I wish I knew … once a lawyer, always a lawyer

Claudia McGarva

By Claudia McGarva

It’s hard to separate work and home. I’m not just talking about finishing off advices in bed, waking up in the middle of the night thinking about work, or feeling constantly guilty about not spending enough time on either front. I’m talking about being in lawyer mode in a relationship, and applying what you learn in legal practice to your relationships.

So here are my top three obnoxious lawyer habits that have transgressed into my personal life. They’re not very romantic, and by no means have I perfected their execution, but they bring an element of control amongst the chaos:

  1. Quid Pro Quo

It’s December. In the legal profession, this means end of year parties. Now that I have a child, I have to book well in advance for a night off, figure out how I’ll get home, and whether it is worth staying up past 8:30pm. If I’m going to have a night off, it better be worth it.

More importantly, it means I have to cash in my carer credits.

My carer credits are held within a secret bank account. I don’t receive written statements and have to rely upon my poor memory to see how much is sitting there. No one else can access it besides me. It gets topped up when I pick up the parenting slack when my partner has to work late, goes to after work drinks or has an afternoon off from caring duties to have a resemblance of a social life. However, it takes a real dive if I have to stay overnight for a work conference, or go to a Christmas party.

I’m constantly balancing the books. The notion of quid pro quo is something instilled in you through law school and in legal practice. It forms the basis of our daily interactions: something for something. The practice of law is highly transactional.

Likewise, negotiating different roles in a relationship and trying to make something work means trying to make sure both parties don’t feel ripped off and can enjoy the benefits of their investment.

At first glance, this may appear clinical. However, my credit system acknowledges caring duties constitutes work, and it has value – on a micro and macro level. I’m not quite at the stage of recording my time spent on care duties in six-minute increments, but I’m not above it.

  1. Managing Expectations

 I learnt the hard way that you under-promise and over-deliver. In a matter, you are constantly managing client expectations – what is a reasonable outcome? What is an unreasonable outcome? When you will out that advice? When you will get around to reading the flurry of emails?

The same goes for personal relationships.

I promise my mum I will call every Sunday. If I’m going to be late home from work, I try to give my partner as much notice as possible. I have honest and frank conversations with my partner, and myself, about what I can and can’t deliver.

And most importantly, I say no more often than yes. Rather than saying “I’ll try to make it”, and then bail at the last minute, now I try to be completely honest and say “No, I can’t” in the first instance. It’s not a new concept, but when you implement it for the first time it feels revolutionary.

  1. Networking

In the early days of my career, I went to networking events to get out of the office and eat tiny food. It was nice meeting other practitioners and then bumping into them at court, slowly recognising more faces around town and having friendlier interactions with other lawyers if they were on the other side in a matter. I then realised the importance of maintaining networks and being able to draw upon the expertise of others to help give your client the best advice and representation, and for your own professional development.

I’ve been able to develop great relationships early in my career that I still have today. However, the most productive network I’ve worked hard to maintain, the one that has been the most beneficial to my career, is the relationship I have with my partner. I wouldn’t be able to work the hours I do at the moment without my partner, and vice versa.

I used to think when I had my son that I was missing out on important events that were, unhelpfully, always scheduled around day care pick up time. Now, I’m slowly getting over the fear of missing out, and realise my family is the most important network I need: to keep me sane, and more importantly, to keep me employed.

There’s plenty more I could add, and my partner has said “stop lawyering me” on more than one occasion when he felt he was being cross-examined. However, there are some perks with being in a relationship with a lawyer: my partner never reads the terms and conditions on a product and/or service because he knows I will. At least I can bring something to the table.

I work a lot.

caitlin

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

Legends of Law School is a monthly column by Georgia Briggs

Tech Disruption and the Future Role of Lawyers (part 4)

futurama-robot-lawyer

By Phoebe Churches

In the final post in this series on lawyers and tech disruption, we look at the way forward. If you missed the previous three posts, you can catch up on the first one here, part 2 here and part 3 here. This post looks at

The New Frontier

The Last Law of Robotics: The only real errors are human errors.

The traditional role of lawyers will continue to contract due to the interplay between the power of network technology and AI; the highly competitive legal market; and the innovative unbundling of legal services. The rise of the informed consumer, the development of the sharing economy, and the demand for cheaper and more efficient legal services has created a huge opportunity for tech savvy innovators. Overall there will be far fewer employed in the traditional legal profession, and those who remain will do so in much more specialised areas concentrated in sophisticated litigation and prosecutorial work.  In fact, there will be far fewer people employed generally, with the link between labour and wages weakening as machines do more and more of our work. [2] This means that now is the time to review legal education and the likely prospects for law graduates.

