I broke up with someone in January.

LoL 3

I broke up with someone in January. He was going to propose but I found out he was cheating. I lost my home, he even sold my puppy when I was not at home. I lost everything. He was financially supporting me at the time. I thought I would have to quit my degree and go back to working full-time. Then I thought, I want to keep this for myself. All the blood sweat and tears, I can’t throw it away. It reinforced the idea that I have to be financially independent. I never want to be in that position. I want to have my career.

Legends of Law School is a monthly column by Claudia McGarva

The Good Fight

Chan and Sukumaran

Photo: Anita Kesuma courtesy of The Age

We are so saddened to hear of the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Our thoughts are with their families and friends.

We would also like to acknowledge and applaud the tireless work of the legal teams who fought – right to the final moment – to save these men’s lives.

It is a none too subtle reminder of why our work as lawyers is so vitally important. Sometimes politics prevails over the rule of law – but we should never give in.

Your marketability changes…

Humans of New York

“I’m having trouble finding work. People assume that all attorneys are well off, but once you’re past an age where you are young and single and can work all night, your marketability changes. Everyone at my wife’s office knows that I’m an attorney, so they assume that we’re financially stable and that she can quit whenever she wants. It gives her a bit of a shield. I’d rather not show my face because I don’t want her bosses to know how badly she needs the job.”

Courtesy of: Humans of New York

Get that mess out of your head!

by Bernadette Healy

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In replying to a question I recently asked regarding workload issues, a wise old judge replied that ordered thinking and a sole focus on one thing at a time were the key ingredients. Although this may be well known to many if not most of you, it is nevertheless common to find that those suffering stress overload have lost sight of this pathway.  This is what happens when numerous worst-case scenarios are being generated as one runs backwards and forwards scanning the task stacks for possible future threat but never staying long amongst the stacks to actually work on them.  The longer one feels overwhelmed, the more difficult it becomes to settle down and focus on one thing.

The following is offered as a practical reminder of how to get back to the point where you can again focus on that one thing and make some headway:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Get the mess out of your head
  3. Create Themes
  4. Own your own authority
  5. Interrogate your themes
  6. Accept your choice
  7. Focus on the chosen theme
  8. Be realistic and specific about gaps in your knowledge
  9. Take a break
  10. Start with number 1
  11. Park thoughts about other items or themes
  12. Keep Going
  13. Take charge of any avoidance patterns
  14. Re-visit your Theme numbering
  15. Keep going
  16. Acknowledge

 

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Get the mess out of your head

When feeling stressed and overwhelmed it is common to also feel as if you cannot think as clearly as usual.  Anxiety often decreases the ability to order ones thinking even when one is at other times, quite systematic and logical. That is part of why anxiety can be so corrosive to your feelings of self-worth. Gaining a new perspective on your issues may feel impossible but practising a process which includes some sort of externalising will help to alleviate this feeling, creating a kind of ‘re-set’ towards the task challenges you currently face.

One way to start the re-set process, is to dump everything you have on your mind, down on paper.  Keep to a word or phrase for each concern or question and write it on individual pieces of paper.  Don’t worry about putting the thoughts in any particular order at this stage, allowing yourself instead, to accept the order in which they occur to you

  1. Create Themes

When you feel finished, put the pieces of paper out – perhaps on the floor or a large clear surface.  Stand back and consider what you have dumped.  Look for themes.  Write a name for each of the identified themes and do so on separate pieces of paper – perhaps using different coloured paper or markers and then put these on the floor also and move any related pieces of paper under those theme headings.   (It may work better for you to use a computer or a whiteboard. However the physical aspect of moving around and placing the paper and relating to the material in a concrete way, is beneficial in and of itself, particularly as an anxiety-reducing strategy)

  1. Own your own authority

At this point, particularly if your feelings of being overwhelmed have increased, stop and make a note of the personal attributes, qualifications and experience you bring to your current work situation.  This is to remind yourself of your authority, that is, that you have enough of what is required to handle the situation including the ability to know when a question or consultation will need to be sourced.  Remind yourself that you are enough to handle your current challenges.

  1. Interrogate your themes

Stand back again and look at the themes and the points under the themes.  Ask yourself which theme is the one with the most urgency right now?

  1. Accept your choice

Once you have made that choice, put the other themes and their related points plus any points that as yet do not belong to a particular theme, out of sight – and in a form that keeps them in the order that you have created to date.

  1. Focus on the chosen theme

Focusing only on your chosen theme, look at each piece of paper under the theme and ask yourself what is involved in this item?  List each related requirement or task.

