.

At that point the policewoman departed (one would presume) with the usual protocol by calling out to me rather loudly and completely blowing my cover: “Are you sure it’s a male?” she yelled.

“Of course I’m sure it’s a male” I yelled back from behind my car, really annoyed that she’d given my location away.

The police woman peered over my fence again: “Are you absolutely sure?”
(Really, are we even having this conversation?) “Yes, yes, absolutely sure.”

Then slowly, in a moment which I am unlikely to forget in a long time, my side gate slowly creaked open and out walked my five foot nothing, blond, Swedish cleaner holding a broom. “Can I help you?” she demanded of the policewoman, incredulously. The policewoman turned to me with an expression that probably should have been sheer contempt but was more a kindly intentioned bemusement. Had I only kept seated in the car I could have swung into gear and just nonchalantly driven off, pretending to know nothing of the odd affair my cleaner had found herself in. However, I had to suffer the indignity of suddenly stepping out from the car and greeting Anita (not her real name) with a casual “Oh hey, how you going? So got a funny story to tell you!”

To their credit, the police were very kind about the whole thing. I apologised profusely but they just laughed and said, “no worries”. I got the sense that they were relieved they had avoided a confrontation. Even Anita could see the humour in it all. I, on the other hand, was utterly mortified.

How could I have seen a tall, gangly, pimply, adolescent boy with cropped hair when in reality my cleaner is pushing five foot, with a high pony tail of very clean blonde hair, and was wearing tracksuit pants at the time, not board-shorts at all? The only part of the description I had gotten right was the fluorescent pink singlet.

Of all people, I should know about the fallibility of eyewitness testimonies. I, of all people, should know that we are in the process of interpreting our memories at the precise time that they are being formed. Memory is an utterly creative act. It is never a picture of exactly what happened that we just replay in our mind at will. It is constantly evolving and this is particularly so the more we tell the story or our remembered event. Good god! I’ve dined out on this story so many times now I can’t even say: “this actually happened” with any sense of surety at all. In that way, we are all a bit like the Golux – we make things up you know.

The question then becomes, well why did I make up the story of the teenage boy committing a burglary on my house? I knew that my cleaner was coming over. Why didn’t I see that person at the door and tell myself that’s Anita? Instead, I became convinced, in the blink of an eye, that it was an unknown male. I even added bits of information that clearly was not there including the short, shaggy hair. I believe I saw in that person what I expected to see. And, as a woman who has been practicing in criminal law and associated areas for over fifteen years now, what I expected to see was a criminal. It’s kind of a bit sad isn’t it?

Bias comes into play every single time we observe an event and every time we remember it. Despite my exposure to how fallible and misleading eyewitness events are, I was no different than anyone else in the same situation. Potentially, I was even worse because I have bias x 1000 as a result of my occupation. The take away lesson for me is to look more clearly, take more time to question my perceptions and certainly, count to ten before I ever call 000 again. The shame of it!

Workplace Infidelity – the Acceptable Affair.

Look, I don’t hold myself out to be an expert on these matters but usually when people marry, they intend for their marriage to last forever. We don’t expect the bride and/or groom to recite their vows promising to be true for better, for worse, for richer, for poor, in sickness and in health – well, at least until they get a better offer!” If that were the case, it would be hardly worth the effort would it? I ask this almost (but not quite) rhetorically. With divorce rates as they are, one could be forgiven for being cynical about some people’s motivations to marry, or at least cynical of any realistic appraisal of their own capacity to actually remain in a marriage.

But I digress.

We are I believe – in spirit anyway – a faithful or, at least, fearful species. We need to have some belief that our current situation will last, or else we feel too insecure to go about the business of living. We depend on a feeling of permanency in order to relax and get the job done. I’m not being critical of this by the way. I think it’s incredibly important. People who constantly worry that the sky is going to fall in on them are not terribly productive people. Unless they are in the workplace. The workplace is a very different creature to marriage and here is why.

I think it is accepted now that almost all of us will have many jobs in our lifetime. There is always the odd Gina Reinhardt but, heiresses aside, most of us will seek out various positions over the course of a career, or, indeed, be sought out for various positions. So it follows that every time we start a new job we need to be conscious of the fact that it is unlikely to be a marriage made in heaven; even if it feels like that to begin with. In short, we are in it for a good time not a long time.

This is worth pointing out because I mentor a lot of new lawyers – many of whom happily state that they will never leave their current workplace; they are far too happy where they are. These new lawyers are in the honeymoon period of their employment sure, but they truly believe what they are saying. This is lovely. But also a little misguided and it can actually operate to their detriment.

If you are in a reasonably secure workplace, I’m afraid you still need to reserve a small corner of your heart for the inevitable prospect of infidelity. More than that, I would advise you to make it your mission to look around – are their other positions in other organisations that catch your eye? Great! Then work towards those positions by utilizing the training opportunities in your current workplace. Keep in mind you need to be completely on top of your own professional development in order to be competitive in the marketplace; not just in the broader marketplace, but also in the smaller marketplace, i.e. within the organization in which you work. Are you happy where you are right now? Great! But don’t stop up-skilling, networking or looking around generally. To do so would just be to ignore the reality of the modern workplace.

