Interview: Clarissa Rayward

Clarissa Rayward is a family lawyer, wife and mum who is passionate about relationships, people and family. Clarissa is the Director of Brisbane Family Law Centre, a boutique Family Law practice.

Clarissa uses her industry knowledge and skill to change the way Australian families experience divorce and separation.  She is known as ‘The Happy Family Lawyer’ as she believes that your divorce can be a part of your marriage you can look back on with pride. She is the author of the successful ‘Happy Family Lawyer’ blog, providing weekly commentary and tips on issues relating to divorce and the book ‘Splitsville- How to separate stay out of Court and stay friends’.

During 2016 Clarissa has published her second book- ‘Happy Lawyer Happy Life- How to be happy in law and in life’ for lawyers looking for better ways to practice law after launching a successful podcast by the same name.  Clarissa has now turned her attention to addressing the high rates of depression and anxiety amongst lawyers by opening a positive dialogue on how lawyers can find happiness in their careers.

When did you know that you wanted to be a lawyer?

I was a year or so into an interior design degree and was not enjoying it- I wanted to study something that was far removed from the ‘creative’ world as I felt a career in the creative arts was going to be hard work and I wanted to just enjoy my passion for creativity in my own time and not make it a job or a chore.  I took some time out from University and started doing a lot of reading- that led me to a few books about lawyers and I became more and more interested in the role of a lawyer so headed back to University the following year to do my law degree.

What attracts you most to the profession of law?

The capacity to help others through what is often one of the most difficult moments in their lives- I am a divorce lawyer and feel very privileged to have the chance to work with people at such challenging and personal moments.

What are your passions outside of the law?

Hanging out with my family, dancing, coffee and chocolate!  I love anything creative so I tend to do a lot of writing now but still find myself with a paint brush in hand every once in a while.

If you had your time again, would you choose to practice in law? If not, what else would you choose to do?

I ask myself this question a lot and the answer does depend on the type of day I am having!  Honestly I am not sure knowing what I know now that I would practice law in the traditional sense if I had my time again, but I do think a law degree is such a helpful ‘in’ to so many great career pathways.  I do love business and running a law firm so I sense I would still find myself running a business of some sort whether I had completed my law degree or not.

If you could only give one bit of advice to new lawyers, what would it be?

You are a person first and a lawyer second- never forget that.  A career in the law can at times become all consuming and the ‘higher’ you go in the law ladder the more your career will pull you away from the things that perhaps truly matter in life- family, friends and relationships.  Remembering that being a lawyer is just one part of you and being clear about what really matters will make those hard decisions easier.  And my second tip (because 1 is never enough) would be that this career is a marathon not a sprint and to remember to slow down and enjoy the ride as you just never really know what great opportunities tomorrow will bring.

What makes a lawyer a great lawyer?

A great lawyer in my mind is intelligent and has a solid grasp on legal concepts but more importantly has empathy and understanding.  I think a great lawyer is also naturally curious and not judgmental.

How do you balance life and work?

I don’t think of ‘balance’ anymore but have adopted the phrase ‘integration’ that a lawyer friend of mind coined.  Working for myself offers advantages and disadvantages.   I have found it better to just let work and life flow into each other without being too worried about having a clear structure.  However I am very careful to be focused on home when I am with my family and friends or work if that is what I am doing- I find it most difficult when I am trying to do both at the same time.

What is your best tip for maintaining sanity in the law?

Be honest and real with yourself.  We need to look for the positives, not the challenges and there are so many wonderful positives of being part of such a privileged profession.  Any career will have its challenges.  If you look after your health, find a positive workplace and enjoy your life and passions outside of your work I think you really can be a mostly happy lawyer.

What are your hopes for our profession?

That we can find better ways to work together and support each other to ensure longevity of our profession.  Here in Australia the statistics around mental health challenges for lawyers are very high (1 in 3 lawyers likely to experience depression or anxiety in their careers) and so I think we as a group of colleagues can do more for each other to minimise the drivers of ill health and unhappiness.

 

I originally looked at a certificate four, through TAFE, of legal services

I originally looked at a certificate four, through TAFE, of legal services. I thought that, with law, I wasn’t really going to cope with it, I didn’t really want to do it so I started looking into conveyancing. I realised that my university is the only one that can be done via correspondence that says “okay, you can be a conveyancer, you can be a certified conveyancer in NSW, instead of a lawyer”. There’s only three schools in NSW that recognise conveyancing as a degree and they’re all in Sydney. It’s win win, not all the law, but the law I want to do.

