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.

 

Christmas wish list: that more people will enjoy the experience of listening and being listened to

decwithinsight

By Bernadette Healy

What is it like to be with the other when you truly focus on listening to them and their story?  Embarking on this kind of journey – if only for 10 mins – is a little like going to a foreign land as we cannot really know how it is for the other no matter how well we know them or think we know them.  If we want to truly be with the other we must let go of our preconceptions and our petty needs such as the use of conversation with another to gather data; compare ourselves; or make ourselves feel better etc.  Paradoxically if we approach it with the openness and curiosity that we typically bring to travelling, we will find that the other can help us, like a travel guide, to see their world through the eyes of the local expert: – them – as, after all, we are each the expert in our own lives.  There you will discover the other in a new and wondrous way and find yourself in the midst of connection.

The following is offered as a representation of being with the other:

 The red ribbon sits between us

silken light

A floating promise

If I or you tug too hard it falls from the other’s hand

If I let go it drops into the space beneath,

out of reach,

not ours anymore.

Holding, not grasping

Keeping it untangled and free.

Holding so you know I am there but not calling for you unbidden

We can leave it still and sit connected.

We can place it down and take it up again at another time.

We can take turns offering and leaving it resting.

My rabbit holds it at times – but I must not allow him to run off too far afield.

I am there with you

My ribbon will sometimes meander as I try to stay with your twists and turns

Remind me if I am falling behind or have strayed too far ahead or away from you

The ribbon connecting you to me to you to we

Safely softly huge

Holds contains encircles

Allowing

Allowing

Allowing

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.

When the rug is pulled out from under you… and thrown over your eyes… and someone sets you on fire while you’re in the dark.

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggsLet me paint a small picture for you:

  1. It’s your birthday;
  2. You have to work on your birthday for the first time in your life, so you’ feeling a little underwhelmed by the whole thing;
  3. You had a superb interview with your Dream Job exactly one month ago and are waiting to hear back;
  4. No, you’re not being cocky, it went really well and one of the interviewers even said “what a fantastic answer, you’re pretty much already in”;
  5. You get an email from your Dream Job;
  6. You did not get the Dream Job;
    … did I mention it was my birthday?

Now I know what your first question is, because it will be the same as my lovely best friends’ question was when I told them, “did they give reasons why?” No, but I could email HR if I wanted to find out, 4 minutes later I had. Haven’t heard back yet.

I wrote an earlier article about how I had the wrong impression about a job interview which I thought went badly, but turns out I got. This would be the complete opposite, except worse, because the Dream Job that you’ve been pining for, for the last 5 years just punched you in the face with its generic email content.

The next question should of course be, how long did I stare at my screen re-reading the email? At least 10 minutes, while I yelled to my mum and her friend to “hold on” without giving any further information as to why. I just couldn’t fathom it, it must be a typo, it just couldn’t be a ‘no’. Needless to say the birthday party hat I had insisted on wearing to make work more fun was taken off.

So what now? (aka when your faith is truly shaken)

My family has one of those “if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be” type mentalities. In fact, when I’ve been getting knocked back for some other jobs recently we’ve all been thinking (and occasionally saying) that clearly I’m not meant to have this job because I’m going to hear back from my Dream Job who will give me a resounding yes and welcome me with open arms. It’s really hard to see the positive side of this knock back. What in the hell could ‘fate’ have in store for me in terms of job prospects (supposedly saving up for a good one) if my Dream Job is a big fat no?

So what do you do, when your Dream Job knocks you for six… I’ll let you know when I know. Apologies for the loose type of ending here, but I seriously don’t know, and really that lack of understanding and almost speechlessness (though not in writing) shows just how lost a\ writer who has a fun “whoopsie daisy” kind of column can be at the moment. Maybe soon I’ll have a top 10 list of “coming to terms with not getting your Dream Job”. Everyone loves a top 10!

 

 

There is Only One Version of Your Story

oneversion

By Bernadette Healy

It is entirely possible that even amidst your busy work life – while trying to make an impression on those that matter – striving to stand out, and hoping to be chosen for greater things – that you could also be wondering about where you find yourself now, in the world of work.  You might be wondering about the purpose of your role; the meaningfulness of your assigned tasks; the degree to which the project is worthwhile and even the merits of the company,  workplace or even industry sector within which you find yourself.

You might ask your younger self, for example your 18 or 19 year old self, what do you think of where I am now?  Have I sold out my ideals?  Is this worth all the hype that was created back then around the possibility of securing one of these coveted roles?  Have I missed out on a time of just trying different things? Of working only to enable travel to the next place? Of experiencing my days largely unaware of the time?  Ought I to be pursuing that other idea that used to occupy me?

Yes it is quite possible and even probable that you can be working in an effective and committed way while actively wondering about all those other options. Yes you can even be being celebrated by others for the way you are doing your job while internally experiencing profound questioning of that very same role.  You may even be wondering more generally about what larger purpose your work should be addressing.