“What about loyalty to my employer?” I hear you ask. Loyalty to your employer is absolutely critical but it doesn’t involve a commitment to ‘everafter’. Loyalty to your employer only requires that you be thoroughly engaged in your work, the organization’s ethos, and your own professional development whilst you are in their employ.

So how do you make sure you are eminently employable at all times no matter whose employ you are in? I advise all new lawyers (all lawyers actually) to engage in the following 6 core activities as a minimum:

  1. Create a LinkedIn account if you do not already have one. LinkedIn allows you to essentially have your curriculum vitae on-line for prospective employers to see. You can add to your CV as you go which keeps it current. Record all of your achievements. Add links to any articles you publish. Ask people to endorse you for various skills.
  2. Establish some sort of on-line presence. To be eminently employable you need to stand out from the crowd in some way. You can utilize LinkedIn for an on-line presence too but you can also blog or twitter, publish informative articles online or contribute to websites that cover your areas of interest.
  3. Specialise if you can. You ultimately want to be the ‘go to’ person on a particular topic, area of law or for a particular valued skill.
  4. Network. Network. Network. Never stop networking. Network outside of your organization too.
  5. Be involved in something greater than your immediate job; whether this means joining an advisory committee within the institution you work in but not necessarily related to your position, or sitting as a board member of another organization.
  6. Constantly develop yourself. You need to do 10 points of Continuing Legal Education each year. Double that. Or triple it. Don’t see yourself as someone who does the bare minimum to develop professionally. Being in an organisation puts you in a unique position to actively increase your skill sets via training and attendance at conferences (free) whilst still undertaking the work you are paid to do.

These activities will make you eminently employable at all times. And, the advantage is that it keeps your employer pretty keen on you too. Don’t you worry – they’re watching you – and the more you stand out as being thoroughly engaged, devoted to your professional development, capable of networking and, essentially, making their organisation look good, the more they will work to find creative ways to keep you there. This potentially means more money, more perks and a greater variety of work on offer.

That being said, don’t be surprised if you leave anyway. Even in the best of marriages, sometimes, one person feels that there is a different journey out there for them and that their lives will somehow not be complete unless they pursue it. In the workplace context, other journeys are inevitable as you develop and grow. And whilst potentially fatal to a marriage, different journeys are actually a healthy and sustainable part of every career.

Making Friends with your Inner HCP

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For those of you who know me well, you will remember that a couple of years ago I achieved certification in “Dealing with High Conflict People in Legal Disputes”. I like to talk about this often because prior to undertaking this study, High Conflict People (HCP’s) scared me very, very, very much. Now they only scare me ‘very much’ which, I think you will agree, is an advance on my previous position.

Recently, in an effort to quell my remaining fears I attended a second course run by the High Conflict Institute – this time focusing on HCP’s in the workplace. It turns out there is a lot of interest in how to manage HCP’s across the board – I was in good company with a County Court Judge, the current President of the Law Institute of Victoria, and a range of other leaders, managers, lawyers, and dispute resolution practitioners – all very keen to increase their capacity to manage really, really difficult people.

So, who are these HCP’s? There are 4 key characteristics of the HCP:
• Preoccupation with blaming others (victim mentality)
• All-or-nothing thinking
• Unmanaged emotions
• Extreme behaviours

HCP’s have very little insight into their behaviours and though they don’t all have Personality Disorders, most of them do. Therefore, HCP’s tend to fall into the main five PD categories; narcissist; borderline; paranoid; antisocial; and histrionic. People with PD’s tend to have life long preoccupations with certain fears such as:
• Being treated as inferior (Narcissist)
• Being abandoned (Borderline)
• Being betrayed (Paranoid)
• Being dominated (Antisocial)
• Being ignored (Histrionic)

And they frequently distort events to match this inner reality by:
• Using all or nothing thinking
• Jumping to conclusions
• Emotional reasoning (relying on feelings rather than facts)
• Personalisation
• Exaggerated fears
• Mind reading
• Tunnel vision
• Wishful thinking

Lastly, HCP’s focus on the past; conflict gives their lives meaning and without it, they end up feeling a little lost in the world and a little bit empty on the inside.

I know. I know! I’ve just described your ex-partner, your current boss and probably several of your family members right?

Wrong! HCP’s seem like they are everywhere but most people are only likely to know (or know of) two or three at any given time.The reason they seem so familiar to us is because they are an exaggerated version of our worst traits. We recognise ourselves and others in them so they feel familiar, but the difference is pretty stark in reality. For example, say a normal person feels let down by their lawyer, they might make a complaint, even potentially sue if they can. Ever seen Cape Fear? Well, Max Cady is the HCP version of a normal person in the same situation. Scary huh?