Ask yourself which of the subheadings under your chosen theme needs to be tackled first? Second? Third? etc and number the subheadings accordingly

  1. Be realistic and specific about gaps in your knowledge

If a gap in necessary knowledge occurs to you – note it down using as specific a description as possible.

(Phrases such as: I am hopeless; I am always stuffing up; or I will never understand this– may get in the way for some at this point – they are examples of non-specific – and possibly automatic negative thoughts (NATS).  They are also examples of cognitive distortions – eg. Overgeneralizing – which can creep in to thinking in a way which may sabotage your efforts. Just let them come and go but don’t take any notice of them.)   Keep the notes about gaps in knowledge, short, non-personal and specific.  Put them to one side.

You now have the makings of a plan of attack.

  1. Take a break

Take a 5-10 minute break. Walk outside, stretch, listen to music, doodle – do something that requires a shift in attention and preferably uses a different part of the brain (going on the computer is not advisable but if you must, be mindful of its potential to increase your stress levels, for example, by being reminded of additional tasks, by becoming distracted by emails or by getting overly caught up in non-productive and time-consuming net-surfing!)

  1. Start with number 1
  • Look at your number 1 subheading (and the associated task points) and start working on these tasks and do so for 20mins (set a timer)
  • Break for 2 to 3 minutes and then do another 20 minute block [1]
  • Ensure that at least every 5 x 20 minute blocks that you give yourself a minimum 10 to 15 mins break.
  1. Park thoughts about other items or themes

If while working on one point, you become distracted by another item – quickly note down the item and your question or concern in a sentence or less and put this with the related theme.  Return to the point that you were working on before you became distracted.

  1. Keep Going

Stick to the area you have chosen until you have addressed each of the task points.  If you become aware of a missing piece of information or the need to consult someone ask yourself whether or not this is the optimum time to do so or could it be an avoidance strategy?

  1. Take charge of any avoidance patterns

Notice each time you feel the urge to move away from the task and how this manifests e.g. surfing the net / coffee /reading emails/ sending emails/ making a phone call / chatting etc.

Make a mental note to reflect on these urges at the end of the day, with a view to identifying (and then resisting) the patterns in your avoidance.

  1. Re-visit your Theme numbering

Once a Theme area is completed or as complete as possible, look at the remaining themes and see if the numbers you have allocated are still relevant – in light of what you have learnt while working on the theme chosen so far.  Make any adjustments necessary including re-organizing of points / allocation of points to new themes / noting down new questions and thoughts under appropriate headings.

  1. Keep going

Repeat the process for Theme no. 2 and beyond!

  1. Acknowledge

Ensure that during breaks – even the 2-3 minute – you stand up and move around and away from your desk.  Look out a window.  Remind yourself that you are doing the best that can be done by anyone, that is, you are giving your total concentration to one thing at a time and one which you have chosen to work on at that moment.  You are focusing.  You are approaching the task in a systematic manner.  You are quickly capturing relevant ideas and thoughts and putting them aside to be dealt with at the appropriate time.  You are learning to dismiss negativity.  You are beginning to notice any patterns regarding avoidance which is the first step towards change.  You are ok.

 

[1] The use of the timed 20 minute block is known as the Pomidoro Technique see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

Gone Girl

By Arna Delle-Vergini

Gone Girl

GONE GIRL (2014, 149 mins)
DIRECTOR: DAVID FINCHER
ARNA’S RATING: 4/5

Loosely described, Gone Girl is a film about a wife who goes missing, a husband whose innocence is increasingly called into question, and a police investigation that is oh so right but which ultimately gets it oh so wrong. Like pregnancy, murder won’t save a bad marriage, but this film somehow does in fact manage to make murder seem like an agreeable option. Or, if not murder, at least death. And yet, for the accused husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), this is not terribly apparent at first. A good deal of the film is spent watching Nick trying to hopelessly worm his way out of the murder investigation. He doesn’t do a very good job. The film is narrated by missing wife, “Amazing Amy“ (Rosamund Pike). Her calm narrative, juxtaposed with Nick’s complete mismanagement of his own behavior whilst under investigation (his cheesy smile; his selfie with a local housewife, and his difficult to conceal for very long affair with one of his young students) leaves little doubt about Nick’s innocence.

Enter Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) – attorney extraordinaire. Tanner Bolt, said to be based on the famous Johnnie Cochran (O.J. Simpson’s Attorney) is known as the “Patron Saint of Wife Killers”. There is no such thing as an unwinnable case, providing you pay his $100,000 retainer. And you will. Because you don’t want to go down for killing your wife, particularly in Missouri where the death penalty applies.

