Finally! *cheering from the crowd*

Hello lovely people still following my misadventures after law school. I have good news! I got a real lawyer job!!! (Wahoooo!)

After almost a year, someone has finally said “yes” after what feels like an avalanche of “nos”. So after all this time I can tell you all that it too will happen for you. After all the crappy days where you feel like it’s just not going to happen, it has. It still hasn’t really sunk in yet. Someone wants ME to be a lawyer, to take cases, to stand up in court, to speak to clients, to do billable hours! It’s the most wonderful thing ever.

While I have been reassured, and I am now reassuring you, that all the knockbacks do not directly link themselves to your individual competency so much as to the large pool of brilliant legal minds currently in the market. When you are constantly missing out it’s hard not to take it a bit personally, it’s hard not to think that you were just not good enough. Whether or not the reasoning is accurate it is finally with great pride and relief that I can stand up and say “someone thinks I am good enough!” And so, I can also assure all of you out there that it will happen to you too! Just hang in there! Hand in those job applications, smile your best and be yourself at the interview and that day will come.

Obviously I have no idea what is going to happen in the future (here’s hoping it’s a lovely prosperous time with this wonderful firm) Nevertheless I have been saying to my best friend over the last few months (she’s a newly hatched lawyer also) “we just have to get through this, one day years from now we’ll look back from our awesome law jobs and think ‘ha, what were we worried about?’, I’m sure of it.” Well, she and I have now landed on our feet in legal positions, so I say the time to look back and think the above is now!

It’s been a long slog but we made it people! I can’t wait for all of you to bask in the same joy when your turn comes.

Next stop, business cards, an office and some seriously hard work!

I really like this mug

I really like this mug. I was at the supermarket one day and there were three different kinds of Mickey Mouse mugs: there was this one, a Mickey one, and a Minnie one. So Mickey and Minnie are at home, the family love them and this one comes with me. It’s the best $15 I’ve ever spent!

Lawyers, law, living rooms and televisions (Part 2)

legally blonde

By Finchley Atticus

In part 1 of this article, I put forward the theory that we connect more emotionally with characters from portrayed on TV in the confines of our lounge room, than we do with cinematic portrayals of legal heroes. It was Patrick Duffy, forever famous for portraying Bobby Ewing in the 80s drama Dallas, who believed that one reason we have an emotional connection with TV characters is because the audience watches them between their feet.

I also have a theory that, for some people, our TV is a subconscious extension of our notion of our values and our ideal world, all contained within the parameters of a 24-inch flat screen. Why do I say this? Over the past few years there’s been a cyberspace debate which I think promotes a distasteful, offensive and racially tinged line of thought about the direction of a sort-of-legal mystery drama, the enduring British TV series Midsomer Murders. I became a fan of Midsomer Murders only a few years ago and I guess for many devotees it’s our Sunday roast comfort meal, which we savour in our lounge, knowingly disconnected from reality for two hours as DCI Barnaby and his loyal sidekick Sergeant Charlie Nelson solve their way through a string of murders. And all done in a quaint, charming and typically English village in the fictional county of Midsomer. I love Midsomer Murders (and I’ll probably earn the ire of die-hard fans who lament the departure of the original DCI, Tom Barnaby) and of course all fans know the premise of Midsomer Murders is absurd: the body count in these picturesque English villages would notoriously rank Midsomer County as one of the most dangerous places on earth (well in the UK anyway). But we accept that a relatively high number of Midsomer folk have murderous tendencies, and for a TV show there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s TV after all.

But strangely some of the Midsomer fans who without question suspend their disbelief at the unrealistically high body count, are willing to display major disbelief bordering on severe apoplexy at the sight of a “minority” (code for anyone who doesn’t resemble anyone of white European stock if you know what I mean) in a Midsomer village. We can debate the census statistics of the real life racial profile of a British village, although having lived in the UK for a few years I can attest there really are minorities living in UK rural and remote areas.  But so what if a true life British village is void of minorities?  Last time I heard, there’s a difference between a TV drama and a documentary, and Midsomer Murders ain’t no documentary and surely no-one expects a TV drama to be 100% true to life. After much thought, I think these fans’ concerns about “political correctness running amok in Midsomer” possibly harbours a more deeper and sinister agenda. Sadly I believe, it’s a deep affront to their sensitivities that people-who-don’t-look-like-them (if you know what I mean) are in effect intruders in their house, their lounge room, their sanctuary, a harbour from the real world. These minorities suddenly appear between the feet of Midsomer loyalists who wish to take an evening’s leave from the reality of the world to relax on their couch without feeling uncomfortable by the appearance of minorities who in real life would never been seen inside their house. Why isn’t the Australian Consumer Law protecting the loyalists from such intruders on their 24 inch flat screen?  For such Midsomer loyalists, real life alone is gritty enough although they are willing to cope with watching minorities between their feet if they’re being pursued by unbearable evening “current affairs” reporters, being depicted serving cocktails to drunk tourists in Bali, or if they’ve accidentally switched to SBS after watching The Footy Show.