Unlike most people, lawyers actually are exposed to HCP’s all day, every day. They are the bread and butter of our existence. In that sense, we shouldn’t be at all frightened of them. We should be excessively grateful to them really. And you would think that our exposure to HCP’s would make us exceptionally good at managing difficult people but, in practice, we are actually less equipped than most people. Firstly, we are trained to rely heavily on logic, reasoning, objectivity and strict ethical codes of conduct. This means we often just don’t relate to the HCP. They seem ‘totally bizarre’ to us; overly emotional, irrational, disingenuous and sometimes straight psychopathic. Secondly, seen one HCP, seen them all! After awhile the lawyer becomes desensitised to the HCP and simply can’t be bothered putting in the extra effort. Thirdly, HCP’s are supremely difficult to get along with. They are the people everyone tries to avoid. If you are engaging with someone and you have an irresistible urge to suddenly board a plane to Cuba, you have probably met up with an HCP. No, you’re not weird. It’s actually a healthy response. But it’s a response that you unfortunately need to override if you are a lawyer and you’re going to deal with the HCP’s you come across effectively.

You can’t manage an HCP from Cuba so how do you resist the urge to run when you come across one? How do you override the confusion, anxiety, anger, and often repulsion you feel when they are acting out? Well, oddly, the first step is in trying just that little bit harder to understand the fears that drive them. Every one of us knows what it feels like to feel inferior, abandoned, betrayed, dominated or ignored. It’s just a matter of tapping into your own memories to recall what that feeling is like. Once you have located a memory then you have to essentially multiply that feeling by about 1000 because HCP’s don’t just carry these fears, they carry these fears to the extreme. Secondly, you need to recall times where you have behaved badly. Whilst your poor behaviour might not have occurred at quite the rate of an HCP, or even reached those extremes, it essentially comes from the same place. Since we have all behaved poorly enough at times to know what it is like to hurt another, or to otherwise be generally unhelpful or inconsiderate, we should be able to empathise with other people who act poorly; even if it is often and even if it is extreme.

I like to call this process, “making friends with your inner HCP”.  (After all, one of the sure signs of an HCP is a complete denial of any of the traits that are typically associated with HCP’s – and you don’t want to be that person, right?)

Making friends with their inner HCP is probably the step that lawyers miss most and yet it is the first essential step to managing HCP’s.

In essence, managing an HCP effectively requires four rules of engagement:
• Don’t run. Rather, put your energy into connecting with them. You need to give them attention, respect and empathy if you want to go ahead with the next step;
• Join with them in the task of solving their problem by analyzing options with them;
• Always maintain a healthy skepticism about absolutely everything they say (the last thing you want to do is be drawn into their chaos by believing in their madness) and you need to help them reality test their ideas because reality testing is not their forte;
• Educate them about the realistic consequences of their behavior. HCP’s find it difficult to anticipate what would be reasonably foreseeable consequences to anyone else.

If you cannot achieve the first step (giving the HCP the attention, respect and empathy that they crave) you are going to go nowhere fast which is why it is more important than ever to make friends with your inner HCP.

Managing HCP’s is a complex skill that cannot be learned overnight. Hopefully this post gives you a basic understanding of what it involves, and certainly gives you enough information to get you through your next contact with an HCP client. A word of warning though: there are some HCP’s that you will never be able to get through to. Can you imagine negotiation with Max Cady? I think you know what I’m talking about! So, if that happens to you, don’t be too hard on yourself. I will look forward to receiving your postcard from Cuba, oh, and ¡a la tercera va la vencida!

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To Die Laughing

by Arna Delle-Vergini

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We have all done this. At some time or other, all of us have committed this error of judgement. And so, whilst I write of this one anecdote, I am reminded that I could choose many more, and, worse, could even have chosen some of my own from my early career. I write about this example only because it is the most recent. This could have happened at any time and to any one of us.

I was at court a few months ago when I overheard two lawyers in conversation. They were sharing examples of recent and dreadful cases that they had been working on. One lawyer would share a case and that would be followed by an exclamation from the other lawyer, something along the lines of “that’s nothing!” – and then that lawyer would share an even more impressively depressing case. I like to call this game: “That’s Nothing…!”.

On the face of it, this is a game that could be seen as just a competitive game between lawyers. But it has some sinister overtones, as you shall soon see. It is a game which, when played to its end, gets more and more disturbing; prompting each lawyer to search for the most extreme example they can recall. On this occasion, I kept silent until the last player dealt her finest hand – describing how the father in a recent case had beaten his child so badly that the boy had almost passed out. As is often the case in this game, the anecdote was then followed with peels of laughter from both lawyers.

I was having one of those days where I like to share some of my thoughts. I said: “you know there is nothing actually funny about that anecdote”. Firstly, I was annoyed that this game was being played out in my hearing. Secondly, there really was nothing funny about the anecdote and I was irritated by their laughter. Mostly it was the latter: they were laughing about a man who had beaten a child and I was in the mood to be quite cross about it.

To their credit, the lawyers did not get defensive. In fact, one of them tried to placate me: “no, no, no….”, she said, “you don’t understand. If we didn’t laugh, we’d cry!”.

I understand. Oh, I understand completely!

At that point I was called in to court so I never did get a chance to continue pontificating. But had I had the chance, I would have liked to at least say this:

I know that it’s hard. I know that you care a lot. You wouldn’t be here if didn’t care about people;  if you didn’t believe in what you were doing. And I know that, at first, it seems like the smartest thing in the world to avoid the tears that ought to come with each fresh story you hear. What better way to do this than to bury them with mirth and laughter? Mostly likely, you make this choice unthinkingly. It’s reactive. Just something you do because to feel hurt, defeated and dejected by the work that you do seems too much to bear.

