Tech Disruption and the Future Role of Lawyers (part 2)

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By Phoebe Churches

If you missed my first post on this topic, maybe head here and read it first. This post takes up where I left off – looking at how the sector is already changing very quickly.

The Contracting Role of Lawyers*

Historically, in Australia and similar common law jurisdictions, ‘legal work’ has been the exclusive domain of ‘lawyers’, and a ‘lawyer’ is generally defined as someone who undertakes ‘legal work’. This circular, self-serving definition has created a closed loop and the creation of a monopoly-based false market for legal work. Unfortunately this market, rather than ‘protecting clients from the exploitation of the inevitable asymmetry of knowledge and power … has actually encouraged and condoned an exploitation of the privilege’.[1]

Not all legal systems share this definition of course. In contrast to common law’s concept of a lawyer as ‘a single type of general-purpose legal services provider’, civil law systems ‘consist of a large number of different kinds of law-trained persons, known as jurists, of which only some are advocates who are licensed to practice in the courts’.[2] The distinguishing feature of civil systems is their reliance on statute, with judges applying, rather than creating law. The common law system not only creates law, but its dispute resolution process is primarily adversarial, where it is the legal representatives who must research, investigate and present arguments supported by evidence before a passive fact finder. This makes the adversarial system especially opaque and characterised by significant asymmetry in power between client and lawyer.

Technologies’ Role in Equalising Alignment, Balance, and Equivalence

There are three types of asymmetry in the justice system: unequal information about the services a client is seeking and what it is worth; unequal knowledge in the area of expertise for which assistance is sought, and unequal power – which is a function of the preceding two. However, the inequality of information between lawyer and client is beginning to level through the electronic marketplace, with a multitude of start-ups providing prospective clients with accurate and reliable reviews of law firms.[3] Additionally, big-data driven quantitative analysis can illuminate costings of complex matters to provide far greater cost certainty from the outset.

Lawyers have traditionally played a role as ‘equaliser’ – specialists required to balance this asymmetry of knowledge. However, exploitation of this role has established a market for lawyers that is clearly disproportionate to its need. For example, if lawyers maintain the rule of law, the fact that the United States has ‘17 times the number of lawyers per capita as Japan’, [4] should mean that the American rule of law is 17 times as effective, and Americans 17 times more protected than Japan. This is an assertion which appears to be wholly unsupported by evidence.  In fact, a recent study of 30 years of legal development in 22 countries ‘shows that in every instance, the population of lawyers is growing faster than the underlying population’.[5] In response to this oversupply ‘lawyers have created an artificial market for their services’,[6] creating work to do ‘by encouraging the spread of law into areas that were not necessary … and in which they have been protected by unnecessary and unreasonable regulatory barriers’.[7] Ultimately, this oversupply and the attendant over-reach of the legal market has created fertile grounds for disruption and the previously monolithic legal sector is segmenting in a way which means there is no longer any reason for many of these disaggregated tasks to be restricted to lawyers.

Increasingly advisory, facilitation and transactional practice is being subsumed by other indemnified professionals: accountants are providing tax advice, conveyancers are conducting property transactions, employment and industrial relations matters are handled by Human Resources Consultants. Many facilitation services have already been integrated into a range of technology enabled companies providing online access. It is possible to set up company structures or create self-executing smart contracts stored on the blockchain faster and more securely online than ever before. In the near future we can expect to see more platforms allowing a growing range of online transactions; from the resolution of consumer or welfare rights disputes; the creation and facilitation of wills, probate, and estate matters; to complete property transactions and company management.

That leaves litigious and prosecutorial work as the last bastions of the practicing lawyer – yet even this space is contested.** Reform of civil litigation legislation has curtailed personal injury work, [8]  eDiscovery is encroaching on many pre-trial tasks, and legal research, also a backbone of litigation, can be largely automated. Court appearance work is also being eroded by the increasing spread of tribunals and commissions, including the Fair Work and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity jurisdictions, [9] and alternative dispute resolution in which lawyers are often regarded more as a hindrance than a benefit.[10] The private sector is also eroding the litigation domain, with online platforms such as eBay and Airbnb containing their own arbitration systems, displacing as far as they can, the jurisdiction of local courts. In the near future there is no reason that a range of civil dispute resolution tribunals cannot also move their functions to online platforms which ‘can adjudicate small claims … as an alternative to court’ and without lawyers.[11] Additionally, there are a range of ways in which the sorts of issues currently giving rise to liabilities will no longer eventuate in the first place. For example, legal requirements are becoming embedded into our working and social lives,[12] including building designs which pre-emptively identify and correct environmental hazards, and plant equipment which automatically conforms with OHS requirements.

