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!

How free are you to be yourself at work?

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By Bernadette Healy

Anxiety and issues around levels of responsibility are two of the most common reasons why lawyers attend counselling:[1]

  • Anxiety is often reported as a non-specific kind of experience and is frequently associated with symptoms such as constant scanning of your personal world for possible signs of future threat, excessive worrying about past situations, and negative thoughts such as concerns about failure and approval-seeking and physical sensations such as agitation.
  • Troubling feelings related to responsibility include: taking on too much responsibility and wondering how the effort to ‘keep all the balls in the air’ can be maintained; stress around too much responsibility combined with too little autonomy particularly with regard to decision-making scope; and issues around inconsistency about responsibility such as seeking high task responsibility but resisting or struggling with taking responsibility for personal reactions.

Early in the counselling process it is very common for lawyers (and others who have highly developed thinking skills) to intellectualise difficult situations and to resist or be unaware of the feelings underlying their thoughts about the difficulty.

Obviously thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all connected but the feeling aspect tends to be neglected, particularly for those working in professions where rationality and intellectual capacity are greatly prized. This neglect can lead to a general feeling of being cut off from oneself and others, and from the full range of your own feelings.

Cutting off and distancing behaviours are more likely to happen when work roles have associated expectations about feelings which are at odds with our own. In some cases it may be that work demands that one ought not to have any feeling responses at all.

Hoschchild[2] suggests that organisations turn emotional responses into commodities through the ‘purchase’ of expectation implicit in the job description.  Emotional labour is a term used by Hoschchild to describe the effort required by individuals to either exhibit a particular emotional response which not actually being felt, or suppress a felt emotion in order to satisfy work role expectations.

This behaviour is expected within many workplaces in which certain emotions cannot be displayed, in order that a particular outward appearance is maintained. Emotional labour is further described as either requiring surface acting or deeper acting. Surface acting is when we fake an emotional reaction in order to fool others in the interest of performing a work role, but we are not deceiving ourselves.  Deep acting happens at an internal psyche level when we attempt to alter how we feel or experience a situation in order to comply with work role expectations.

Feeling compelled to sustain deep acting over a prolonged period – which is done as a means of dispelling dissonance between expected work self and self – eventually leads to issues such as alienation, burnout and inauthenticity. [3]

In addition to being mindful of the extent to which your organisation may be buying a particular emotional response from you, it is important that you manage your own wellbeing by making sure that you do not self-commodify.  In other words you need to make sure that you know who you are and how you feel and how to remain true to that while in your professional role.

As with any self-improvement or even self-care process, you need to start with self-reflection in order to increase your understanding of yourself, including identifying your values and core beliefs.  This will help you to predict and prepare for possible values clashes and triggering situations at work, and to work out to what extent you may be using ‘deep acting’ to reduce the dissonance between yourself and your organisation’s expectation of you.

[1] Based on my own practice experience

[2] The managed heart Commercialization of human feeling,(2003)

[3] Rebecca, Erickson Christian Ritter  2001  Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 2 pp. 146-163

I’m Feeling 22!

By Georgia Briggs

georgiaBriggs

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

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

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

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

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

Differently

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

Same

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Until next time!

 

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

Listening to your body

By Bernadette Healy

Stress

Do you want to learn a strategy to help you take charge during moments of stress?

As you are no doubt aware, people differ in the extent to which they are in tune with their bodies.  Some are routinely able to take good physical care of themselves and are practised in attending to, and understanding the information that the body can provide about being in the world. This includes recognising the particular physical discomfort that they experience when facing a challenging situation at work or at home.

For others, however, the body is a forgotten vessel – known mostly in a secondary sort of way as that which carries around the parts of themselves of which they are more aware – such as their rational, thinking selves or their feeling selves. (NB. This does not necessarily equate to living unhealthily).  During a stressful time many in this group may still think about their stress and try and work it out rationally, or they may be aware of feeling stressed, such as feeling more easily angered, or emotional, or more intolerant than usual.  They are less likely to stop and focus on their physical sensations.

Even when very aware of being stressed, it is common to automatically engage in reactionary avoidance behaviours rather than stopping and paying attention to the body.  This is often due to a fear that focusing on the physical experience of stress will make things worse[1].  (Individuals may or may not be aware of this fear).