And yet, I have two words for you: Temporary. Measure. As Hagga from Thurber’sThirteen clocks’ once wisely put it: “…there’s a thing that you must know, concerning the jewels of laughter. They always turn again to tears a fortnight after.”

Meaning – in this context…laughing at the tragic is a quick fix. And it is a time limited quick fix. It’s not sustainable. Because eventually, what happens is that you start to calcify within. Eventually, it’s almost impossible to feel horror at the stories you hear anymore. Eventually even the laughter disappears and there’s just a grey space where the colourful brushstrokes of your life used to be. In short, you wither and die on the inside.

Call me crazy but it seems far too great a price for any lawyer to have to pay. So what can be done about it? We can’t all drag ourselves about the court in tears.

It goes without saying, tears are neither an appropriate nor proportionate response for a lawyer in the face of almost all cases. It would take a very rare, particularly heart-wrenching case to bring most lawyers to tears and, even then, they are most likely to drink that particular cup of sorrow at home and alone.

But neither is laughter an appropriate response. The trick is to respond with emotional intelligence. The appropriate response to our clients and to the legal cases that we play a small part in is not sadness and it’s not mirth. The appropriate response has to be – give the matter the dignity it deserves. Treat it with respect.

Our entire court system is designed to engender a sense of gravitas in the people who operate within it. Whether this be lawyers, clerks, accused people, applicants, respondents, prosecutors, witnesses, jurors, magistrates, judges etc and so forth. Respect is what is asked from us as practitioners. Respect for the stories we handle. Respect for the people we touch and who touch us. Respect for the system that is set up – sometimes ineptly, but with good intentions – to handle these stories and to reach some kind of resolution/outcome/closure. Respect for each other. Respect for the process we engage in on a daily basis for the good of others because that is what we do as lawyers: that is our job.

I have a reputation for trying to keep things simple and, perhaps, this is another example of my desire for simplicity in a complex world but I do recommend you try it: next time you find yourself quick-fixing, replace giddy, dizzy mirth with complete presence and gravity and you will come out of it – perhaps not unscathed – but certainly a lot more grounded.

The Kick Inside

by Arna Delle-Vergini

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Dear Sisters,

How do I put this kindly?

I know what you want to hear from me. I see it in your anxious faces when you tap me on the shoulder after a session, dart a look to the left and to the right, and clear your throat before speaking. You don’t even need to ask the question in fact, because you are one female among many who has asked this question of me in one way or the other, either immediately after I’ve coached you or, sometimes, by way of an (unnecessarily) apologetic email sent afterwards. It’s the question on the mind of many young women who take up a profession: “How will I manage it all? Career. Children. Family?” And if they don’t ask it when they enter the profession, you can sure as hell guarantee that it will be a question kicking around in their subconscious when they’re pregnant and preparing for a new baby. “How the hell am I going to do all of this?”

Now, I’ve asked around and not one of my male colleagues has ever had this question put to him from a male new or emerging lawyer and, I can tell you, not one male has ever asked the question of me either. It is a question they should all be asking, but that is not the subject of this blog. This blog is about my younger sisters in the profession and it is an attempt by me to answer the unanswerable. Kindly.

Now, for the bad news first: you’re not actually going to do be able to do it all. Let me explain a little further. I can’t be the only person who read Allison Pearson’s 2002 novel “I Don’t Know How She Does It” and wondered: does what? She’s a woman who works full-time and she has a family. You can be sure this would not be a story worth reading if the protagonist, Kate Redy, was a male, or indeed, a single mother working at a grocery store five days a week with an extra Saturday night shift to make ends meet. It should be a story worth reading, but it isn’t. Because what makes this novel appealing to many professional women is that Kate Redy actually has a choice. And it is the choice that haunts her throughout most of the novel until she ultimately resolves it by opting out of work altogether and becoming a full time mother. Despite the title of the novel, there is no actual point in the novel that Kate Redy is “doing it all”, and that is because of the simple fact that “doing it all” is simply not possible.

Now for the good news: odds are you are not a single mother working at a grocery store five days a week with a Saturday night shift to make ends meet. That means, odds are, you actually have a choice. But this is also where it gets a little complicated. Because no matter what plans you make before your baby arrives, you are simply not going to have any way of knowing what motherhood has in store for you. Will it be a blissful journey? A harrowing one? Will you be doing it partnered? Alone? Will there be other children? Will there be a family supporting you? Will you have lots of friends or few? Will you find home life with a toddler mind-numbingly boring? Will you find your usual law practice loses its glamour compared to mama/baby yoga classes and babycinos? Or will working life suddenly become more alluring compared to wiping up poo, snot, drool, vomit and any other manner of copious mucosa that emits from little humans? The truth is, you simply cannot know and the process of getting to know this has to be a personal one. This is a journey that can’t be taken by anyone other than you.

Some women come to a decision quickly. Other women will agonise over it for some time.  Some will make the right choice for them, and then discover it’s altogether the wrong choice and find they have to change track. Others will make the wrong choice for them because they are pressured or believe they have to, only to suffer in silence for years or, hopefully, over time find the courage to make a choice that has more truth for them.  You might try being a full-time mother, part-time worker, full-time worker and a variety of all of these before settling in to what may seem at times to be no real choice at all. But it is a choice and you will be happy to hear that it is a choice of very little consequence in the scheme of things.