It seems inevitable then that increasingly the role of lawyers will be confined to officers of the court addressing only ‘David and Goliath’ issues.[13] That is, those disputes between individuals featuring significant power disparities, and disputes between individuals and more powerful institutions which remain tied to the adversarial system.[14] Likewise lawyers will remain needed in the prosecutorial space – where the potential tyranny of the state puts individuals’ human rights at stake. Beyond that, here come the robolawyers.

Previously: The Context – The ‘Post’ Society | Next time: SkyNet, Tech Singularity and the End of Lawyers


*See what I did there?

** Oooh, I did it again!

[1] Stephen Mayson, ‘Restoring a Future for Law’ (October 2013), 3.

[2] Balin Hazarika, ‘Role of Lawyer in the Society: A Critical Analysis’ (2012) 1 The Clarion 148, 149.

[3] See e.g. D. Casey Flaherty, ‘Client-led Change: Toward a More Perfect Legal Market’ (9 May 2016) 3 Geeks and a Law Blog.

[4] Rutger Bregman, Utopia for Realists (2016), 5.

[5] Marc Galanter, ‘More Lawyers than People: The Global Multiplication of Legal Professionals’ in Scott L. Cummings (ed), The Paradox of Professionalism – Lawyers and the Possibility of Justice (2011), 72.

[6] Mayson, above n 14, 3.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Commonwealth of Australia, Review of the Law of Negligence (2002) – commonly known as the Ipp review.

[9] See e.g. Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) s 596, which limits representation of applicants and respondents in the Fair Work Commission.

[10] Michele R. Pistone & Michael B. Horn, ‘Disrupting Law School: How disruptive innovation will revolutionize the legal world’ (March 2016) Clayton Christensen Institute White Paper, 6.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Richard Susskind & Daniel Susskind, The Future of the Professions (2016).

[13] Australian Government Productivity Commission, ‘Access to Justice Arrangements’, Productivity Commission Inquiry Report Overview (No. 72, 5 September 2014).

[14] Such as federal discrimination law system, matters can only be heard in the very formal Federal Courts or Federal Magistrates Courts

Superheroes: lawyers and social workers—but where are our Universities?

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By Bevan Warner

Batman and Robin were an irrepressible team, each with unique talents, who fought the good fight. Spiderman fought alone but had powers that made him superhuman. Was the dynamic duo or the singular superhero more powerful or better?

Just like our superheroes, lots of talented staff chose to study law with the express intention of standing up for what is fair and using their skills not to enrich themselves but to benefit and better the community.

They saw the potential for the law to oppress and enable: a force from which people will often need protection, but also a tool that can help individuals obtain protection and to realise their rights and lead fulfilling lives.

Many of today’s law students come to their studies with similar aspirations of fighting the good fight and using the law for social good, but do our Universities equip them properly for this task?

While law and commerce is a popular conjoint degree, few universities have a similar degree option for social justice lawyers. Those who are interested in the operation of the law for everyday people, will often undertake a conjoint law and arts degree. While this combination provides invaluable critical thinking skills it does not provide all the practical skills for effective social justice lawyering.

Why aren’t our Universities offering dual social work and law degrees to better prepare our social justice lawyers of the future?

Why make people study twice and work in two careers when a singular super professional hero would be better?

Victoria has been a leader in incorporating clinical legal education models in basic law degrees.

Former Victoria Legal Aid board member Mary-Ann Noone pioneered this work as she taught a new generation of social justice lawyers at La Trobe University and it is now routine for universities to entice students with some offer of practical experience of the law in their coursework. But still, no cross over single degree between law and social work. You can be Batman or Robin but not Spiderman – I sincerely wish I had a gender neutral superhero to choose from, but alas I do not.

I wonder which Australian University will be first?

Our lawyers at Victoria Legal Aid often reflect on how their role is as much about being a social worker as it is a lawyer. To only help a person with their legal issue, without assisting with the many other non-legal issues that underpin their legal problem, is to not do our job effectively.