There we have it for better or worse. Television for some becomes an escape from the harsh realities of life. Nothing wrong with that until viewers subconsciously at least appropriate (or misappropriate) a TV storyline to shape and perpetuate stereotypes (mostly negative) out in the real world. To their credit high-rating US legal dramas like L.A. Law, Ally McBeal and The Practice featured minority performers in lead roles. Whilst I’m no psychologist, I wouldn’t be surprised if the presence of minority characters in living rooms across the USA helps to remove subconscious barriers to the acceptance and promotion of minority lawyers in real life (if that sounds incredulous, there is a body of thought that Dennis Haybert’s positive portrayal of an African-American President in the TV series 24 paved the way for the election of Barack Obama to the White House just a few years later). TV can open up hearts and minds to accepting new situations outside their norm. Just recently The People v. O.J. Simpson screened in Australia, based on the O.J. Simpson trial back in the 90s. Pop culture theorists can make the case that the O.J. Simpson trial was the biggest reality TV show of all time, even bigger than the Kardashians (coincidentally Robert Kardashian, the father of the Kardashian reality stars, was a close confidant of O.J. Simpson) because it was one of the first criminal trials to be broadcast in the USA. Americans were introduced in their lounge room to the dignified presence of Judge Lance Ito, a Japanese-American jurist presiding over the biggest trial of the century (well according to the media, but still).

Yes, Australia has some fine legal TV dramas over the years … Carson’s Law in the 80s, Janus a decade later, and more recently Crownies, Janet King and Rake (despite its title, the SBS series The Family Law, which features an all Asian cast, is not a legal drama). I stand to be corrected, but it’s rare to see a minority performer featured in a support role let alone in the main cast of an Australian TV legal drama. Maybe with a touch of fortune the casting directors will be open-minded and cast a minority paralegal who in the storyline is grateful to the law firm to be appointed on a five year contract, coincidentally the length of a TV series run. Or if the producers are bold, open minded and ground breaking they could grant an Asian actor the prize role of the law firm’s crack IT director of course – yes I’m being sardonic and sarcastic all at once. It’s timely though that the Australian Racial Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane warned that young lawyers of Asian backgrounds are held back from promotion up a firm’s ladder due to stereotypes of them as “technicians, not leaders”. Lawyers are intelligent folk who are supposed to act rationally on the facts, but I can’t help but wonder how influential TV has been in giving both aspiring and practising lawyers the impression that minorities are pretty much invisible in the forefront of legal practice.

Maybe there’s a risk of giving TV too much credit in shaping our values and outlook and even our speech patterns (I have a theory that even though James Cook was never formally held the rank of Captain – he was Post-Captain, any of the post-Star Trek generation will by habit refer to the great explorer as Captain Cook because it sounds so similar to Captain Kirk). I found in my research project that amongst the current generation of female lawyer students, the 2001 legal comedy Legally Blonde was inspirational, particularly the effervescent law student Elle Woods personified by the ever-radiant Reese Witherspoon. So Finchley, you’ve just cornered yourself because Legally Blonde was a cinema movie! Of course, but I’m willing to suggest that the current crop of law students first saw Legally Blonde thanks to DVD in their lounge room. But funnily enough the transition of a successful movie to TV doesn’t always go smoothly. After the mega-success of Legally Blonde, a TV pilot of based on the movie was produced for a US network but they passed on it.

Maybe there’s a hint of exaggeration in the impact of television on the minds of law students, lawyers and the general population. But really it’s no more an exaggeration that sadly some TV scriptwriters and production executives perpetuate through stereotypes we watch between our feet in our lounge room.

I wish I knew… I’d never be Alicia Florrick

Claudia McGarva

By Claudia McGarva

I love the television show The Good Wife. I love that Alicia Florrick can become a partner of one of the biggest law firms in Chicago with only two years’ post admission experience. I love that she always has career-defining cases fall into her lap, can do shots of tequila without wincing, and that she’s interesting enough to have the National Security Agency keep tabs on her. She also has impeccable hair.

Most of the time it feels like I am treading through the paper trail and not doing the high-level lawyer stuff that I signed up for. It is the time spent chasing people for documents you requested weeks ago. The time spent reiterating the advice you have already given three times. The time spent making sure all the emails you printed made its way onto the file because someone else has collected your printing or you’ve forgotten to collect it. By the end of the day, I’m so tired I barely have the capacity to read the expiration date on the milk let alone the stack of recent case law that I promised myself I would read before bed.