See? I said I was going to be kind!

You see, by “very little consequence” – I actually mean this: your beautiful children will grow up hardy and loved whether they are raised by you full-time or part-time, and/or raised by your partner full-time or part-time, or raised by their grandparents, or are in child care five days a week. It sounds awful, but so long as you are living a life that is true to you, it matters diddly-squat to your kids if you are at present at every swimming carnival or not. Don’t get me wrong – kids like you to check in occasionally. No child wants to be completely invisible to their parents. Bu the odds of your children being completely invisible to you (whether you’re work full-time or not), is about as likely as you reading this blog and being a single mother working five days a week at a convenience store with an extra shift on Saturday nights. (Unlikely – but if you are, call me, I want to learn your secrets so I can bottle and sell them and perhaps retire a millionaire)!

Now, what I really want to say to you is this: I know a lot of women in this profession. Many of them have children. Some of them work full-time, others work part-time. I know women who have one child, others have multiple children. I know women who are partnered with children and women who are unpartnered with children. I know women who have children with disabilities and women who have children who are all grown up now with families of their own. There are women breast-feeding. There are women who place their baby on the bottle at the earliest possible time. There are women who have adopted children. There are women with children who are at the Bar, women who act as solicitors and run their own law firms who also have children, and women with children who also sit on tribunals and the Bench. Their children are just fine and they are all wonderful mothers. And whilst they’re not doing it all – frankly that is not even possible, they’re at least doing it their own way. And because they’re doing it their own way, they have it all! And so will you. Just remain true to yourself.

Kind Regards,

Arna

The unbearable lightness of being a (female) lawyer

by Arna Delle-Vergini

female lawyer pic

One of the frustrations of being a blawyer (lawyer/blogger) is that, more often than not, one cannot blog about one’s own clients. And yet, that is where all the best stories happen: in and around court. How to get around this? Well, this is this blawgers attempt. To protect my real identity, in this blog I’m going to call myself “Andy”. Oh, and I’ve made up a whole different country too. Just for added protection. 🙂

Once upon a time, there was a land called “Mysonia”.  It was a strange, half-forgotten land, where the quality of people’s lives was predetermined from birth essentially, according to the colour of their hair.  Basically, in this land, if you were born a brunette, you were considered to be a second-class citizen, blondes were first-class citizens and redheads were the ultimate rulers. Gender was irrelevant. In any event, there were rules and regulations about whom one could marry and have children with (as there are in our own country of course) but, since there were so many more brunettes than blondes or redheads, exceptions were allowed. These were rarely happy marriages though, as the brunettes would be routinely treated awfully by their partners and whilst there were laws that protected second-class citizens from being victimized, in practice, it happened all too often and little was done about it. Anyway, a great war broke out in this country and many people, of all different coloured hair, fled. Some fled to the US. Some to the UK. Some to France. Some to Sweden. And some saw fit to flee to Australia.

Our story picks up in Australia where “Andy” a lawyer is briefed to appear in a bail application on behalf of “Felicity” a blonde Mysonian who recently arrived in this country. Felicity had been charged (again) with breaching an intervention order. This was her third breach. She had a history outlining multiple assaults against her partner, Phillipe, who was; you guessed it, very much a brunette. On this occasion, Felicity bashed Phillipe so hard that he had to be hospitalized. After her arrest she made it very clear to the police that she had nothing but contempt for laws that protected brunettes from violent assaults and made it clear that she would repeat her behaviour the minute she was released. This was unhelpful for a bail application but Andy had been doing this for a while and was quite sure he could manage it.

It was 9.15am when Andy first met Felicity in the cells down in the Melbourne Remand Centre. He said a cheery “hello” and began to take Felicity through the remand brief. At one point he noticed Felicity looking at him strangely, but he decided to just continue. Eventually, he realized that the “strange” look was one of anger, possibly even contempt, so he asked Felicity if everything was all right.

“No, it’s not!” she said, with some anger. “They have sent me a prostitute”.

Andy looked around him quickly to see if anyone else had slipped into the interview room. Nope, just him.

“A prostitute?”

“In Mysonia, married brunettes do not work. The only brunettes who work are prostitutes. You are not married.”

Andy looked at his ring finger. “Oh, of course, I’m not married and I’m a brunette so you think I must be a prostitute”.

“You are a prostitute”.

Andy felt that, perhaps, reason might assist in this circumstance and explained: “Oh, no, you see, in this country, brunettes are allowed to work doing all sorts of work and it doesn’t matter whether they are married or not.”

Felicity did not seem at all pleased with this answer. In fact, she became angrier and demanded to know again why they had sent a prostitute in to act as her lawyer. Furthermore, Felicity didn’t believe, even in Australia, that Andy actually could have been a qualified lawyer, rather than a student, so she demanded to see Andy’s ID. Andy produced his ID but Felicity just became more and more enraged. She was starting to yell at this point and white flecks of foam were spurting out of her mouth. Eventually she started banging on the glass: “I want a proper lawyer. I want a redhead”.

