In Praise of Doing Nothing

inpraiseofdoingnothing

 

By Stephen Tang

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Katha, the burnt out publicist

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‘Switched on, driven and burnt out’

Eleanor Morrison plays the role of Katha in this year’s production of Maple & Vine.

Eleanor is a lawyer in the Disputes Team at Ashurst.

We’ve asked Eleanor a few questions to gain some greater insight into her background, reason for performing and what excites her about her role as Katha.

Is this your first BottledSnail production?

I was a member of the cast for BottledSnail’s production of Parade and a member of the production team for BottledSnail’s 12 Angry Men.

What drew you towards the BottledSnail community?

At first I thought the BottledSnail community might be a sort of sub-community of the legal industry where I could devote some time to an activity that was creative, but quite separate from my professional life in the law.  To the contrary, being involved with BottledSnail has shown me that there is a real depth of support in the legal community for people who want to be creative or try something new.  I’ve found that investing in an activity outside my normal work routine has actually made me feel more engaged with my existing “work world”.

Why did you choose to perform?

I like assisting in telling a story.  I was drawn to the story of Maple & Vine and wanted to be a part of telling the story to people in the legal community and provoking discussion.

As you are playing the role of Katha, if you could describe her in one word what would it be?

Relatable.  I don’t think Katha is always likeable but I think parts of her story will strike a chord with the audience.

What excites you about this role and what challenges does it bring?

The role excites me because I think Katha’s story is a vehicle for addressing some broader issues facing my generation and my generation in the legal industry.  I feel challenged by the material though.  Because it’s an important story to tell, there’s a bit riding on the execution!

The play explores a number of themes, what is the most important one for you?

Freedom and the idea that choice can be crippling.  If you grow up being told that you are special and you can do anything you want with your life, how can you be sure that you’ve chosen the best path?

Tickets can be found here: http://mapleandvine.bottledsnail.com/ and the details are: 2-5 December 2015 at 8:00pm, with a matinee on the 5 December 2015 at 2:00pm.

What Kind of Professional Do You Want to Be?

Professional Meditating

by Bernadette Healy

Being a professional new to their career – exciting and nerve-wracking!

Congratulations on being a practitioner in your new career (or if you are a law student on getting as far as you have to date!).   You have probably been so busy getting to this point that you may not have given thought to the question: how do I want to be in this career? 

That is, what kind of lawyer do you want to be, not just in terms of executing your professional obligations as a lawyer but what sort of professional do you want to be?

It may be helpful to think of your new career as a marathon you are about to start rather than a sprint.  For some of you sprinting will be a particular strength and this is definitely the kind of skill required for some of your work.

However treating this career in general as a sprint or a series of sprints may inadvertently lead you to experience burnout.

Although it is common, particularly when a new professional, to view your new career in terms of discrete projects, from a long-term well-being perspective, it will help to keep stepping back and asking yourself about how you are going in terms of an ongoing professional journey.

This means regularly setting aside time to yourself, relaxing and reflecting – asking yourself questions about how you are compared with how you want to be. This will help to avoid your putting too much emphasis on any one outcome – a protective practice in terms of stress and helpful if you tend towards frequent feelings of anxiety and / or tending towards being overly responsible.

Anxiety and responsibility are two of the most common issues that young lawyers face as they are finding their way in their new profession.

Anxiety is a non-specific kind of feeling which is associated with symptoms such as excessive worrying, negative thoughts often including concerns about failure and approval of others and feelings of agitation.

Troubling feelings related to responsibility generally oscillate between taking on too much responsibility and taking on too little with associated feelings of shame and self-criticism

Are these feelings relevant to you or perhaps to a colleague?

It may be a little challenging to be asked to reflect on your feelings when you are most likely highly rational people about to begin your career within a profession where rationality is so greatly prized.  However, feelings are a great source of information – about how we are going relative to our deeply held sense of ourselves – ignore them at your own peril down the track!

You need to be careful not to prematurely judge your own performance as a lawyer (in worse case, deciding to leave when the issue is just the natural one of being new to a professional role).