Issues for Legal Education and New Graduates

The role and utility of lawyers is shrinking. The attenuation of traditional legal work is reflected in data on graduate employment. [3]  Recent surveys indicate more than 10% of private firms did not recruit any new graduates in the preceding year,[4] and generally rates of employment for new law graduates has declined from 92.9% in 1999 to 75.3% in 2014.[5] While fears of a graduate oversupply ‘crisis’ are cyclical and tend to go lockstep with economic downturns,[6] in the past increasing demand has eventually taken up the slack. Currently however, the profession is facing unprecedented disruption and competition, and there is no doubt that opportunities for graduates in the profession as we knew it have diminished.[7] Moreover, for those already in the profession as newly minted lawyers, the opportunity to learn on the job has declined steeply, displaced by legal process outsourcing and in-house automation of routine tasks.[8]

Additionally, there have been various responses in the sector to the requirement to become more tech savvy and digitally fluent. Universities are offering subjects in App development and other applied technologies.[9] The Australian College of Law has just launched an innovation hub creating ‘new short courses and programs aimed at equipping lawyers to capitalise on opportunities created by industry flux’.[10] Some firms are trying to get ahead of the changing skillsets needed by providing in-house crash courses on coding.[11] However, perhaps most critically, current law students need to be taught about the future of legal practice so they can plan accordingly.

There is no evidence that law graduates will soon be unemployed or unemployable.[12] For many years law has been a generalist degree allowing graduates to find employment in diverse roles beyond the legal sector. There are also many areas in the community legal sector which struggle to find new recruits. However, given both the increasing specialisation of legal roles, and the likely utility of a law degree which is more generalist in nature, a requirement to learn more than 11 areas of law seems unnecessary.[13] Permitting more specialisation at law school in conjunction with a solid grounding in general legal principles, will better equip law graduates for the changing legal landscape.

Conclusion

Lawyers have enjoyed a role which they have largely constructed for themselves. This traditional role has been further buttressed by excessive and disproportionate regulatory barriers. Traditional legal roles must necessarily give way as many tasks can be performed competently, more cheaply, and effectively by professionals without a legal qualification. Technology, which can already outperform humans in many areas of legal work, will carve out its own role, and lawyers will need to concentrate on dealing with the arcane ways of court appearance work in this new world.

Change, especially rapid and dramatic transformation, brings fear and resistance. However, radical change to the traditional role of lawyers has the potential to bring many improvements. Technology-wrought automation will change the link between wages and labour, with paid employment generally decreasing over time. Tech innovation will bring greater access to the justice system by a wider range of people, and automation of many areas of life will bring the extension of leisure time and more meaningful pursuits. In the context of real potential for positive change, I for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.

Previously: SkyNet, Tech Singularity and the End of Lawyers


[1] Source unknown.

[2] The concept of a universal basic income has garnered increasing currency with both ends of the ideological spectrum; see e.g. Mark Liddiard, ‘Could the idea of a universal basic income work in Australia?’ (2 June 2016) The Conversation.

[3] Paul Young, ‘Are Law Schools Producing Too Many Lawyers?’(2014) 88 Australian Law Journal 367.

[4] Graduate Careers Australia, Graduate Outlook Survey 2012: Summary Report for Legal and Professional Services Employers.

[5] Graduate Destination Survey, Gradstats Reports 1999–2014.

[6] Angela Melville, ‘It is the worst time in living history to be a lawgraduate: or is it? Does Australia have too many law graduates?’, (2016) 50 The Law Teacher 1.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Richard Susskind, ‘Provocations and Perspectives’ A working paper submitted to the UK CLE Research Consortium

(Legal Education and Training Review) (October 2012).

[9] See e.g. The Melbourne Law School’s Law Apps subject.

[10] Samantha Woodhill, ‘College of Law launches innovation hub’ (6 June 2016) Australasian Lawyer.

[11] Samantha Woodhill, ‘Why this firm is teaching lawyers how to code’, Australasian Lawyer (27 May 2016).

[12] Melville, above n 54.

[13] Miller, Katie, ‘Disruption, Innovation and Change: The Future of the Legal Profession’ (December 2015) Law Institute of Victoria Report.