Since Andy got paid either way, he was happy to leave Felicity foaming at the mouth in the cells while he organized a lawyer with different coloured hair to come and represent Felicity.  As luck would have it, there was a perfectly capable blonde idling about in chambers, so he flicked the brief to her and then casually made his way home.

As he was driving home he thought about two things. The first was how he might spend the rest of his day. (He favoured sitting at a café reading a book only slightly over sitting in a warm bath reading a book.). The second thought he had was: “what must it feel like to be born into a world that thinks you are superior by nature of your hair colour?” He had some idea of this because, in truth, even in Australia – the lucky country – there was a little of this caper going on. He had had some experience of people who were raised to see themselves as superior. These were people who were treated as smarter and funnier, even if they weren’t. These people were paid more to do the very same work as anyone else; consequently, they were typically wealthier. These people were given more airtime, as if everything that fell out of their mouths was golden when, really they talked as much rubbish as anyone else. These people often believed that they had no advantage whatsoever, but the moment someone tried to challenge them about their advantage, they instantly became very defensive and angry. They would say things like “just exactly who do you think you are?” Because Andy liked himself a lot, he didn’t spend a lot of time with these people but he had spent enough time with them to know that they existed and that, underneath it all, their greatest fear – greater than any other fear – was of being exposed. Their greatest fear was that one day, someone would discover that they were not actually superior after all. Andy couldn’t think of anything worse than living with a fear like this. It made him feel very sorry for them.

Postscript: Felicity was not satisfied with the blonde lawyer either and promptly sacked her. Felicity had come to feel a deep distrust of all Australian lawyers after having met Andy; after all, what kind of country allows brunettes to practice as lawyers anyway? No one will be surprised to hear that Felicity was not granted bail on this particular occasion. 

How to save a life

by Arna Delle-Vergini

how to save a life

Step 1

It’s Saturday morning and when the alarm goes off I’ve got one sleeping child draped around my legs, another sleeping child draped around my upper body and I am very much feeling like a python has crept into my room during the night and wrapped me in a deadly serpentine embrace. My first thought is just the word: “caught”. Then I think: “how lovely to be ensnared by two such divine creatures”. And then I think: “what would I ever do without them?” When I say goodbye to them that morning I tell them I love them and they yell back “not as much as we love you”. It’s a game we play – ‘who loves who the most’. It’s the little things.

Step 2

Owen Dixon Chambers East. I am one of six barristers attending ‘Mental Health First Aid’. It’s called ‘Mental Health First Aid’ because we are not allowed to use the word ‘suicide’ when advertising the training. The course is really ‘Suicide Prevention Training’ but the Victorian Bar are nervous about advertising it in that way because seeing the word ‘suicide’ might cause a barrister who is contemplating suicide to take their own life.

The first thing we learn is that it is a complete myth that talking about suicide with someone who is at risk will give them the idea to suicide or increase the chances that they will. In fact, using the “s” word – is a protective factor. We learn that to actually directly talk about suicide will actually save lives. Other myths about suicide get shot down one by one. Did you know that normal people, not just people with mental illnesses, contemplate and commit suicide? It’s also a myth that most suicides occur without warning. In fact, in 80% of cases, there are definite warning signs. Another myth is that people who threaten to commit suicide are just trying to gain attention or are selfish or weak. It turns out it takes a tremendous amount of courage to kill yourself.

Step 3

No training is complete without stats of course so we are told that globally there is one death by suicide every 40 seconds. In Australia, someone takes his or her life every 3.5 hours. Those most at risk of completing suicide are men. People aged over 85+ represent the highest category of completed suicides and… (no one is very surprised by this)… there is a much greater representation of suicide in indigenous communities. In young people suicide is one of the three leading causes of death. The other two are homicide and accidents.

Step 4

Eventually we have to talk about the young Victorian Barrister who took her own life a few months ago. We still have questions. We still don’t understand it. We are told that we never will and the hardest thing of all for people who are touched by the suicide of another is being left with all of the unanswered questions. We are told that to support people touched by suicide we need to learn how to be comfortable sitting with their anxiety around those unanswered questions. We discuss how, as lawyers, we are trained problem solvers and how difficult (read impossible) this feels for us at times. This applies to sitting with other people’s anxiety around unanswered questions as well as our own.

Uncomfortable with the not knowing, we pester the facilitator to give us some kind of definition of suicide. What is suicide, apart from the obvious, being the voluntary taking of our lives?

Fortunately, on this point, there is an answer.

Step 5

Suicide is a solution. The person who chooses to suicide believes that this is their only solution. They reach a stage where their pain is greater than their resources to solve their problem. They usually perceive themselves as being burdensome to others. And they are feeling helpless and hopeless. They choose this solution because they know it will work when nothing else has. And yet, they are deeply ambivalent about their choice. They desperately want an alternative. They just can’t see one. They want to live. They actually want to be rescued.

Step 6

At one point we make a collective decision not to record the training session because one of the participants begins to share a story about being in a ‘dark place’ once. We become very protective of this participant. An observation is made that barristers are very protective of one another and that we came to this training because we want to know how to look after one another. It’s important to us. We just don’t know how to go about it.