A Few Interview Secrets

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggsAs we move further along the path to our Dream Job, or even just, A Solicitor Job, all of us have experienced different things in interviews which we now know can make or break the impression you make on your potential employers. I have a couple today, and if you have any, I encourage you to share them to assist us all, come on, we’re all friends here.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

Yes, YES, dear god yes! When I was younger, if I believed they had already covered all my questions, logical ones, such as what will the work be like, what is my role, what are my hours, what is my pay, then no, I don’t have anything more to ask, it’s already been answered through the interview. WRONG.

Turns out (and yes, all you smarties are probably going, ‘well yeah, dar”, well not “dar”, because I didn’t know once upon a time which means someone else doesn’t) that you should, nay MUST, ask a question, even if you genuinely are content with the information you’ve received. Ask one about the company, better ask three, about the work environment, about the establishment of the position and whether there is room for promotion down the track. You. Must. Ask.

It is also important, that in preparation for this, because now you all know, that you think of a few potential questions beforehand. I’m not going to be the one to tell you to prepare endlessly for an interview. I know some who do and some who don’t, but we all spend a few minutes waiting to fall asleep at night, or cutting it a little close, waiting for them to come and walk us into the interview room, thinking about what you might answer to questions, what they might ask you. Prepare your questions BEFOREHAND, then you look super smart and interested (yay!).

How you answer your questions

I was recently told at the end of an interview, in a kind way, that I should have answered all the questions using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). I’d never heard of it, and while they didn’t mind “as much” because they were only looking for “a temporary person” if I ever went for another job in this sector then I should answer using the STAR method or I would “definitely not get the job”.

While I am pleased to have been told now, as she said “how would you know if no one has ever told you that it’s a specific requirement”, it’s very disconcerting to hear at the end of an interview you think went okay, but I thank her for telling me anyway.

I pass this previously completely unknown information onto you, the people, so that you may better utilise your interview skills for problem questions then I did.

Question: Tell me about a time where you….

Situation: Set the back story -what was happening at the time.

Task: What was the issue that came up?

Action: What did you to do solve said issue?

Result: Did it work?

Take a few moments before answering their questions (it feels like a horrendously awkward silence, but it’s really not) to organise your answer so it comes out clean and crisp.

If this method all seems a bit much and to me it did a little, just give it a bit more thought, an extra two seconds (one is too short, and three is too many) before you answer your question.

Do you have any tips or secrets to interviews you think new lawyers would like to know? Share the benefit of your wisdom with us by leaving a comment.

I work a lot.

caitlin

Basically because I like to go on holidays, so I want to be able to afford to go on holidays. I want to go on exchange next, but I can’t decided how long I want to go for, either 6 months or 6 weeks. The idea of 6 months gives me a little bit of anxiety because it’s such a long time. But it will either be in Stockholm or somewhere near Prague. Hopefully at the end of the year I’ll fly out to Europe.

Legends of Law School is a monthly column by Georgia Briggs

So, it turns out I was wrong… bound to happen I suppose.

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggsA few weeks ago I wrote a piece, including some very sound advice I like to think, as to what happens when you go to an interview, and it goes terribly. This was loosely (lies, very tightly) based on a job interview I had recently. It was for a nice job, which would tide me over until I found more permanent work, and they were on the same level as me in that regard, happy to have me for a short period, in non-solicitor work, until I found something better suited. Mutual use and understanding of the role. Well, despite the fact that I thought I tanked the interview more than I could have ever imagined, I got the job! WHAT?? I almost fell off my chair when the employer called me and said “we want to offer you the position”. I couldn’t wipe the look of bewilderment off my face, lucky it wasn’t a video call! I had honestly cried my little eyes out for a brief 30 minutes (ish) afterwards at how poorly the interview had gone, apparently, it hadn’t gone that poorly at all!

The lesson here is, you never really know what other people are thinking until they tell you. So keep an open mind towards yourself and the future and never put all your eggs into a basket before knowing for sure.