Perhaps for a very small number it may not turn out to be your career – if so remember that it is not possible to find that out without putting yourself in a position to try; hopefully if this turns out to be the case, you can avoid self-recrimination and any urge to inaccurately conclude that you are a failure when actually you have merely done a necessary bit of career self-correction.

Judging everything in terms of achievement, winning and needing to avoid making mistakes is very common within the legal profession.  The use of judgement and judging while a necessary skill can also be very limiting if it means you are not as engaged in your life as you could be due to a fear of failure.  That is, people who focus only on success tend to avoid putting themselves in the position of being a beginner.  This leads to their ending up with a much reduced repertoire of skills and abilities and experiences than those who are less concerned with trying out something for fear of looking like an idiot or not getting it right the first time.  Ongoing self-criticism and judgement is predictive of both stress and even, poor performance, particularly in terms of a rigidity in problem-solving.

 Staying true to yourself

Try and keep a gentle and warm interest in yourself and who you are; your values and priorities and feelings and how to remain true to that while in your professional role.

Put some rituals in place to ensure that you make a point of separating out work from non-work, for example:

  • Listing questions arising from current work day and leaving them at work ready to be re-visited at the beginning of the next work day.
  • Cycling home.
  • Getting off the tram or train one stop early and walking.
  • Sitting in a park for 5 mins before going home.
  • Doing a 3 min breathing practice on the train home.
  • Asking your partner and family to leave you alone for the first 10-15 mins after you get home.

Do some regular self-reflection.  You could start with the identification of your personal triggers – this could be people, situations or events which cause you to react in a manner which is out of proportion with the situation.

For example you may find yourself being very annoyed with the approach of a colleague and find yourself ruminating on them, their approach, your reaction, the situations you have shared etc.  What may actually be happening is that your colleague has triggered a potential threat to a core belief such as that you must be liked and approved of; that you must be in control; or that you must be included.  If you are not aware of these potential triggers, you are likely to automatically and unthinkingly respond to the situation in an inappropriate and reactionary manner and to attribute to the other that which is really to do with you.

Learning to identify and control personal triggers is vital to ensuring that you know where you and your ‘stuff’ ends and that of others around you begins.  It doesn’t change the situations you face but it will give you a sense of security that you will be ok.

Self-reflective practice can guard against the kind of existential desert that is commonly experienced  by those who have been so busy doing, fixing, controlling and generally just getting on with things that they have omitted to build in regular time for being, reflecting and asking themselves some non-task-focused questions.

Focusing in on your inner life can help to modify the down side of your skill set.  That is, just as it is necessary to know your strengths and build on them and maximize their use, it is also necessary to understand the likely down sides of these strengths.  E.g. the strong individualistic drive and focus that can motivate someone to become a skilled practitioner may also be associated with low tolerance for others’ weaknesses and perhaps even make them a poor team player.  A person with great organizational ability and project management ability may also be associated with an inability to see the role of lateral thinking in problem-solving or perhaps even a reluctance to give time to the use of non-standard problem-solving methods.

So think about the kind of professional you want to be, make a bit of effort to allow yourself space for your own feelings and ideas to bubble up, watch out for your personal triggers and the other side of your strengths and most importantly, do all this with a sense of fun, curiosity and kindness.

 

 

Music for the Soul: BottledSnail presents Habeas Corpus in ‘Scene and Heard: Choral Pop for Film’

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By Julia Larner

I was beginning to think being anything more than an appreciator of music wasn’t going to fit in with sensible, mortgage paying grown up life; that involvement in the performing arts was a childhood luxury that I once knew. I have Habeas Chorus to thank for helping me to keep music in my life and contributing to an ever important work-life balance.

Having chosen Law as a career path, I have spent the last four years caught up in textbooks, exams, volunteer experience, paid experience, more exams, networking, attending essential skill-building seminars, clerkships (or lack thereof) and then finally landing my first lawyer job. My ability to work a chromatic scale has well and truly transformed into touch-typing proficiency, and my memory of key signatures has become a repertoire of a growing legal vocabulary.