First, we are reassured that just to care is the first step.

Then we are taught how to save a life.

Step 7

It’s the little things. Like noticing when something is not right with someone. Being vigilant about people who have experienced a traumatic event that might act as a triggering event or catalyst. Following up on obvious clues that someone is felling suicide like him or her telling you they can’t go on. Or less obvious clues like them withdrawing or giving away their belongings. Being prepared to have a difficult conversation about their health and well being and making sure you have the courage to directly ask the question: are you contemplating suicide? Giving them your full attention. Being warm and supportive and non-judgmental. In a nutshell – acting like an empathic human being.

Did we really need training to learn what should be so obvious?

Step 8

And what about the lives that can’t be saved? What about the 20% of people who show no signs? Or the people who you respond to with love and care whom suicide anyway?

We are back now to the unanswered questions: the mystery of it all.

The facilitator reminds us that often when people suicide, their loved ones are not able to grieve freely. Other loved ones who are also suffering sometimes judge them harshly: surely you could have seen they were suffering and done something. Why didn’t you do something? And worse, they often judge themselves…if only…if only…if only. They float on a sea of unanswered questions and the best they can do is hope that one day they will learn to live with the lack of answers; the closest approximation to peace they are likely to ever experience again.

Step 9

Of course before we leave we must face the fact that despite our training experience, we are still just as terrified. Whilst we know a little more than we did before, no one is completely immune. Any one of us could lose a loved one to suicide. We lost a colleague recently. Next time it could be closer to home. And whilst, we may see the warning signs and save their life, we may not.

And so we re-commit to keeping our eyes open to people’s suffering. We re-commit to really being there for people when we recognise someone is floundering. We commit to having real conversations with people. And we re-commit to loving our family and friends ever so fiercely because we never truly know how long we will have the gift of them in our lives: how long they will be around to ensnare us with their smiling face, their deadly serpentine embrace.

 

* If you are having thoughts of suicide please call either the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 for free telephone counseling, LIFELINE 13 11 14 or Mensline 1300 78 99 78.

** Many thanks to our amazing facilitator – Psychotherapist, Cheryl Taylor – http://www.kunaurra.com.au/

*** The Salvation Army runs Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Training all over Australia, free of charge, through its Hope for Life program. For more information email: admin.hopeforlife@aue.salvationarmy.org

The suitcase of 1000 sorrows

by Arna Delle-Vergini

suitcase

I recently facilitated a group of young lawyers – all of whom had only been in practice for about six months. My role was to encourage them to talk about their experience of being new lawyers and to explore some of the issues that arose. I was there, if you like, to act as a sounding board, so that instead of just sharing their experiences, they were also able to hear their own stories reflected back to them and validated. This is a basic therapeutic technique used in psychological practice all of the time. It turns out that in the act of telling your story to an empathic other, you engage in the process of unpacking and, hopefully, understanding it.

One of the things that strikes me most about practising law is that I am constantly engaging in the process of listening to people’s stories. These stories are almost always – strike that – always, stories of despair. Yet, I have no psychological training. There was no subject at university titled “How to listen to other people’s stories of despair”. Nor did we cover it in Articles. At the Victorian Bar, my mentor and I never sat down to discuss how one might listen to other people’s pain day in and day out without letting it bring you down. We didn’t talk about what the experience of that storytelling might be like for our clients. We didn’t talk about what the experience of hearing those stories was actually having on me at that time. Or, indeed, what impact those types of stories had on him over the course of his career. These conversations did not happen because there just did not seem to be a language for it back then.

Which is why I felt so encouraged that I was invited to facilitate this conversation with new lawyers so early on in their career. The discouraging part was that within six months of practice, these new lawyers were already feeling overwhelmed by the stories they were hearing. They were already exhibiting signs of secondary trauma – having nightmares, flashbacks, repetitive thoughts, feeling dissociated from their family and non-lawyer friends, and laying awake at night for hours on end wondering, as I have come to affectionately term it, what will become of the broken-hearted? – What will become of these suffering clients, their families, even their victims and their families? It can be dispiriting to say the least. But the object lesson here is that if it is dispiriting at six months, you can well understand how a legal practitioner, left unchecked, can move from feeling dispirited to feeling full of abject despair over the course of their career.

You might wonder – what is the antidote to all of this? Is there an antidote? The good news is “yes, there is”. The bad news is that it requires an effort on the part of the practitioner. What that effort is, will largely depend on what works for you, so be prepared to try many different things. Readers will already know that Joel Orenstein promotes mindfulness as a means of dealing with the rigours of legal practice. Others promote healthy lifestyle, sport and nutrition as the prominent means of protecting your own well-being. I promote story telling. My advice is always for practitioners to actively engage in the process of telling their own story – the story of them as a practitioner – and unpacking that story in a way that makes sense of it to them. This does not have to be in a therapeutic setting – although it can be – it can be as simple as talking to colleagues and mentors. It can also, incidentally, just involve a conversation with yourself about it. So long as you are processing it and not letting it just sit there like a monkey on your back.