Tech Disruption and the Future Role of Lawyers (part 3)

futurama-robot-lawyer

By Phoebe Churches

This is the third post in a series on this topic. If you missed the first two, you can catch up on the first one here and part 2 here. This post looks at

SkyNet, Tech Singularity and the End of Lawyers

“I don’t blame you,” said Marvin and counted five hundred and ninety-seven thousand million sheep before falling asleep again a second later.[1]

So far this discussion has focused on the contracting role of lawyers, and the indications that this contraction will continue apace. Now I want to look at how close this event horizon might be. There are differing views on the immediacy of impacts of automation and technological change on the legal sector. From one side, a headline screams ‘Robots replacing lawyers a ‘near certainty’,[2] and a Deloitte Insight report claims ‘that 39% of jobs (114,000) in the legal sector stand to be automated in the longer term as the profession feels the impact of more “radical changes”’.[3]

On the other side experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tell us that ‘[a]utomation is advancing, but we are still far from the day when machines can do complex physical and mental tasks that are easily and cheaply done by humans’.[4] Similarly, an attendee at the CodeX Future Law Conference at Stanford Law School in May this year recounts much discussion teasing out the difference between ‘what’s real and what’s marketing buzz in artificial intelligence’.[5] A quick survey of Twitter dialogue hash tagged #futurelaw discloses general agreement that the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the foreseeable future will be to assist lawyers rather than replace them. There is some consensus that ‘the notion of the robot attorney is pretty much hype and we still have a long way to go to realize the potential of a fully AI attorney’.[6]

The Tech Paradox

One of the paradoxes of technology is that “simplification complicates”, that is, the more technology you throw at the problem in order to simplify it, the more complex it actually becomes.[7]

While automating transactional processes and other areas of simple decision making has already been a particularly effective tech intervention, complex decision-making processes are still not especially well suited to automation.[8] Moreover, some claims about technology really need to be properly put to the proof. For example, the facial analysis software which can purportedly pick criminals and terrorists by their visage sounds a bit too much like phrenology for comfort.[9] Similarly, apparently accurate predictions can prove to be a fluke. The potential for complex systems to rely on the wrong data is a stark reminder of the shortcomings of current AI. One anecdote which provides a good example is the AI system designed to detect the difference between dogs and wolves. After ‘training’ the system, it had a hit rate of close to 100%. Unfortunately, the system was simply detecting the presence of snow as a common element in all of the wolf photos, where the dog pictures featured none.[10] There are also troubling possibilities brought about by operator error and/or bugs introduced during coding of systems. These are not trivial concerns in the context of legal processes, and it may be a long wait for ‘the arrival of ultra-reliable and verifiably crash-proof code … a holy grail in the development of increasingly complex systems’.[11]

Ultimately though, these issues are about the rate of progress, rather than the inevitability of change. The writing on the wall is clear. Humans are no match for machine intelligence and efficiency in an enormous range of tasks. For example in the 80s and 90s, a large chemical company ran work done by its in-house legal staff through new data-mining software and found a human accuracy rate of only 60%. That is a lot of money spent on salaries for outcomes only ‘slightly better than a coin toss’.[12] It is indisputable that data-driven models can help make better legal decisions; yet, for the moment at least, and ‘for the appropriate tasks, the age of quantitative legal prediction is a mixture of humans and machines working together to outperform either working in isolation. The equation is simple: Humans + Machines > Humans or Machines’.[13]

The Regulatory Challenge

There is another factor limiting the speed of development in the sector: the full impact of rapid technological development continues to be throttled by slow regulatory change. Current regulatory barriers compromise services to consumers on both ends of the spectrum – on one end, entry barriers have created the monopoly which has facilitated a false market in legal services, and has limited competition from outside the sector which might otherwise weed out slapdash or underperforming firms. On the other end of the continuum, services in the unregulated space can enter the market unimpeded, providing all manner of products and services to unwary consumers with relative impunity.

While America is yet to reform its regulatory framework which enacts substantial barriers to entry and practise, the UK and to a lesser extent Australia have undertaken reforms to allow alternative business structures (ABSs). However, these reforms will need to go further as technology increasingly pushes the existing boundaries of regulation.[14] The Legal Services Board and the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority in the UK are actively promoting extensive regulatory reform to accommodate increased segmentation in the legal services market.[15] In Australia, incorporated legal practice and multi-disciplinary partnerships have been permitted for some time, however these models are still tightly confined by the regulatory framework.