Learning how to pay attention to the information held in the body is a very important part of working through stressful times, including breaking patterns of avoidance behaviours.  Common avoidance behaviours include – but are not limited to: outbursts of anger, blaming others, withdrawal from people, drinking alcohol or using illicit substances, over-eating and fleeing.

So how can you begin to pay more attention to your body in a way that will assist you to cope with stressful situations while reducing the likelihood of engaging in the behaviours listed above?[2]

Start with a few minutes of focusing on your breath.[3]

Then still with eyes closed, focus on the sensations in your body, pay attention to whichever area of the body is calling out for your attention.  Try and take your awareness to that part of the body and observe the sensations. (Imagine that you are describing the sensations to someone without any knowledge of human anatomy and its terms – instead seeking to describe the sensations in a fresh, non-technical way).  It may help to ask yourself questions about the sensations such as:

  • Is the sensation hot or cold?[4]
  • Is the sensation in one distinct area or spread out?
  • Is the sensation heavy or light?
  • Is it coming and going or staying the same?

Once you have noticed and described the sensation, move on to the next sensation that you notice or if you feel that is enough, open your eyes.

Sit for a while and ask yourself how long that sensation has been around?

If it makes sense for you, try describing the sensation visually, for example: a ball in the chest, a large rubber band around the head, a metal weight on the back, a bobbing cork in the throat etc.  (You might even like to try making a primary-school level drawing of this and then just look at your picture and notice any thoughts that occur to you about the picture)

Make a point of trying to notice the coming and going of the sensations in the future, and see if you notice any patterns about when it is strongest and weakest.

Pay attention to how you are feeling now.  It is highly likely that the simple exercise of focusing on physical sensations of discomfort has resulted in a lessening of them.  Of course they may well return, but you will know from direct experience that they can also diminish, and that you now have a strategy to assist in this process.

 

 

 

[1] In cases of severe anxiety there is a need for professional help in sorting out when to focus on physical discomfort and when to actively choose other strategies at least until the anxiety has moved out of the severe zone

[2]If at any point you feel too uncomfortable (say an 8 or above on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is little discomfort and 10 is maximum discomfort), discontinue and engage in a healthy distracting behaviour such as a brisk walk, watching a loved movie, looking up information about a favourite topic, reading a novel etc and consider seeking professional help if you would like to understand about your discomfort and learn some appropriate techniques.

[3] Sit with back and neck straight.

  • Close eyes gently.
  • Become aware of your breath.
  • Don’t try and change your breath, just observe it as it comes and goes.
  • Try and let go of any thoughts as they arise
    • Remind yourself that they are just thoughts, choose to let them go as if the thoughts are on a train which you see whizzing past but do not get on.
    • As thoughts arise, don’t blame yourself for becoming distracted but instead bring your attention back to the breath as soon as you are able without judgement or criticism.
  • Observe the breath coming and going.
    • Don’t count the breaths or think about the process of breathing, but just experience the sensations of breathing and observe the breath in the moment of breathing.
  • Notice whatever there is to be noticed
    • g. the temperature of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils; the feeling of air on the skin just under the nose or at the tip of the nose; a feeling of movement within the chest etc.
  • Continue for 3-5 mins.

[4] For more information see Cayoun, B. A. (2011).  Mindfulness-integrated CGT: Principles and practice.  West Sussex, UK.: John Wiley and Sons.

 

I wish I knew that…. It’s not about you.

Claudia McGarva

By Claudia McGarva

In the words of J.K Rowling, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default”. ‘Ex Post Facto: the Wisdom of Hindsight’ is a blog celebrating and reflecting upon the awkward moments and failures endured as a solicitor, particularly in the early years of practice. Every solicitor has their horror story – and live to tell the tale.

There’s always one: the client that sends you five emails in the middle of the night all marked with the red flag. The client that calls incessantly to see why you have not returned their call even though you have been out of the office. They don’t act on your advice even though they acknowledge it and at times appear grateful for it. They don’t provide documents to you, yet become exasperated when their matter is moving too slowly. These clients may be classified as ‘high needs’, which is a polite and vague term used to disguise a multitude of sins.

Economic theory has the concept of the ‘economic man’. The economic man assumes humans will consistently make rational economic decisions that maximise their self-interest at the lowest cost to the individual. At a basic level, it is assumed that the economic man will always make the right decision for himself.