A sense of purposefulness is not static.  A sense of purposefulness can at times elude us.  The clear purposefulness that we felt just a few short months ago in the very same place can start to shift and morph into an in-between place, a place of not where we once were, but clearly not the next thing either.  This can be both unexpected and quite confusing.  Also it can sometimes be a bit sad as we long for the time when either we were so busy getting to that job, that we didn’t think about the what of it, or we might be longing for the time when we were so thrilled to get that job and then so preoccupied learning how to be in it, that there was no room for anything else.  The sadness can be for the loss of innocence; the shift in your way of experiencing yourself in relation to the world of work compared to an earlier, less conscious time.

Unless you are overdue for a major life review (e.g. 20+ years of a working life with little or no active reflection to date), the good and bad news is that you don’t have to change anything just because you are having doubts and questions and ‘what if’ kinds of thoughts.

You have a number of options.

  • You can keep doing what you are doing
  • You can keep doing what you are doing and resolve to notice but not act upon questioning thoughts
  • You can keep doing what you are doing, notice your questioning thoughts and resolve to pay regular attention to them
  • You can keep doing what you are doing, notice and note the questioning thoughts and then review, for example, 3 months from now with a view to identifying recurring themes and ideas
  • You can start acting in your head as if you are going to make a change and think through all the possible options, do some research, make lists of pros and cons – (this needs to be done seriously for it to be useful)
  • You can do the above and then leave it for a few months – trusting that after you have spent appropriate time, energy and conscious thought on this complex cognitive task that factoring in an incubation period will generate a number of novel solutions (please see this earlier post for discussion and reference for non-conscious cognitions)
  • You can gather information from people who know about the options you are considering[i]
  • You can be on the lookout for projects or opportunities to experience more about other interests and ideas (perhaps at work but also including in your own time; volunteering; classes; workshops; going to different places; creating opportunities for new experiences)
  • You can keep doing your job and your life and reflecting and weighing up options while being aware of the fact that you have many unanswered questions – the next ‘just right for this moment’ thing will become clear if you can be patient and open to hearing yourself above the noise of everything else.

 

[i] but always weigh up others’ judgements carefully.  The most important source of information about your future direction is you and your felt sense of what is and is not a good fit with the person you know yourself to be.

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

I have three sisters, one older and two younger…

Tonia (1)

I think I get along better with my older sister because she gives me good advice and she’s just good to be around. She recently got married, I was her maid of honour.

I think the best part of being a maid of honour is just being there for my sister throughout the whole process, the worst part is probably doing the speech in front of heaps of people. Luckily it went quite well.

Legends of Law School is a monthly column by Georgia Briggs

Cleaning cloths, politicians and values – maximising good fit with your partner.

23345782 - close-up of man cleaning the floor with yellow wet floor sign

By Bernadette Healy

I recently noticed a range of cleaning cloths upon which were printed images of current Australian and international politicians, together with suggestions for possible applications of the cloths.

I wondered both about the product line, and where else it might be sold. Other than the not-so-upmarket as to be apolitical but not so political as to be anti-frivolous-consumer-goods place where I was – who was the target market? I was amused (but not tempted to buy!) and although I didn’t experience any negative reaction in coming across this product, I thought it likely that some would – that others may experience a ‘values-clash’ moment.

The expression ‘values-clash’ while perhaps increasingly absent in the modern work-place vernacular, never-the-less concerns a very important concept both in the personal and work domains.

In the personal domain, a sense of shared values with one’s partner is vital to relationship longevity.  Some of the values that influence compatibility relate to lifestyle choices – an area of potential to have battles about day to day decisions.  Examples of these ‘values in action’ decisions include:

  • How much emphasis is placed on planning? Is the process of planning a jointly enjoyed activity within the relationship? Is allowing scope for spontaneity, valued?
  • How do each in the couple value time spent socialising versus time alone pursuing their own interests?
  • How much emphasis is placed on money? What form and place does money-management occupy in the relationship? Is economising an important shared language in the relationship? Is the language of money confined or pervasive?
  • Does the expression of emotion fit in the relationship? Is there an emotional language?
  • What decisions are made about food? What will be eaten? Where? Prepared by? How much is reasonable regarding cost? Is quality a key issue? Is variety important? Is it just about taking in the appropriate nutritional requirement to enable the more important activities to be undertaken? Or is it an important activity in its own right?
  • What emphasis is given to keeping up with friends? What emphasis is given by each of the partners to the extended family and spending time with them?
  • What emphasis is given to the standard and maintenance of the shared spaces occupied by those in the relationship? What is the definition of minimum / optimum with regard to house-work standard?

Having regular conversation about what really matters to each of you, and starting these discussions early on will provide you both with key information about the viability of your relationship in the long-term – and help to minimise the hurt all round.

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!