 

 

 

 

 

A letter to you as a parent

45325721 - child with parents hand holding young tree in soil together for prepare plant on ground,save world concept

By Bernadette Healy

Dear parent,

I wonder what is going on for you as you worry about your child.  Perhaps the following is of interest (although it may not be!).

It seems to me that you have come to a point in your life where you are trying to make sense of who you are as a parent (as well as a person), and this includes exploring the ways that you yourself were parented.  This of course brings up old hurts and lots of complicated feelings towards your parents.  Possibly, as well as wanting to distinguish yourself as a mother/father from your own mother or father, you will also find yourself understanding more of what her or his life structure was like – this is hard because you might find yourself being sympathetic at the same time as being angry at some of the ways she or he was, for example, with regard to a sibling.  You seem to be feeling a mixture of being trapped (in a situation that you did not expect to be in with regard to your own child) and being afraid that if you cannot find a way of keeping it all together; that everything will collapse into chaos.  It is as if you are alone in all this difficulty – but perhaps that is how you felt in the past when you were too young to have much influence?  You are not that little girl or boy anymore; you have life experience, skills and attributes to bring to this situation; and you do not have to be alone in it all. But perhaps you have not yet found satisfactory ways of letting people in to share the emotional load  (and perhaps others are not as available as they could be)?

It seems as if you have to solve all the problems, but perhaps that too is a leftover from the past, and the role you were expected to play in your family of origin.  Perhaps you have been in the habit of carrying more than just your anxiety in your determination to keep the chaos at bay?  But now maybe you are ready to find some new ways which are not so heavy, and hopefully you will have more moments enjoying yourself being with your family.  It seems to me that you could be a little kinder to yourself and trust the part of you that, at times, wants to seek help.  When you are ready, the parts of you that haven’t had a chance to come out into the light for a while will bubble through, and offer easier ways of being. Be gentle and patient with yourself, and allow your child to help guide you into becoming their parent (they only want you and ‘ok’ is the gold standard).

Bernadette

 

I’ve been a volunteer firefighter, technically since I was 3 years old…

Shannon

…because my dad is the Deputy Captain, but I really fought my first fire at 17.

I was in a fire last week on night shift, doing back burning to keep the overall fire contained.

It’s quite rewarding but it can be a bit scary, particularly when you’re going into the fires, rather than standing out of them.

When you go in you don’t know if a tree is going to fall, if something is hot, if something is going to ignite or how fast fire is coming if it’s at a distance.

My dad is a big part of it, but actually so is my mum and both my brothers, it’s a real family affair!

Legends of Law School is a monthly column by Georgia Briggs

Tech Disruption and the Future Role of Lawyers (part 1)

futurama-robot-lawyer

By Phoebe Churches

Over the course of a few posts I would like to share with you some thoughts about the future of legal practice.  Specifically, I want to look at what future roles will be available to lawyers as technology develops at an increasingly rapid clip (tech disruption is the current buzz term). This rapid tech development has become a ‘disruption’, not least due to the multiple pressures on the legal sector coming from both within, and without. There’s much to consider, and I would like to set them out here over a few posts, so bear with me.

Without doubt, technology is driving change everywhere, and the current rate of technological advancement is unprecedented. We have entered the fourth industrial revolution which is both driving and driven by significant changes to the socio-political and economic environment. In this context, labour in all its forms will be irrevocably changed; and the role of lawyers is no exception. Undoubtedly the next few years will see these transformations multiply exponentially. In this context I’d like to explore what role Australian lawyers might  play in the future. I am especially concerned with legal work which involves relationships and disputes between Individuals and Individuals; Individuals and Corporations; and Individuals and the State. I’m m particularly interested in this part of the legal sector because – in contrast to disputes between corporations – or between corporations and the state, relations involving people potentially feature the most significant disparities in capacity to enforce legal rights.

Unfortunately much commentary on this topic tends to view the legal sector as a monolithic whole – without distinguishing between corporate (or BigLaw) business and the bread and butter of small practice, the community sector and the individual. Lumping the whole of legal practice into one discussion distorts the picture. I hope the following will offer a more focused opinion and a more nuanced view of one specific segment of legal work. Over the next month or two I hope to look at the context for the rate and progress of change in the legal sector, explore the impact of technologies on lawyers’ traditional roles, and close with an agenda for addressing future challenges.

The Context – The ‘Post’ Society

Tech disruption, the resulting changes to the way work is performed, and the environment which produces these changes aren’t separate or linear; they interact causally in iterative and organic ways. Historically the legal sector has been particularly change resistant, however the current economic context goes some way to explaining why disruption has finally come to the role of lawyers.