I’m sure there are high functioning lawyers who engage in high stakes litigation and have decent hair. However, most cases I manage are on a trajectory that don’t challenge the foundation of the legal system or become a career defining moment. I’m tempted to blame television for mismanaging my expectations that a legal career would be perpetually inspiring and challenging. Sure, there have been a few moments where these elements have transpired and this is why I am still a lawyer. However, much of the work is administrative, frustrating and … work. This isn’t a bad thing. If I were Alicia Florrick, I would have burnt out and have a Christmas tree made out of tequila bottles. Sometimes, though, it would be nice if the reality of being a lawyer matched the image of a lawyer.

However, the real ‘aha’ moment of my legal career was when I found out that the Julianna Marguiles, the actress who plays Alicia Florrick, wears a $10,000 wig on set. If Alicia Florrick is even faking it till she makes it, then there is hope for the rest of us.

I wish I knew… when to hang up

Claudia McGarva

By Claudia McGarva

When I started practising law, everyone refused to speak with a particular lawyer over the phone. This lawyer was known in the legal community as ‘the Pterodactyl’ due to her screeching at other lawyers. If she called the firm, all the assistants knew not to bother putting the call through to the lawyer responsible for that matter. They would politely say, “It is our policy that all communications are to be in writing”, and hang up.

I was shocked when I met this lawyer at court one day. She was pleasant enough. I think she even complimented my shoes. I didn’t understand why my firm had a ‘policy’ to deal with her. That was, until I had a matter against her.

She wasn’t just rude; she was abusive. She called my client a liar. She called me a liar. She said my correspondence was “bordering on unethical” because I had asked for some documents and included a deadline. She made continual threats. These ranged from making a complaint to the law society to seeking numerous personal cost orders against me. As a baby lawyer, I would be lying if I said I had Teflon skin. I was terrified of this woman. When I saw an email waiting for me the next morning from her, I would sweat. I would make sure every email and letter was immaculate and I wrote a transcript for every conversation I had with her. I would lie in bed thinking about the threats I had received from her that day, thinking I would lose my practising certificate before the ink was even dry. Whatever confidence I did have when I started practising was quickly evaporating.

That was, until I realised the threats stemmed from her insecurity. She was a generalist practitioner, did not specialise in that particular area of law and had only been practising in that field for about a year. She was also a sole practitioner. I was exclusively practising in that area of law and had access to experienced lawyers to advise and mentor along the way. The aggression was a mechanism to prove to her client that she was advocating strongly on their behalf and deafen her ineptitude. I am all for ‘faking it till you make it’; however, I had never seen a senior lawyer act this way. There is no need to. It doesn’t help your client and it doesn’t help you. It puts other lawyers off side and makes you feel more isolated in, what can be, a lonely industry.

Now, I do not engage with these practitioners when they carry on. Sometimes, I remind them of the legal profession rules (and very rarely, threaten to make my own justified complaint to the law society).  However, most of the time I now say “put it in writing” and hang up.

Welcome Back!


The Courts might be opening, the paper stack inching higher, and the beach surf a distant dream, but that doesn’t mean you have to check in and tune out from the important things in life.

Live life, balance work, play, family and friends — and make 2016 a productive, sane and happy year to be the lawyer and human being you’re cut out to be!

Season’s Greetings from all at New Lawyer Language

We wish you all a happy, safe and relaxing holiday period!*



*Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the summer solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.**

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In Praise of Doing Nothing



By Stephen Tang

With the late arrival of streaming video services to Australia (legally, at least), we never got to use the phrase “Netflix and chill” in its plain and ordinary meaning. The success of its transformation into a slightly creepy euphemism probably depended on its original innocence: the joy of passive entertainment and the joy of switching off by switching on.

For a time, “Netflix and chill” succinctly gave fresh expression to a certain kind of pleasure which I fear is on the verge of extinction: doing nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but a restorative retreat to a comfy state of rest.

We’re of course all different in what this looks like. It may be watching an entire season of a show (it’ll take 1 day and 22 hours if you want to catch up on all of Breaking Bad), re-reading a trashy novel, cooking up some comfort food, or planting tomatoes in the spring. It’s not necessarily about alone time either, although as an introvert that’s where I find myself most often.

Idle restoration could also be found in the familiar rhythm of a regular catch-up with old friends, or unrushed and agenda-less time with your partner. Those with higher baseline levels of activity might find their default rhythm in a familiar run or gym routine.

What’s in common is that returning to this state is something that comes so naturally, so effortlessly and so mindlessly. There’s nothing particularly novel, demanding or even memorable about the activity. Indeed, what can be an effortful act of choosing what to do vanishes altogether through habit and familiarity, or by having choices made for you. Time passes with languid ease, and we feel refreshed afterwards. Continue reading