Tanner Bolt’s role is limited in the movie but the part he does play is lawyer gold. He knows that image is everything – the details of the case can wait until later. He counsels Nick on how to make a plea to the American people via popular news shows using the unforgettable “gummy bear” method – whereby every time Nick comes across as smug or disingenuous in practice, Bolt gets to throw a gummy bear at his face. He attends the police interview with Nick and gives him the standard excellent legal advice pre-interview, (“give them nothing”), all of which Nick blithely ignores and yet he still manages to get him out on bail after his arrest – much to the chagrin of the Watchhouse officer: “Dunne, you’ve got one hell of a lawyer!”

 But what I really love about Tanner Bolt, is not his legal prowess but his humanism. When Nick gives his instructions to his lawyer – and they are weird as hell instructions – Bolt doesn’t bat an eyelid. It’s not his job to question his client, it’s his job to advocate for his client and he backs him, laughing all the way. Bolt – who deals with “fucked up people” doesn’t mind telling his client that as far as fucked up people go, Nick’s right up there. But all of this is done in good humour and with the confidence of an attorney who knows that after this alleged killer, there will be another and then another and then another. Same shit. Different smell. What remains the same is this lawyer’s unshakeable belief in the importance of his role and his ability to do it better than anyone else.

Lawyers are often treated negatively in film. This is not one of those films. As a lawyer you finish watching the film with a little inner glow you reserve for times when you feel you have made a difference or when you see other lawyers make a difference. It’s gold.

I’d give this movie 4 stars out of 5 for what it is.

Image from IMDB

From Zombie actress to barrister…”You can’t turn back the clock but you can wind it up again”

By Finchley Atticus

Whenever I review movies I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that particular actor who played such-and-such character, or the actress who played the damsel in the stress suffering at the hands of the villain. Especially if I’ve never heard of that performer before. Did they end up pursuing an acting career, or did they lead regular lives and move to the suburbs to raise a family? Or did they end up becoming say, a lawyer for instance?

Back in the late 90s I saw my first ever Zombie movie at the Australian National University film club. Despite Zombi 2 (aka Zombie)  being campy and predictable at times (what did I expect, a dramatic political thriller featuring zombies fighting contemplating the meaning of existentialism?), this Italian production had one incredibly gruesome zombie killer scene that really stuck in my mind. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but when I tell friends that it’s one of the most horrific scenes in cinematic history (okay, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but still), they scoff incredulously and insist I dare to describe the scene. Minutes later my friends are regretting I ever recounted the scene because it really is gruesome with a capital G. All I can say is it involves a zombie, one of the eyeballs of the hapless victim, and a small yet lethal splinter in a very painstaking yet very effective scene. I remember the audience at the film club collectively grossing and squeaming out. Just in case you’re wondering, the clip is on YouTube.

Zombi 2 was made in 1979 and I couldn’t help wonder whatever happened to the actress, Olga Karlatos, who played was in her early 30s when she played that victim in that most memorable scene. Did Olga end up continuing with her acting career or did she end up moving to the suburbs and lead a regular and fulfilling life? I’m pleased to say Olga, now approaching 70, led a remarkable life who pursued her passion for learning and career development. After her memorable turn in Zombie 2, Olga moved to Bermuda with her husband Arthur Rankin (no slouch himself in the entertainment industry – he was a movie mogul responsible for amongst other things, the stop motion animation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) and resumed her university studies to complete a bachelors and masters degree at New York University. Then after attending an information session at Bermuda College, Olga enrolled – with the encouragement of her husband –at the University of Kent Law School. It was a major period of adjustment for Olga, especially being the oldest student in her class, but she persevered with her desire to learn, matched with her enthusiasm and idealism. I wonder if Olga’s fellow students at Kent ever realised she was a movie actress in one of the most gruesome scenes in a zombie movie?

At the age of 65, Olga became the oldest person to be called to the Bermuda Bar – no mean feat that’s for sure. Olga’s outlook in her changing career path serves as an inspiration to all, young and old…”You can’t turn back the clock but you can wind it up again”.