Many changes are needed to achieve fairness before the law for everyday people but I venture that bringing social work into our law schools will be an important piece of the puzzle.

A fit-for-purpose degree with a mix of law and social work skills would be a great way to harness the passion I see in many of today’s law students who are clamouring to work at Victoria Legal Aid.

It would build on Victoria’s legacy as a leader in legal education and contribute greatly towards building the workforce we need for our future.

— Bevan Warner is the Managing Director at Victorian Legal Aid

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 previously studied at another university doing international relations…

Perri

… but absolutely hated the uni because everyone there is really stuck up. I decided that I really wanted to do law because my parents always told me I was really good at arguing!

I think my current uni is a really good way to get me there, it’s a really good place for me to work out what I’m doing and get the support I need.

I think if you work really hard at what you do it doesn’t really matter what uni you come from – it matters where you go from that.

Legends of Law School is a monthly column by Georgia Briggs

How much PAE?!

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggs

There are two main things that I recall being told as I finished my last semester at law school, and they run almost simultaneously:

  1. “It’s tough to get a legal job straight out of law school, good luck.”- said by the occasional legal academic as a throwaway comment.

    Accurate Translation: You think you’re going to get a job straight out of law school. LOL, unlikely my friend. That is almost certainly not going to happen.

Unlike the HSC, where people would have you believe that without a good mark you are going to end up homeless somehow, but everyone got into Uni anyway and you know no classmates living on the streets, this one is actually true. It’s is TOUGH to get a legal job straight out of law school. It does happen to some, but it’s very much a non-event.

  1. “How am I supposed to get experience without experience?”- AKA what feels like the most common cliché ever in the whole world.

Accurate Translation: WHY when I search for ‘junior solicitor’ or ‘graduate solicitor’ every job opportunity says 2-3 PAE (post admission experience). 2-3 minutes? I’ve got that. 2-3 days? Yeah… probably. Nope, that would be years… Great! But seriously life, HOW am I supposed to get 2-3 years PAE when no one will hire me without 2-3 PAE? *sobs in anger*

Volunteer work is a good idea, and one of the only ideas you have, however *quoting Homer Simpson* “do you know so called ‘volunteers’ don’t even get paid?!” So you need to balance the ability to volunteer, which I strongly recommend as it’s super fun, gets you experience and is good on the resume, with maintaining the ability to afford to live. So keep that in mind.

Got any friendly academics at your old Uni that you got along with? Ask them for any tips too.

Do extra short courses to become more learned in certain legal fields. Do things that make you more desirable to employ. Don’t waste away this odd time of limbo between finishing Uni and finding full time solicitor work, utilise! You already know how to juggle study and the type of job you have now, you’ve been doing it for years. So make the most of the time. Below are some links for CPD and other courses to check out.

NSW: http://eshop.lawsociety.com.au/index.php/events/new-lawyers.html

ACT: https://www.actlawsociety.asn.au/events/category/cpd-courses

QLD: https://services.qls.com.au/MBR/Events%20Calendar/Member/EventsCalendar/Events_Calendar.aspx

SA: https://www.lawsocietysa.asn.au/ (unfortunately you can’t get to SA CPD without login.)

WA: https://www.lawsocietywa.asn.au/continuing-professional-development-cpd/

TAS: http://lst.org.au/professional-development/

NT: http://www.lawsocietynt.asn.au/for-the-profession/continuing-professional-development-cpd.html

 

When the Interview goes l-awful! (see what I did there?!)

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggsJob interviews, as most people are aware, are some of the hardest and most nerve-wracking things we ever have the pleasure of doing to obtain sweet, sweet financial security. During post law school life, your main objectives are as follows:

  1. Maintain enough money to eat all three meals in a day, only one of which is 2 minute noodles;
  2. Apply for as many jobs as possible. NOTE: variants include whether you wish to only apply for the jobs you would truly kick ass at, or all potential available options of ‘doesn’t require 2-3 PAE’;
  3. GET THAT INTERVIEW!

It all seems a little much (particularly that first one), but after you get the call saying “yes Georgia, we think you’re CV looks like you’re at least somewhat useful” and you agree to a time that “suits you both” (the time actually super doesn’t suit you, but you know what does, working), your heart races. Then you have to think “what do a wear? Hair? Suit? Make-up? Shoes?”