By creating millions of networked people…with the whole of human intelligence only one thumb-swipe away,
info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human being.[2]

OECD countries have now passed the threshold of the post-industrial society. Fewer and fewer workers globally are involved in manufacture, and a rapidly growing number are employed in the service sector. In tandem, some pundits predict major changes to the political economy, asserting that capitalism has become increasingly unstable and unsustainable; potentially bringing the world to the verge of a post-capitalist era.[3] Undoubtedly technology is a significant catalyst for these changes. The ubiquitous spread of online resources, data, and information has created an inherent contradiction ‘between the possibility of free, abundant goods and information; and a system of monopolies, banks, and governments trying to keep things private, scarce and commercial’.[4] New forms of collaborative production – for example creating and sharing goods and services by network technology which only functions because it is free or shared – must definitively disrupt the market system.

The Sharing Economy

Law is too important to be left to lawyers alone.[5]

Sharing free information is hardly new. In fact thirty years ago, at the height of a burgeoning ‘knowledge is power’ movement, initiatives to freely share knowledge were everywhere. The hippies and lefties and other bohemian types were busy trying to level power imbalances between corporations and people, the state and individuals, and lawyers and laypeople. In 1976 the United States saw the advent of the ‘law commune based on destroying the mysticism which the law holds for many people and explaining how it relates to their lives’.[6] The same era saw the beginnings of the Community Legal Sector in Australia with an agenda of Community Legal Education squarely aimed at demystifying the law for the masses. These initiatives were (and continue to be) based on an understanding that the more informed people are, the more likely they are to either avoid legal problems, or alternatively, the better they can resolve issues without professional assistance.

More recently, a technology driven ‘sharing economy’ has emerged through our constant connectedness. The consequent ‘democratisation of knowledge’ has given birth to a new business subculture. Given markets rely on scarcity, the enormous growth of free and plentiful information “goods” ‘are corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly’.[7] Tied with the rise and rise of collaborative production, the market for information has irrevocably changed. For example, Wikipedia is the ‘biggest information product in the world’ and it is collaboratively produced by around 30 000 people for absolutely nothing.[8] It is hardly surprising that individuals are questioning the hitherto high price of accessing legal information.

The Justice Gap and Non-Consumption

Meanwhile, the access to justice crisis for individuals in Australia has been deepening.[9] Australia has no safety net for legal help. While successive governments have eroded funding to legal assistance to the point that only those on very low incomes can access these services,[10] by virtue of the rigid system of legal practice regulation, the legal profession has retained a virtual monopoly across all types of legal practice; from advising through facilitation and transaction services to litigation. Additionally, geography plays a significant role, with regional and remote areas often suffering from very poor access to services.[11]

Even among those who can afford to pay, many resist or attempt to avoid engaging a lawyer in favour of self-service or alternative types of assistance.[12] Decreasing legal service consumption has many causes. Chief among them are clients’ declining confidence that they are getting good value for the price, and their increasing options to meet legal needs without engaging a lawyer at all by purchasing unbundled or online services. We are in an information revolution. Technology has put at our fingertips an unprecedented amount of responsive and organised information which potentially enables us to resolve many legal matters without involving lawyers. This is already a feature of many of the growing online legal presences – from blogs to document delivery services.

Next time: The Contracting Role of Lawyers (geddit?)

[1] Klaus Schwab, ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond’ World Economic Forum, Global Agenda (14 January 2016) .

[2] Paul Mason, PostCapitalism – A Guide to our Future (2016), 21.

[3] See e.g. Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century (2014); Mason, ibid.

[4] Mason, above n 3, 25.

[5] Eddie R. Hartman tweeting about the Future Law 2016 Conference at Stanford University.

[6] S. D. Ross, ‘The Role of Lawyers in Society’ (1976) 48 The Australian Quarterly 61.

[7] Mason, above n 3, 16.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Community Law Australia, Unaffordable and out of reach: the problem of access to the Australian legal system (Report, July 2012). According to the World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2014, this is equally an issue internationally, with the United States, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Uganda all roughly ranked equally on the basis of the affordability and accessibility of its civil justice system.

[10] According to the Attorney-General’s Department, Strategic Framework for Access to Justice in the Federal Civil Justice System, 2009, ‘98 per cent of legal aid recipients [receive] an income that could be considered below the poverty line. This leaves much of Australia unable to afford legal representation but nevertheless ineligible for legal aid’, at 52.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Legal Services Consumer Panel, 2020 Legal Services How regulators should prepare for the future (November 2014).