Image: Rotten Tomatoes

Wayne Goss: From Lawyer to Premier

by Phoebe Churches

goss claiming victory

While those who grew up, studied, lived and worked in Queensland undoubtedly owe a huge debt to Wayne Goss – his achievements should be celebrated by all Australians who care about social justice and progressive reform. His accomplishments are especially remarkable when you consider the context of his work against the many years of the Bjelke-Petersen Government. He was responsible for setting up the Queensland Aboriginal Legal Service and his personal commitment to Aboriginal Australians was evidenced by his regular appearances in Court on their behalf. In 1989 he ended the 32-year rule of the National Party in Queensland, where his legal reforms included the end of the gerrymander, finally decriminalising homosexuality and introducing a number of measures to protect Queensland’s natural environment.

Image from: ABC

“Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future”

by Arna Delle-Vergini

tomorrows lawy

IN REVIEW: Richard Susskind, “Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future”, Oxford University Press, 2013.

Notorious for writing a book predicting the demise of traditional lawyering called, aptly…“The End of Lawyers?” (2008), Richard Susskind is at again, this time with an even more ambitious plea to lawyers than before. In “Tomorrow’s Lawyers”, Susskind is not just forecasting a change in the times and exhorting the profession to get with it or be left behind. This time Susskind actually invites lawyers to participate in the dismantling of their own profession with cheer, good will and even, I think it is fair to say, unbridled enthusiasm:

“Here is the great excitement for tomorrow’s lawyers. As never before, there is an opportunity to be involved in shaping the next generation of legal services”.1

You just want to slap him in the face, but for the fact that he is almost certainly right. The legal profession as we know it is in a slow and painful decline. There may be a very, very small space for traditional law and traditional lawyering in the future but “small” is the word to pay attention to here. Pressures to provide more legal services at less cost to the consumer, the continuing liberalization of the profession introducing new players into the legal services arena, and rapidly developing technologies, are all working together assiduously to ensure that the legal landscape as we know it will be virtually unrecognizable in decades to come.

This is not such a bad thing, Susskind argues. If you dismantle what lawyers actually do (and charge a lot of money for) very little of it is a purely specialized service and most of it can be commoditized and multi-sourced. Susskind offers a variety of examples including in-sourcing, out-sourcing, off-shoring, de-lawyering (passing the work on to paralegals for example), relocating, sub-contracting, co-sourcing, near-shoring, leasing the engagement of lawyers, home sourcing, open sourcing (legal advice free of charge, usually on line), crowd-sourcing, solo-sourcing and computerizing. A final category is “no-sourcing”; this is where the legal service provider takes the view that the matter is not in need of legal sourcing at all.

Susskind ultimately argues that we have two choices. We can be jealous guards of legal services and insist that everything we do can only be done by highly specialized lawyers and charge accordingly. Or, we can be benevolent custodians of the law and ensure legal services are affordable and accessible by multi-sourcing aspects of the service that really does not require specialized legal knowledge. Susskind argues that the latter approach is more in line with our professional integrity. He writes “…the law is no more there to provide a living for lawyers than ill health exists to offer a livelihood for doctors. It is not the purpose of law to keep lawyers in business. The purpose of a lawyer is to help to support society’s needs of the law.”2

So where does that leave tomorrow’s lawyer? Where does that leave all of the new and emerging lawyers who are being trained right now to be traditional lawyers in circumstances where there is simply going to be less and less need for them? This is where Susskind urges everyone to get creative and to be involved in the fashioning of new legal services. Whilst he projects that tomorrow’s employers will likely be global accounting firms, major legal publishers, legal know-how providers, legal process outsourcers, High Street retail businesses, legal leasing agencies, new-look law firms, online legal service providers and legal management consultancies3, he also stresses that these are just predictions and we need to start thinking ourselves about new and novel ways to deliver legal services in cost effective ways. In order to prepare us to do this he calls for a re-vamping of legal education, including practical legal education, and invites lawyers to become multidisciplinary in their learning.

Excited? Or just exhausted? I read this book in one sitting and whilst it was a little disheartening at times (in a goodbye yellow brick road kind of way) I could well see the sense in it. I imagine though, if I were a new or emerging lawyer just reaching the end of, or fresh out of a combined degree or my PLT training, this book might just reduce me to tears. Which is all the more reason why it’s a must read. As harsh as it might sound, there’s no power in being an ostrich with its head in the sand. This book is an appeal to mainly new lawyers to put the fiddle firmly down, take heart (because being a lawyer is still a truly wonderful thing) and make sure that while Rome burns, you are out there forging new distant lands, and doing it your way.

1   Richard Susskind, “Tomorrow’s Lawyers” An Introduction to Your Future”, (Oxford University Press, 2013) 164.

2   Ibid.

3   n 1, 122

A good review

by Charlie du Bois

a good review

‘This is why you’re the lawyer, mate’ he says, almost mockingly, but sarcasm, comedy generally, insults and gratitude, like beauty, is invariably in the eye of the beholder.