If the economic man were your client, he would listen to and act upon your advice. He has paid good money for that advice, and would want to maximise the benefit of the service he has already paid for and protect his best interests. He wouldn’t be litigious: He wouldn’t spend ridiculous amounts of money to pursue an action based upon ‘the principle of the matter’, where the cost outweighs any benefit he may receive. He would be succinct. He wouldn’t send you five emails to ask one question when he knows he will be charged for the time spent reading these emails.

However the economic man is not real. Arguably, human behaviour is inherently irrational and our decision-making processes are influenced by bias, ideology and emotion. I wish I knew there was no perfect client. I wish I didn’t waste so much time stressing about the imperfect ones. However, I’ve learnt that you must take the client as you find them. The client may be relatively rational in their normal life, yet when dealing with the stress of a legal matter, their insecurities, stresses and exasperations are unleashed all at once. The client may have been struggling for a long time, and the gates can no longer hold these back. The lawyer is usually the first person standing to meet them at the gate when the flood hits. We are not always meeting them on equal terms. So when a client is disengaged, distraught, needy and abrupt, it is not necessarily out of frustration with you as their lawyer, but frustration with the process itself. It’s not all about you.

I Object!

By Georgia Briggs

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

georgiaBriggs

“I’ll never forget my first day of law school, I was actually an Arts student at the time, trying to make the grades to switch over, I already felt like everyone could see my disguise. They know, crap! (I totally made it through though, woo!)

It was like one of those horrible cliche movies of university, I sat down in the class (don’t worry, I wasn’t late because I left 30 minutes before necessary to ENSURE that didn’t happen) but as the lecturer began she said words to the effect of “I assume everyone has read the first 5 chapters of the book as required”.
Ummm… Sorry, What?!

*cue Elle Woods moment of “I wasn’t aware there was a reading assignment” *.

That’s what seems to be happening in the post law school daze I’m in, a lot of “Ummm… Sorry,What?!” moments.

I’m coming to realise that this is actually pretty normal, and me feeling like legal life decides to smack me over the head with failure every so often, just to keep me in check, is okay. While I can’t promise (and shall not, because I’m a lawyer so we don’t promise things) that I have some handy tips for you, or my short thought bubbles will assist you in getting that dream job that for some reason didn’t land on your lap the day of graduation (Sorry, What?!), I can aim to uplift some spirits while you read, hopefully rofl-ing (oh yes, you read correctly, rofl) and feeling better about it all, or at least I can occupy several minutes of your time each month that you’ll never get back. Enjoy!”

Sarah Rey

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Is the reality of being a lawyer anything like how you imagined it?

I am generally aware of some of the shortcomings of the legal profession in terms of its lack of progress in changing the balance of women leaders in firms, at the bar and on the bench over the last thirty years; the slow response to the problem of burgeoning numbers of young law students not being able to be provided with experience and training within firms; and the poor cultural practices in some firms and legal institutions. However I have been fortunate to have worked with a range of eclectic and feisty lawyers in two firms (medium sized and the large), and followed this with 11 rewarding years establishing my own award-winning firm, Justitia, with my colleague, Mary-Jane Ierodiaconou (who has recently been appointed an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court). With the blue sky opportunities and flexibility that running your firm enables, we have been able to create opportunities for law students to be an intrinsic part of our law firm model, and created a positive workplace culture that aspires to be innovative and different. So when I fell into the study law, little did I know that I was commencing a journey that would allow me to learn many new skills beyond just an understanding of legal principles. Through my legal training I have been able to explore entrepreneurialism and deepen my understanding of how business works and lead an organisation. So no, it has not been anything like what I might have imagined.

What are your passions outside the law?

I am interested in girls’ education, the difference it can make to them and their place in the world and how that can change the world. In the past 15 years I have been involved in the educational governance structures of seven Australian schools for girls established by an international order of sisters whose inspirational founder, Mary Ward, lived 400 years ago.
In my down time, I like traveling to foreign countries with my family so we can learn about life, culture and religions beyond our world in Melbourne. We have been fortunate to have experienced a wide array of countries and cultures and met many diverse people. I would like my children to feel part of a wider world, that extends beyond our Australian borders.
When I have more time, I would like to write up some family history involving a Jewish relative during the second world war, and do something with a treasure trove of taped interviews with student politicians which I conducted in the 1980s.

