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Monday, 1 July 2019

Obiter Dictum, Winter 2019

Noting the cold and gloomy Canberra weather, it seems fitting to focus this month’s Obiter Dictum on improving the mental health of young lawyers. Here in Australia we are regularly told that one in every three lawyers will suffer a mental health condition during their career — even more reason to focus this Obiter Dictum on improving our mental wellbeing.

Earlier in the year we had Clarissa Rayward, the Happy Family Lawyer, present at the ACT Young Lawyers’ Autumn CPD Afternoon. Clarissa works in Brisbane where she operates a busy family law practice, Brisbane Family Law Centre, and a mediation practice, Brisbane Family Mediation Centre.

In 2016, she wrote “Happy Lawyer, Happy Life — How to find happiness in law and in life” in an attempt to address the rising rates of unhappiness in the legal profession. To assist her research for the book and enable positive dialogue about happiness in law land, she created a podcast, also called, “Happy Lawyer, Happy Life”, where each week she interviews other lawyers who have found success, overcome challenges and found happiness in their careers. I recommend buying her book and/or listening to her podcast for great tips on how to be happy! #notsponsored

We also had a very enjoyable and interactive panel discussion with Jenny Francis, Principal Legal and Policy Adviser of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (my own boss and fearless leader), Walter Hawkins, Principal and Practice Leader of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, and Cristina Huesch, Principal of Alliance Family Law. I was so engrossed in their candid and entertaining responses to the attendees’ sincere questions that I forgot to take notes but what has stuck in my mind is how honest and open they were about their experiences and how it is clear that it is okay to make mistakes in your career (and, it turns out, mistakes make for funny stories to reflect on when presenting to young lawyers)! The key take away point: we are all only human.

Another way to be a happier lawyer is through socialising — get involved in your legal community! You are always welcome to attend our events. So far this year we have had a number of networking events, including our Mentor Program event (sponsored by TIMG), the Young Professionals Ball (sponsored by Vincents), the Golden Gavel competition, and the Quiz Night (sponsored by Michael Page).

During these events, we raised funds for our 2019 charity, Hands Across Canberra, and the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT (DVCS), the ACT Law Society charity for 2019. 

If you missed out on these events, our upcoming events of particular relevance to mental health are our Touch Football Afternoon on 11 October and Yoga by the High Court on 15 October.

If you’re more interested in networking and perhaps a cheeky drink, then our Speed Networking event on 8 August may be for you. We also have our Spring Wine Tasting event to be held on either the 19 or 26 October, and our Christmas Party on 22 November.

Reach out to your support network of family, close friends, trusted colleagues as well as mentors or “buddies” for advice and support. Our Mentor Program is a great way to seek that support (or provide support to others). If you’re interested in being a mentor or mentee, please email me.

As Ellen says at the end of each of her episodes: “Be kind to one another” (…not that we, as lawyers, usually see daytime TV… but the message still resonates!)

Rebecca Wheeler
Chair, Young Lawyers Committee