‘And that’s why you’re dressed slicker than possum-shit’ I retort.

But that’s my colleague, lets call him Colleaguatron, he’s my partner in crime within our firm’s large-scale larceny of our peculiar taste in PI law from competing firms and other legal reps.

Not that we’re wholeheartedly and unethically stealing clients, we’re just helping, and borrowing them for a little while and for a purpose others who can’t be bothered with and showing them a trick or two in a field knowing we have the skills that meet the bill(able)s.

But here’s the brief, of which my avid followers of 2retweeters and 4bacefook sharers will have already observed, I’m not yet a practising (yet admitted) lawyer, and my colleague has never seen the inside of a law- lecture/textbook/exam/court/society’s young lawyers’ drunken trivia night. In fact he’s more trained and comfortable in chipping together a you-beaut’ chest’o’drawers than a sturdy, structurally-sound PI file. We operate in a ‘he-sets-’em-up-I-represent-their-legal-concerns’ type of fashion. Ultimately, we’re just two rugged adventurers of plaintiff law making the big cheeses in our new town take a second whiff/thought on whether they could take on our playground of an eerily grey field.

And today, what we’re on the back of is a rare visit from our supervisor, and an almighty pat-on-the-back.

Heaven hath no frivolity than two lunchbox-heroes twirling in grati-fudge.

There was dancing, there was air-guitar duets, there was drinking of concoctions later on that even Hemingway would warn against.

But it is a wonder WHY we rely on these praises to boost us so. We work hard, as in really hard. Long hours, with at times stressful autonomy and travelling 100s and 1000s of kms in spreading the good word (“gargantuan”, amongst others.. (see what I did there?)), do the yards usually covered by assistant and paralegal to finance to practitioner, and do it with sometimes minimal direction and guidance from above our level of the corporate structure.

We do these tasks and roles as assigned, and are self-motivating enough to keep the ball rolling on our own steam, but it’s these praises, as rare as they might be, that truly gets the motivation at it’s peak.

And it makes me wonder further of how this would affect others, and how much people crave this type of praise and professional gratification. As lawyers, we can appreciate doing the hard slogs for distant goals, and it would be unlikely that we would have made it all the way to graduation without that persistence. I would even go as far to say that this would possibly be the defining difference in our attitudes from the rest of Gen-Y (for those that would dare categorise themselves generationally).

And is it ok to cover yourself in a bit of praise, glory or otherwise, if only just for a little while? Isn’t it alright to celebrate the great, as long as you commiserate and learn from the bleak?

Yes. Yes it is, of course it is! And what a terrible article if that was my big point!

But it’s important to know when the occasion marks for each and to what extent. As throughout my very short career, I’ve seen both exploited or ignored and it’s as important as any other skill that could be brought to any career.

For our roles, it’s sometimes shitty tasks, but it’s sometimes 5-course degustation… fo’free. Is this what they mean in work-life talks at WLA events? (See Courtney Brooks’ great article I’m sick of talking about the work/life struggle with no men present if you’re wondering why I’m commenting on WLA events) or apart of the Pursuit of Happyness?

Am I happy, yes, because I like being a part of ‘those guys’, and currently, I’ve made my individual niche to the point of not being left wanting. Is Colleaguatron? Meeeeeyeeeeeahhhhh beeeee. He shares triumphs and still only boxes air and not me in moments of frustration, two positive signs.

Today, we are both definitely happy, we just got our pats on our puppy-dog heads. Are our superiors? I can’t answer, while the praise is nice and comforting, my stained-oak frame is still minus a practising certificate and those sturdy pats aren’t followed-up by something that is going to pay for Colleaguatron’s and my hobbies/habits.

Praise is great, direction is awesome too, but where does actual recognition of hard-work come into it? And what form does it take?

Is THIS my Gen-Y inner-self impatiently complaining now? Or is this something a baby-boomer should have attended to before they developed SAD?

Either way, to the point of this article, at which point of the spectrum of Hockey’s Age of Entitlement (and I’m going to include Expectation too) is today’s young lawyer? A question I hope raises both broader and specific questions for those who read this.

This role I have outlined above can be incredibly fruitful, but can I even trust that all promises will be followed through? Or that next week’s me is going to have the same fortitude as last week to see it through?

Ahhhhh well, time will tell. Until then, I’m off to discuss the degust