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

If you have a passion to practice a particular type of law, or work in a particular part of the profession, do not be deterred if you do not get there on the first attempt. There are many ways to create opportunities and make oneself attractive to a prospective employer. Sometimes it pays to think outside the box. Industry knowledge and skills can be obtained through other related, and even non-legal, roles, and then you can knock on the door again of the organisation which previously declined your application, and say, this is what I now have to offer. Importantly it can help to show passion and that you will go to great lengths to obtain the desired job. If you aren’t feeling any passion for your job, perhaps you should ask if it is right for you.

What makes a lawyer a great lawyer?

I think a great lawyer is someone who sets their own emotions to one side, providing dispassionate, logical, reasoned advice to their client. The great lawyer has excellent people skills, and high emotional intelligence, and can communicate effectively, clearly and compassionately with their client, reading the landscape and taking into account all the elements that bear on their advice. The great lawyer is ready to do battle on behalf of their client where necessary. The great lawyer can find a cost effective and lasting solution.

What at the hazards of this profession?

One hazard is staying in a job because you are paid well, but you feel no passion for or connection with either the subject matter or the people with whom you work. We can sometimes be sucked in to thinking that life is all about money and status. But it may not be the right place to be, and the cost of sustained unhappiness and non-fulfilment, or remaining in a dysfunctional workplace, can be high. Instead it is important to ask is this the right place for me, and if not, seek advice from friends and colleagues to ascertain where might be the right fit for one’s skills and priorities. And I would repeat the shortcomings I identified above.

How do you balance life and work?

I cycle to work, which is 10 km from home and helps me keep my stress levels down; I actively pursue my friendships so that I have emotional support in daily life; I remain involved in my children’s lives, though sometimes it is worth checking in with them to find out if they think you are actually as present as you think you are; I am involved in organisations outside of law which shows me my legal skills have some value outside of my workplace and this is a confidence boost; and I work in my own business which means I have flexibility and control over my workload to lead a balanced life and pursue diverse interests.

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

Don’t sweat the small things. Nothing lasts forever. As Heraklitus, the Greek philosopher said: we step into the same river, and yet it is not the same river, as you never step twice into the same river. Nothing rests, everything passes, nothing lasts, cold becomes warm, warm becomes cold, wet dries, and dryness becomes wet…. Everything has its day. Things change, and we need to be adaptive and be able to move along with that change.

Bio
Sarah is the managing partner of Justitia, an established workplace relations law firm in Melbourne and serving clients nationally. Justitia has won multiple awards from bodies such as the LIV’s “Law Firm of the Year” and AHRI’s “Sir Ken Robinson Award for Workforce Flexibility”, recognising its unique work culture and excellent client service. www.justitia.com.au @SarahMRrey

Trigger warnings and compassion at Law School

Compassion

Dear peers

You might have missed a discussion of trigger warnings in the introductory lecture to your law unit. This is understandable as the cautionary statement is usually delivered somewhere between your lecturer’s office hours and announcing the upcoming welcome BBQ. In all likeliness it was a blanket statement on the unit’s content, warning against graphic themes and acknowledging that any student is welcome to leave the lectures if they feel they must. While trigger warnings are incorporated into the general administration of law school, they do not guarantee that potentially triggering topics will be treated with caution or respect. Sadly, compassion cannot be mandated by the law faculty.

Arguably more important than the inclusion or improvement of trigger warnings is a change to attitudes among teaching staff and students. Contrary to the exhibited taste of many law students and even staff: violence, sexual offences and hate crimes are actually not funny. If you are privileged enough not to have been affected by these crimes, empathy should dictate that you appreciate the gravity of them. Nothing, and especially not a trigger warning, can validate treating a serious topic with callousness.

The general justification for a lack of compassion at law school is that your studies are a gateway into the ‘real world’ where a lawyer is supposedly exposed to the worst of humanity and expected to grin and bear it. Putting aside the fact that not every student takes a law degree to work in the legal industry, this line of thinking is problematic. Though you might have chosen law as a career to ‘make money’, chances are that wherever you end up working, a little compassion won’t go to waste. Whether it means you understand your client, colleagues or even yourself a little better, consideration and empathy will set you in good stead for a future in the law.

 

 

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