As a first-year lawyer in a busy and growing immigration law firm, work quickly became the absolute priority in my daily life. I’ve tried to work hard, within a culture of equally hardworking and inspiring young lawyers, to learn and earn my way into the profession. However, with the adjustment to often demanding hours and so much to take in, despite the warnings I found myself starting to cut out ‘luxuries’, including exercising, seeing friends, cooking, healthy eating, as well as playing music. As a result I started feeling tense and a little bit hollow.

In a dark cold month of winter 2015 I tentatively joined an inspired, diverse bunch of dedicated and similarly flat-out law professionals for Monday night rehearsals with BottledSnail Production’s newly formed choir, Habeas Chorus.

Throughout Habeas Chorus’ inaugural and subsequent term, a solid turnout of at least 20 of us have arrived at rehearsals to the welcome of a cheery coordinator, Emilia, and a bewilderingly energised conductor, Dan, whose enthusiasm for music and teaching is contagious. Very soon we are in the swing of belting out tunes in surprisingly beautiful harmony. Although for many of us sight reading is a little rusty, Dan makes it seem easy to re-learn. Currently we’re tackling a nostalgic bunch of classic pieces from films including The Blues Brothers, Moulin Rouge and The Lion King; a stark but enjoyable contrast to last term’s classical repertoire.

It only took the first rehearsal to remember the uplifting feeling of being warmed from the inside out, not only by my own hit and miss vocals, but the various voices of 20 or 30 others, rising and falling around me. Despite the everlasting winter and the ever present challenge of Monday-itis, whatever sort of day I’ve had I always relish rehearsals and end up singing all the way home.

I wonder if there’s anyone else out there who thinks like me and wants to bring music back into their lives? I would recommend it to anyone, come along to Habeas Chorus and remember why music is good for the soul!

Julia Larner is a lawyer at Carina Ford Immigration Lawyers.

BottledSnail Productions presents Habeas Chorus in Scene and Heard: Choral Pop for Film starting at 8:00pm on Friday 9 October at the New Ballroom at Trades Hall. Tickets are on sale now at http://www.bottledsnail.com/habeaschorus.

If you’d like to join Habeas Chorus please go to http://www.bottledsnail.com/habeaschorus to register your interest.

Amy Poehler on careers:

Amy Poehler

“Ambivalence can help tame the beast. Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend.  It likes it when you don’t depend on it.  It will reward you every time you don’t act needy.  It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you.  If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else.”

Soul searching- a break from survivalism

By Kristy Mantzanidis

Soul Searching

As a new and emerging lawyer, I am passionate and satisfied working in law. I enjoy the daily challenges, stimulation and buzz of being surrounded by likeminded individuals. That being so, it came as somewhat of a surprise when I was given my first task in my current legal placement which was, essentially, to try to find someone who had found their true calling outside of the Law, and to reflect on their story.

I found Jeff Brown.

Acclaimed author and founder of Soul Shaping Institute (SSI) Jeff Brown left the law in order to find his true calling. Born in Toronto Canada, Brown graduated on the Dean’s Honour List, apprenticed with top criminal lawyer Eddie Greenspan and won multiple awards. He was what you would call the “high achieving lawyer”. It was not until he sought to open his own practice that Brown heard a little voice in his head telling him to “stop, just stop”.

“Law is rooted in a survivalist structure, and reflects its very darkest elements”.

After a self-enforced sabbatical from Law, Brown gradually discovered that “real education” happens “inside out”. His philosophy is simple: by connecting with one’s spirituality and studying their inner world, it is possible to reach true potential and learn essential life lessons.

Brown has written several books about spirituality: Soulshaping (2007); Ascending with Both Feet on the Ground (2012) and his third book Love It Forward was released just in time for Valentine’s Day 2014. Brown has also written a series for ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’, appeared on Fox News, radio shows, written blogs, and directed documentaries.

Beyond writing however, Brown had a dream of supporting others in their life journey. As such, he founded the Soulshaping Institute (SSI), an on-line learning centre committed to supporting and educating others on how to find their truest path and purpose. Brown stresses: we are born with tremendous potential yet need help to self-actualise”.  It was with this in mind that he created SSI. An institute that understands the human existence and obstacles ranging from emotional to collective, SSI provides the tools needed to find our most ideal path and offers a range of courses including: education in healing, spirituality and support networks. Of course this is only one of many cases beyond the law.