The day of the interview comes and you look a million bucks (hopefully you’ll be earning that much soon). You walk in the door, worrying that you’ll trip in your heels or your tie isn’t straight and put on your best smile.

ANNNNNNNNDDDDD then it goes downhill. Oh yes, today’s entry is one of those times. Another time to learn that not every interview leads to a job, not every interview even leads to you feeling like a competent human being. Some interviews leave you feeling bewildered, uneasy and well to be honest, pretty upset.

You can’t help but get your hopes up when you go for a job interview out of law school. Even if it isn’t your Dream Job, it’s something that will give you experience and money and somewhere to go each day. This could finally be the ‘yes’ after what feels like the long trail of ‘no’s’. How wrong you were. You walk out feeling deflated, annoyed that you moved your day around for the time that “suited you both”, wanting so badly to take your heels off and throw them at the next successful looking person you see. Assault charges won’t help this day, so what do you do?

Do you:

Have a cry? Yes
Feel like the world is coming to an end and no one will ever hire you as a lawyer ever ever ever? Yes
Realise that’s probably not true and get a Boost Juice? Yes
Call a friend and complain about the stupidity of the interview questions? Yes
Impulse shop? Well…. I say yes, but consult your bank account first.
Keep applying for more jobs? Yes
Put this memory away as a helpful reminder for the next interview? Yes
Push a small child off the swing because he’s hogging it? No
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and put your chin up? Absolutely yes.

IT’S OKAY! That deflated feeling, the feeling that you’ll never get out of that café job that is tiding you over, that you worked all that time getting a law degree to be knocked back from a job that maybe you weren’t that keen on anyway.

An interview of mine not long ago may or may not have been an inspiration for this column, and let me tell you all of the above ‘yes’ answers happened (my newly purchased little plush bear says ‘hi’). Just remember from this tale of woe that rejection via an initial email hurts, but a crummy interview punches right in the law ego (also the gut).  It’s totally fine to feel really crappy for a while, feel a bit hopeless, like maybe a freezer mechanic might be a better career for you (nothing wrong with that job either, I’d pay top money to keep my ice cream cool, bless them), BUT you must carry on. Motherly wisdom is always helpful in life and here is my favourite one, thanks mum:

“It’s okay to have a big fat cry about it, but then you have to stop crying, and tell me what you’re going to do to fix it.”

So go, newly hatched lawyers, and fix it!

The Passion is Everything – Everything

 

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By Julian Summerhayes

“We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real…and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. (295)” ― Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

I’m acutely aware of the plethora of material espousing passion. You might say there’s a whole industry around follow your passion.

But really, do you need anyone (including me) to tell you to do something that you’re passionate about? (You may want to hold fire with your response until you’ve read the rest of this post.)

Yes and no.

First, the no.

You’re not an idiot, and whatever your stage of life, I’d like to think you’ve figured out what floats your boat. Of course, in a leisure setting this is easy to articulate: “I’m passionate about [insert].” And if you’ve got any sense you work to live and make sure you carve out as much time as possible to follow your passion(s), not at all cost but certainly in a way where you manage to find a space to be you.

What about work?

What do you?

Do you follow your passion?

Do you?

Be honest, please.

In answering the question, please don’t subconsciously give me the blithe aphorism “Because I want to help others.” Who doesn’t? No, I need you to go much deeper. What is it about the practice of law that truthfully brings you to full expression?

Arguing with your opponent? (*Sighs*)

Settling a mega, mega case? (*Double sighs*)

Making law firm partner? (*Feints*)

Nope, I don’t buy any of these. Why? Because having been around law for over 20 years, I’ve rarely met a lawyer who was passionate about any of these. In fact, the truth is I’ve rarely met a lawyer who can articulate a sensible answer to the passion question because they’ve lost touch with their inner, true self. You know the person whose skin you feel most comfortable in, where you don’t have to shapeshift to fit in.

I know, I might be so wide of the mark as to make this post dismissible in a nanosecond, but unless you know the answer to your core, all you’re doing is contriving one boring day after another…and living for retirement. Harsh? Yes possibly, but given you only get one crack at life (isn’t it amazing?), I wouldn’t try to pretend that’s it all hunky dory when it’s not. To be clear, I’m not asking you to trip out on some happiness lark, rather I want you to think very carefully why you practice law.