By way of example, one narrative that has come to work for me – and utilizing stories once again – is the narrative I have come to term “the suitcase of 1000 sorrows”. Recollecting the friendly giant in Roald Dahl’s BFG who collects and distributes good dreams to children, and tries to save them from the nightmares, I see myself as someone who collects and takes care (temporarily) of other people’s stories of despair. I literally hold these stories, in the form of a brief, in my suitcase, which I take to court with me. When I arrive home, I park it in the corner and I mentally imagine those sorrows settling down for the night, knowing I will take care of them again soon. In this way I treat these stories as living entities that I need to nurture before returning them – hopefully in a slightly better condition than when I originally received them. But not always. Sometimes, I hate to say, they have to be detonated, or distributed to all of the unfriendly giants where they create havoc and strife again until they end up back on my desk, no doubt in the not too distant future. Stories are like that. Some have happy endings. Some do not. I’m okay with that.

To me, imagining my practice this way respects the stories I receive, reminds me of the importance of the role that I play as temporary custodian of those stories and helps me contextualize other people’s sorrows as an ever changing entity belonging to someone other than me. I can nurture them while I have them and then, at the appropriate time, I let them go.

Now, in a fictional world I could collect helpful narratives and fly about like the BFG distributing them to new lawyers in need but in the real world we have to choose our own narratives. And, hopefully, share them because stories are most alive – and hold the most meaning – when they are in the process of being told.

The Lawyer in the Mirror

by Arna Delle-Vergini

lawyer in the mirror

It’s all so terribly exciting. You see I have been shortlisted for the LIV Mentor of the Year award. For those of you who do not know, the LIV awards are like the Logies, but for Victorian lawyers and sans the glittering gowns and tiaras. Not to mention, for that matter, the paparazzi, press, red carpets, after parties, and a month of feature articles in the Women’s Weekly and New Idea. Bar all of those things then, they are very, very similar.

For instance, if you win you get a glass plaque. I’ve never won a glass plaque before. In fact, I’ve only ever won a single trophy and, to be honest, “won” is probably the operative word. It wasn’t a competition exactly. It was more like an encouragement award or, if you really wanted to strip it down, it was an award I got for showing up to ballet class every week for a single term. The trophy was a plastic golden ballerina on a stand and for the longest possible time, I really did think it conferred on me a greater pirouetting prowess. It didn’t really. Not that I want to detract from this terrific success. I’m not one of those self-effacing, humble types.

Which is, of course, why I am preparing my acceptance speech for the LIV awards now. Let’s face it –it is my nature to like to be prepared for anything, including random and completely unpredictable events. But I also just don’t want to be “that person”. You know, the one who actually wins the award and then climbs up on the podium only to say: “um…wow…such a shock…I only had like…two months notice that this would happen…I can’t think of a single thing to say!”

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Really? Is that the best you can do?

Mind – this is where one starts to feel the pressure. How to say something meaningful and heartfelt in less than a minute…while everyone is watching… and when you know the other shortlisted people have as much right to stand there as you do. Very, very tricky. My preference, at this stage, is for a haiku that makes no sense to anyone but is unique enough to make me look smart. Something like this for instance:

wise once and knows all
firm views end in the trolley
the corn and flakes abide

Which pretty much sums up everything. Or nothing.

Look, the truth is, nothing very meaningful can be said in a brief acceptance speech. It’s too short a period of time. Which, as it turns out, is the perfect segue to the story of how http://www.newlawyerlanguage.com came about in the first place.

You see, each year I mentor hundreds of students, either on-line or in-person, while they undertake their Practical Legal Training. During the brief relationship that forms, the students and I often get an opportunity to have meaningful discussions about life, law, the universe and everything, but no sooner have those discussions started than the course ends and I have to move on to the next in-take of students. I felt very keenly that this was a lost opportunity. I wanted the dialogue to continue even though it wasn’t practically possible for me to continue those conversations with everyone.

Ultimately, the website, which I run with my colleagues Pamela Taylor-Barnett, Ffyona Livingstone Clark and Phoebe Churches, is designed to give the vibrant dialogue, that begins naturally in law school about how to be a professional, an opportunity to continue and develop. And I want it to continue for as long as the new lawyer needs it to; at times that suit new lawyers; at completely their own pace; and in their own private space.

I once won a trophy for showing up. But when you can’t dance to save your life, showing up is quite an achievement. You have to recommit to every class. You have to say, “I want to be here… even if I’m not the best ballet dancer in the world; even if I can’t even touch my toes – dancing is what I want to do; it’s in my blood.” And then you have to go ahead and walk the talk.

This LIV nomination means the same thing to me. It means that I showed up. And I keep showing up because it’s such an incredibly important conversation to be having. So whether or not I win the actual award is largely irrelevant. What matters to me is that lawyers are beginning to engage in the conversation that I want all lawyers to be having. What does it mean to be a member of this profession? What is required of me? What can I expect? Will I be happy? These are questions that you don’t just ask yourself as you enter this profession: you ask them throughout your entire career. “Showing up” as a professional means more than gaining technical competency at practicing law, that’s the easy part – “showing up” requires you to bring your whole Self to the profession – your passion, your skill, your desires and dreams, your thoughts and ideas, your commitment and your constancy. Now that is something I would like to see every lawyer do, beginning, of course, with the lawyer in the mirror!