For me, I do not think I will be venturing out of the law zone any time soon; however I respect that when you embark on a career in the Law, you need to ask yourself: is this where I really should be? If the answer is yes, then great! But if there are doubts then a little journey outside the square can’t hurt anyone. After all, whilst we might all start with one dream, dreams change, and that is okay. As someone very wise once said:

 “The unexamined life is not worth living”- (Socrates)

Links to some of Brown’s projects are provided below:

www.soulshapinginstitute.com

www.soulshaping.com

www.enrealment.com

 

 

BottledSnail presents Habeas Chorus’ inaugural concert ‘Luminous’

BottledSnail presents Habeas Chorus' inaugural concert 'Luminous'

By Callum Dawlings

Law can be a cutthroat profession. The performance of music, however, is never cutthroat (ignoring for the moment films like Pitch Perfect). In recognition of Melbourne’s occasionally blinkered attention on sport, music is the ultimate team sport. It is only possible to win with teamwork, but not only that, there is only one team. If there is a winner, you only win together and if you lose, everyone loses. Although law and music might seem dissimilar, each encourages co-operation and community; the legal profession upholds the rule of law for all, and music brings people together to inspire and reinvigorate themselves and others.

I started singing at the start of high school (my voice broke early), where I was roped into a newly formed choir; willing male voices being hard to find in suburban state schools. I ended up completing a Bachelor of Music at the University of Melbourne, specialising in composition. In my first year of studying post-graduate law at La Trobe University, I was the Director of the Queen’s College Chapel Choir at the University of Melbourne, a position that allowed me, while in the midst of the intense study of law, some artistic outlet and communal activity.

I haven’t had the opportunity to sing consistently since then, so I was thrilled when I was able to become involved in BottledSnail’s new choir for the legal profession, Habeas Chorus. It is great to meet lawyers with an interest in music, performing or the arts. Involvement in something (anything) other than black-letter law is important in a profession that can become all consuming. Habeas Chorus’ first concert, Luminous, will be held on Saturday 20 June 2015 at 7pm at St Johns Southgate, Southbank, directed by Dan Walker, and accompanied by Ria Polo and strings from the Melbourne Lawyers’ Orchestra.

The performance of music is an inherently communal behaviour (as is the practice of law). It requires a meeting of the minds of the composer, the conductor, performers (both individually and as a single, collective mind) and the audience. When you are one of those participants, it is necessary to imagine yourself in the place of each of the other participants for the whole endeavour to succeed. Not only does music take you to the minds, experiences, expectations and realities of other people, it also takes you to other times or places.

Habeas Chorus’ first concert will feature Fauré’s superb Requiem, first written in the late 1880s and subsequently revised to include orchestra. It was performed at Gabriel Fauré’s own funeral in 1924. The work is far less gruesome or gloomy than some other Requiems; it is more tranquil and often angelic. Fauré’s idea of death was “as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience”. “Lux perpetua” shines upon the dead. Light is therefore the theme of Habeas Chorus’ first concert. The concert’s opening work is by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo entitled Luminous Night of the Soul, written in 2012 for the Cantare Houston. The text highlights the role of the spirit in communal activities, such as music, poetry and love. Although stepping through various styles, the composer maintains consistency over the whole work through impressive harmonic and melodic control. Ben van Tienen, an Australian composer, used the opaque and evocative words of Paul Auster’s White Nights to create a work with obscure, complex and fascinating harmonies and intense rhythmic interest. This is contrasted with John Tavener’s deceptively difficult Song for Athene (performed at the funeral of Princess Diana), the simplicity, clarity and restrained beauty of which is apprehended sharply with the phrase, “life: a shadow and a dream”. Morten Lauridsen’s well-known setting of Sure on this Shining Night with its modest harmonic palate, but flowing and pleasing melody and phrasing will be sure to delight. John Rutter’s A Gaelic Blessing is full of metaphors for peace, which are amply reinforced by the setting, the lower parts serenely supporting a soaring melody from the sopranos. The extensive and diverse repertoire ensures that this will be a wonderful concert, and the beginning of a promising new musical outlet for legal professionals in Melbourne, for participation either as performers or audience.