And now for the yes.

Yes, I do need to tell you.

Well, I’ve already touched on it: life is special; but I want to go a bit further. It may well be by the time you’ve investigated your current role and considered if there’s any chance of realising your passion, you draw a blank or manoeuvre yourself into a deep, dark place.

In fact, this was me back in 2010.

I’d done everything in my power to avoid asking what brought me to full realisation. To keep the backstory super short, I worked so hard that I didn’t leave any space for the self-doubt to creep in. It took a period of hospitalisation for me to be brought to my senses. And of course, during my convalescence, when I had oodles of time to think, you guessed it, I drew a big fat blank. I didn’t have an answer beyond the money, and given my age (43), I took the view that if I didn’t go off and follow my true passion I would live with one massive regret. Worse still, I’d go to my grave with my song still inside me.

Jump forward the present day. I’m still invested in law but now I run a small law firm. I wouldn’t say it’s completely resolved the passion question but it sure as hell doesn’t leave me denuded of soul as I walk through the front door every evening, as years of private practice did.

Does this mean I’m asking you to leap? No, not at all. In fact, it probably doesn’t mean you have to do a great deal to change your job save in one fundamental respect; namely, you have find time for you. To be more specific, you have to apply a new discipline to your life where you deliberately carve out time to see if you can do something, preferably following your commercial as well as your artistic muse.

In my case, I wish now that as well the day job I’d written poetry, practiced calligraphy and read more widely. I know it doesn’t sound revelatory, but it would have detuned me in a contemplative way from all the high-octane stress that proliferates in law. (At the time mindful colouring books weren’t around but they might have sufficed – ha ha.) You might go further and reconnect with your childhood passion and that might lead on to a new way of living, i.e. work is no more than a platform for you to do the things you really want to do.

Again, if this has a familiar ring then that’s not a bad thing but the ‘trick’ is to ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING – duh! You see, if there’s one thing I’ve learned on my own journey is that work is insidious and if you’re not hard as nails with your time, you’ll find all of this nice stuff being squeezed out by the inner voice that always says: “You haven’t got time for this right now.” Oh yes you have. Even 10 mins every day is enough. (Forget what you know about habits and that old chestnut of 21 days. Habits always take a lot longer — easily over 100.)

And, as I always say to those I work with, all of this is a choice. It’s not my job to persuade you to my point of view. You either want to do it or you don’t, but please don’t make the same mistake as me and leave the passion question alone because you know no different. The landscape is there not just to support your passion but to make it real.

Now, go make it a reality!

– Julian Summerhayes’ personal website is found at http://juliansummerhayes.com.

I grew up in a blue collar family

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“I grew up in a blue collar family. My dad was a printer—a union guy. So he didn’t have the financial resources to pay for my college or law school. I had to make my own way. I flipped burgers during the week for frat guys at the Student Union. I covered my tuition by spending my summers in the Marine reserves. I’m trying to make sure my kids don’t have to do all that stuff. I want them to be able to backpack through Europe, or volunteer in Central America. Meaningful stuff. If my son wants to be a poet or an Indian chief, that’s fine with me. I work 60 or 70 hours a week to make sure they can do whatever they want. I miss a lot of stuff, though. I have to hear about the soccer games second hand. That’s why the snowstorm this weekend was so great. No school commitments. No work commitments. We didn’t do much at all. Just sat around and read the newspaper or watched TV. There was just a lot of—talk.”

Courtesy of: Humans of New York

I wish I knew… the value of time

Claudia McGarva

By Claudia McGarva

I had a baby seven months ago and recently returned to work. The first thing I noticed about re-entering practice was that the whole industry – court, networking events, clients, continuing legal education, strategic planning meetings – does not care that you have to pick your child up from day-care, or you will be charged $40 for each minute after 6:00pm. Luckily, my partner and I are sharing the load but each day is an evaluation and negotiation of one’s priorities over the other’s. I am not going to bemoan the legal industry and discuss the tired term ‘work–life balance’. No, this is about not wasting time when time is a luxury.