The need to tread a careful line between freeing up the sector to embrace change, and protecting clients and society generally accounts in part for the sluggish rate of change to regulation. Witness the story of Justin Wyrick Jr who, in 2000 became the most asked for legal expert on AskMeHelpDesk.com. ‘Justin’, as it turns out, was in fact Markus Arnold, a 15-year-old secondary student who had never opened a law book in his life.[16] Mr Arnold was not prosecuted, to the American Bar Association’s abject horror, however his efforts are a pretty clear indication that consumers need some protection. Free online services are not currently regulated by consumer laws, so minimally we need some accreditation based regulation as assurance so the community can have some faith in what its (not) paying for.

At the other end of the spectrum, regulation unnecessarily interferes with potential improvements to the accessibility of the legal system. For example, in the US State of Florida, Rosemary Furman assisted people wanting a divorce by preparing and filing the necessary legal forms for $50.[17]  Ms Furman had previously done this work as a legal secretary under the supervision of an attorney who charged $300 to complete the same work. She thought the cost of filing for divorce was unconscionable, particularly for women unable to afford to leave violent relationships. [18] Unfortunately Furman was a victim of her own success, because her business attracted the attention of the Florida regulators who sentenced her to 120 days in gaol for her efforts. It was only by intervention of the Governor that she did not actually serve time.

Ultimately in the context of a disaggregated sector, regulators need to find ways to protect the interests of clients, but without erecting unnecessary barriers to entry, and constricting innovation. This has not proven a problem for the legal work increasingly undertaken by accountants and conveyancers. It is difficult to see why there is any barrier (other than the self-interest of lawyers themselves) to employing the same flexibility to encompass the increased segmentation of the legal sector. Mayson makes the case for ‘maintaining sector-specific regulation, rather than leaving legal services to be covered only by general consumer and competition protection’.[19] Where the stakes are particularly high for clients, such as ‘the potential for irreversible loss, misuse of clients’ funds, or abuse of a privileged relationship’,[20] there needs to be specific consumer protection, above and beyond the current regime. One way or another, regulators must recognise that the unbundling of legal work has at once opened up opportunities to address unmet legal need, and a potential space for the uninitiated and unannointed to wreak havoc.

Previously: The Contracting Role of Lawyers | Next Time: The New Frontier


[1] Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1982).

[2] Miklos Bolza, ‘Robots replacing lawyers a “near certainty”’ (22 Feb 2016) Australasian Lawyer.

[3] Deloitte, ‘Developing Legal Talent: stepping into the future law firm’, Insight Report (February 2016).

[4] Timothy Aeppel, ‘Be Calm, Robots Aren’t About to Take Your Job, MIT Economist Says’ The Wall Street Journal (25 February 2015).

[5] Miguel Willis, ‘Robot Lawyers: Kill Law Jobs or Augment Expertise?’ (24 May 2016) The Innovative Law Student .

[6] Ibid.

[7] Frank McKenna, ‘In the zone: Is technology helping or hindering lawyers’ decision making?’ (September 2013) LexisNexis Australia Discussion Paper.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Debra Cassens Weiss, ‘Company claims its technology can pick out criminals by facial analysis’ American Bar Association Journal (24 May 2016).

[10] Ibid.

[11] International Legal Technology Association, ‘Legal Technology Future Horizons – Strategic Imperatives for the Law Firm of the Future’ (Report, 2014).

[12] Bregman, above n 18, 12.

[13] Daniel Martin Katz, ‘Quantitative Legal Prediction—Or—How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Preparing for The Data-Driven Future of the Legal Services Industry’ (2013) 62 Emory Law Journal 909, 929.

[14] Steven Mark &Tahlia Gordon, ‘Innovations in Regulation—Responding to a Changing Legal Services Market; (2009) 22 The Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 501.

[15] See e.g. Legal Services Board, A blueprint for reforming legal services regulation (September 2013); and Solicitors Regulation Authority, SRA Regulatory Reform Programme Improving Regulation: proportionate and targeted measures (April 2015).

[16] Clifford Winston, Robert W. Crandall and Vikram Maheshri, First Thing We Do, Let’s Deregulate All The Lawyers (2011).

[17] George C. Leef, ‘The Case for a Free Market in Legal Services’(October, 1998) Policy Analysis No. 322 – the CATO Institute, 1, 2.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Stephen Mayson, ‘Beyond the Legal Services Act’ (27 July 2015).

[20] Ibid.

 

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

futurama-robot-lawyer

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

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