The legal profession needs new influences and cultural engagement to maintain the confidence of the public. The need for an individual to have a proper balance of work, family and life requires one to try new things and have different experiences, to engage with new people, and expose oneself to new ideas and culture. We hope to see you, your friends and family at the concert, and then at rehearsal next term!

Tickets available at http://www.bottledsnail.com/habeaschorus

Callum Dawlings is a Tutor at La Trobe University

The Right Bloody Thing to Do

By Dean R P Edwards

Monash Dean of Law Bryan Horrigan (left) joined panellists (left to right) Federal Court Justice Shane Marshall, King & Wood Mallesons partner John Canning and Monash University Pro Vice-Chancellor David Copolov OAM (Credit: NLL)

Monash Dean of Law Bryan Horrigan (left) joined panelists (left to right) Federal Court Justice Shane Marshall, King & Wood Mallesons partner John Canning and Monash University Pro Vice-Chancellor David Copolov OAM (Credit: NLL)

On the 12th May 2015, lawyers and educators met to celebrate the launch of the Monash Mental Health Front and Centre Wellbeing in the Law Initiative.

Panellists offered some “antidotes to the pressures” that lawyers and law students face alike at Monash Law School’s launch.

The panel brought together some of the law’s top professionals – the Honourable Justice Shane Marshall of the Federal Court and King & Wood Mallesons partner John Canning – into conversation with Professor David Copolov OAM, Monash’s Pro Vice-Chancellor and a practicing psychiatrist, and Professor Bryan Horrigan, Dean of Monash Law School and the panel’s host for the hour-long panel discussion.

Before the panel discussion got underway, Horrigan and Monash Law’s Student Experience Manager Lloyd England opened the evening with a launch of a YouTube video series (watch here) produced by the university to raise mental health awareness and mindfulness in the law.

Dean R P Edwards and Marie Jepson

Dean R P Edwards and Marie Jepson

 

Monash Law School then recognised the efforts of the evening’s Guest of Honour, Marie Jepson, founder of the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, which advocates for greater mental health awareness and support in the legal profession.

The Tristan Jepson Foundation recently introduced the “TJMF Psychological Wellbeing: Best Practices Guidelines” which the Foundation encourages law firms and other organisations to adopt and put into action.

Monash Law School formally announced its adoption of the Guidelines on Thursday night, joining more than 100 organisations to sign onto the Guidelines to date. Jepson praised Monash Law School’s effort as “modelling leadership for others in the law”, adding that “there is no end point to this campaign” to push mental health into the limelight in the legal profession.

With stress a well-known factor in the profession, a 2007 Beyond Blue survey found that 15 per cent of law students and lawyers suffer from “moderate to severe depression”. Other surveys report that around 20 per cent of barristers and 33 per cent of solicitors are depressed at some point in their career.

Lloyd England, who introduced the panel, said that the statistics show that “mental health problems don’t end with the law degree”.

Justice Marshall and Canning spoke to their personal, lengthy battles with mental health issues and how they learned to cope over time – and more importantly, how as they overcame difficulties, they could share their experiences in the hope of helping others suffering silently. “De-stigmatisation starts with the law students and lawyers of tomorrow”, Canning said, noting as well that, in his experience at Mallesons, “young people tend to talk more about mental health”.

Dean R P Edwards, Justice Marshall, Arna Delle-Vergini

Left to Right: Dean R P Edwards, Justice Marshall, Arna Delle-Vergini

Panellists also shared their thoughts on strategies within the profession to change attitudes and support individuals with mental health issues.

“It comes down to humanising the legal practice,” Copolov said. “The healthiest lawyers are those who report an intrinsic sense of moral satisfaction” and are collegial rather than overly adversarial. “It’s important to have a breadth of activities beyond the law and to seek support”, Copolov added.

When Canning had pushed for action on mental health within his workplace, he said colleagues were receptive and set up a subcommittee to discuss ways forward. In the words of one of those colleagues, Canning paraphrased, “it’s just the bloody right thing to do.”