When I was a junior lawyer, I would go to any work social events, seminar or committee meeting that was on. This was partly motivated by the university mentality that if an event offered free food and booze, you should take advantage. Also, it was a way to meet other professionals, learn something new and not feel so isolated in the industry. Young engineers networking social lawn bowls? Why not. Intensive weekend advocacy workshop? Bring it on. Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee for feminist vegan socialists? Of course. I had time to fully commit myself to my career and was willing to do so.

After a couple of years of practice, I stopped challenging myself and went through the motions.  It was not burn out; it was laziness. I think about the time I wasted watching bad TV, reading books that I didn’t like, thinking about going to the gym, and pretending to like crafts. In pregnancy, I stopped going to networking drinks as I felt like a diabetic in a chocolate factory and my feet hurt. I was still on cruise control.

However, since returning to work, I realised that I can’t always go to that interesting seminar interstate, or attend that committee meeting that runs until 8:30pm. I try to attend some events however at the moment, I do not have the luxury of being able to solely focus on one thing. I’m sure there will be a time when I can commit myself fully to the industry (yet ironically this will be when I am ready for retirement). However, there are some things I wish I did before bubs came along – further study, apply for that higher position, meet more people and be grateful for the level of control you have over your time. I think about how that time could have been used to learn something that would inspire me, meet interesting people and work towards a challenging goal.

I’m grateful for the time I now have with my son, and professionally, feel more productive than ever before. Unfortunately, there are so many things I want to do now to reinvigorate my interest in the law yet cannot do at the moment. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and my son sleeps for about six of them. I wish I knew the value of time when I had it in spades. However, I have learnt from my regret. I no longer waste time doing things I think I ought to, but really do not want to. If this means that I never finish reading Bleak House after the third attempt or learn how to knit, then perhaps that time was not wasted after all.

I’m Feeling 22!

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggs

Hello lovely people out there who have decided to give my column another read, thank you for coming back. It is my birthday this week, so I’m disappointed that I am yet to receive a gift from you, particularly as I give you the gift of my inner thoughts on a continuing basis (it’s the thought that counts right? Ha ha!)

Anyway, as I become another year older, though not that old really, it gives me a special moment to reflect on the year that was and what I am going to do differently, or exactly the same, in the year to come.

When I look back, a crazy amount of things happened in one year actually:

  • I graduated university and was admitted as a lawyer;
  • I had my 21st birthday party, which was the most kick-ass thing that has ever happened;
  • I went overseas for the first time since I started university in 2012;
  • My Grandma died;
  • I changed jobs from one I had for almost 2 years (a long time in what I refer to as ‘teenage years’ despite not being one anymore);
  • Lost some friends, gained some friends, all of that jazz;
  • Did a month’s work experience at my Dream Job.

But the real question, the one that might in some way (or not) influence some of your own thoughts and actions, is what I want to do differently, or exactly the same, this year.

Differently

  • I have always had an issue with lawyers and law students who conduct themselves as though they’re better and smarter than everyone else. It drives me absolutely crazy. However I’ve noticed this year, that there are times where I have formed an opinion on something, based on a negative view of someone, or a choice they have made. It’s something I think we all do, but I wish I hadn’t let it colour the situation, and influence the relationships I had with people. I think it is an issue, that as young lawyers we can’t help. Generalising (and almost proving my point via hypocrisy) most young lawyers are very hard working, career driven and may have their life planned out clearly. When someone makes a decision that doesn’t fit with your life plan, you think “well that’s a bad decision”. Stop. It’s their decision, and while you cannot help but think it, take the old school approach of “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all” and leave them be. If it doesn’t affect you, IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Despite the fact that you might think your opinion worthy of noting PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO HEAR IT. I know, hurtful, but they don’t, no matter how much you think you’re right. I vow that I will take an “each to their own approach” in the year of 22, and I suggest you do the same. It makes life a whole lot easier too because you’re not worrying about other people’s crap, worry about yours young lawyer!
  • I will try to limit the silly highs and lows of professional (or in the current case, lack of professional) life. A lot of law students and young lawyers can be excited and proud that they work in the area of law. Law is your thing and people go “wow” because they’re impressed and you must be smart and rich and successful and powerful and amazing. Yeeeaahhhh… no. Definitely not always at least. Try not to let this all go to your head, because it makes the knock backs harder and the rejections that happen fairly often in post law school life harder to get back up from. You do have strengths, remember them, thrive off them, develop them, but you do have some god damn weaknesses too. You’re not all-knowing, and (because reality ruins all things) it is not that likely that straight after graduation the Dream Job will call you and say “you’re JUST SO BRILLIANT! We need you and have a huge pay cheque too”. On the flip side, you’re not hopeless, or useless, or forever destined to walk the earth without legal work, so don’t beat yourself up too much. I vow that I will believe in myself and what I have to offer without getting too big for my britches in the year of 22. Don’t expect, but don’t doubt.