It’s a Hens’ party I’ve organised on Sunday

lols3

It’s at the Duxton bar, and then a little tea party. It’s just the girls, but when I say just the girls I mean 25 people. We’re doing a painting session, painting ‘Red Bike’. This woman has a business and she sort of paints it with you, so you all paint the same thing. It’s a very different kind of Hens’ party. This is the second Hens’ party I’ve organised and neither of them have involved strippers because none of the friends would have wanted them, nor would I have wanted to organise it! Instead we’ll have one big photograph of us all holding the same painting.

Legends of Law School is a monthly column by Georgia Briggs

Soaring through the law

Terminus A6 e-flyer

Katharine Kilroy

As lawyers – or in my case, aspiring lawyers – we are all too aware of the pressures and mental health risks we face. Ours is a stressful profession, and the need to be mindful of our wellbeing and proactive in maintaining a work/life balance is paramount. Each individual has their own approach to this challenge, and for the creatively inclined among us, it can be an even greater challenge.

Music was one of the first casualties of my decision to study law. Throughout my childhood and undergraduate studies, I had discovered and nurtured a love of classical music performance – although I will readily admit I was not destined for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I fell in love with orchestral music the first time I experienced the ecstasy of performance. There is a moment, not always attained, when the music works. When the orchestra becomes greater than the sum of its parts and explodes in perfect harmony. The feeling as a musician is indescribable. Your chest swells, the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and you achieve simultaneous clarity and euphoria. It is thrilling, addictive and so much more.

The move across to law school and the loss of my music was a terrible wrench. Although I was shortly consumed by the demanding law curriculum, I was also half-heartedly googling community orchestras, wondering whether I could ever again find a place in my life for music. In between the mountains of assigned reading and the copious hours of study I felt obliged to put in every day, the law had established a monopoly on my time. It wasn’t making for a particularly joyful first semester.

The light returned with the golden glint of a treble clef worn around the neck of a classmate. This kindred spirit told me about Lawchestra and gave me the nudge I needed to drag my viola back out of the cupboard. In Lawchestra, I have discovered many a like-minded lawyer-musician. Together we take time out from the pressures of work and study to meet and make glorious, uplifting music.

Lawchestra are looking forward to our first performance of the year, Terminus which will be our greatest performance yet.

Terminus brings together Lawchestra, Habeas Chorus (the choir of Melbourne’s legal industry) and Monash University Choral Society for two epic works, Mozart’s sublime Requiem and the Melbourne premiere of Australian composer Dan Walker’s Last Verses which is based on the final works of some of history’s greatest poets. The performance celebrates life and rallies against death, showcasing the final step of the journey. It promises to be a spectacular event.

One cannot always pick when the moment of perfection will come. When everything clicks and the music begins to soar. It is transcendent, euphoric and amidst the majesty of St Paul’s, I cannot begin to imagine its power. Come and join us, for it shall be incomparable.

As part of Law Week, BottledSnail Productions presents Terminus at St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 21 May 2016 (3pm and 7pm) see http://www.bottledsnail.com/terminus for tickets and more information.

BottledSnail Productions is an organisation that seeks to promote mental wellbeing in Melbourne’s legal industry through supporting and producing creative and performing art projects. It has staged musicals, comedy shows, theatre productions and runs many musical ensembles throughout the year.

Terminus is supported by a Law Week grant from Victoria Law Foundation and sponsored by Your Law Firm.

Katharine Kilroy is a third year Juris Doctor student at the University of Melbourne and plays viola in the Melbourne Lawyer’s Orchestra.

I grew up in a blue collar family

openmic

“I grew up in a blue collar family. My dad was a printer—a union guy. So he didn’t have the financial resources to pay for my college or law school. I had to make my own way. I flipped burgers during the week for frat guys at the Student Union. I covered my tuition by spending my summers in the Marine reserves. I’m trying to make sure my kids don’t have to do all that stuff. I want them to be able to backpack through Europe, or volunteer in Central America. Meaningful stuff. If my son wants to be a poet or an Indian chief, that’s fine with me. I work 60 or 70 hours a week to make sure they can do whatever they want. I miss a lot of stuff, though. I have to hear about the soccer games second hand. That’s why the snowstorm this weekend was so great. No school commitments. No work commitments. We didn’t do much at all. Just sat around and read the newspaper or watched TV. There was just a lot of—talk.”

Courtesy of: Humans of New York