Same

  • Last year, though most of the year I forgot to do it, I told myself to do a few new things I hadn’t done before. Now I know what you’re thinking, biggest cliché in the “self-help” and “making myself a better person” playbook. BUT I’m serious, and this is the one thing I am going to continue to do this year, that I want to keep the same. However, I’m not going to tell you to quit your job (seriously, I’m never going to tell you that unless you’ve already signed the contract for the next job), or move interstate, or date the leader of a cult to turn your world upside down, but do little things, things that it will be awesome if you have a fun time, and you’re really no worse off if you have a crap time. Here are some suggestions from random things that I did:
Go and watch a sport you’ve never seen, even if you’re not a sporty person. I watched ice hockey last year on a whim, now own three jerseys for my local team, and contemplating getting a tattoo! (Joking? Serious? You’ll never know).

 

You know that movie that you want to see but you can’t get your friends organised? Go and see it… dun dun dun…. ALONE! Firstly, it’s a movie so when you get in there no-one is going to really notice you’re alone anyway. You can always tell the cashier that your ‘friend’ is running late and you’re going to be sharing that large popcorn you just bought. Secondly, and more importantly, you want to see the damn movie, so why would you wait for your silly friends? Pointless really.

 

Drive (or bus or scooter or roller-coaster) a little out of your comfort zone (suburb, town, city, state) and see what’s out there. Some of the most randomly beautiful or cool places are actually right under your nose. I once drove 15 minutes north of my suburb, which is in the city, and I hit farms! Had a picnic in a beautiful paddock all while still being able to see the infrastructure in the distance.

 

Is there a music concert in your area that sounds vaguely interesting and is cheap as chips? Just go, why not? At least you can say you went, and with or without friends, you can still get a good selfie and a band t-shirt.

 

Attempt a random activity in your local community. You have no idea what is on offer unless you pull your head out of your socks and go try it. Last year I went glassblowing one afternoon, just because. It was so interesting, and awesome, and now I have a funky paperweight that I made all by myself!

 

Volunteering is the best thing ever. You’re going to see me ramble about it a lot because I absolutely adore it! But stop thinking “ah yes sir, I’d like to volunteer as a lawyer” (you were supposed to read that in a very proper voice), and start saying “I love kids, let’s volunteer at a school” “I’d like to help people, let’s volunteer at the hospital” and other awesome things like that. Do something that isn’t you at all, and if you love it – great; if you don’t, better luck next time. Volunteer groups are always so happy to have assistance, even short term, so go look up “University Volunteers Australia” on Facebook and contact them for info (don’t worry, you don’t have to be a university student, it’s just the name, and it caters for people who have heavy commitments).

 

Make something! Anything! Whether it is a half day’s work or a 6 month project, make something. Attempt it, even if you completely stuff it up, you’ll learn something at least. Build a small table (Bunnings has free classes!), sew a pair of pants, bake some cookies and decorate them, make juggling balls from small bags of birdseed inside a balloon! The potential is infinite, and a good way to spend some down time. You can always give them as gifts, sell them at a market or throw them out on garbage night under the cover of darkness. But most importantly you can be proud of making something all by yourself like the clever law person you are.

I hope I have somewhat assisted in your new plans for (micro) world domination! 22 is going to be the best year yet because I am going to get an awesome job, write things for you guys and I’m going to Jamberoo for my party and I’ve never been to a water park before. Wheeeeee!

Until next time!

 

Georgia is a recent graduate from the University of Canberra and at the age of 21 is at the stage of searching for that dream job to lead her from her double degree of Law and Events Management into being a ‘real adult’. Her column “I Object” is a monthly piece about the thoughts, processes, and sometimes (who are we kidding- pretty often) tedious hurdles that post law school life can be.