Leaving the law: Looking beyond traditional legal roles

"What Are We Not Talking About?" is a free series of virtual lunchtime chats, hosted by the ACT Law Society’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee, about the elephant in the room — how do we go about achieving an inclusive and diverse legal profession? Every month, a new speaker will introduce a topic and lead a discussion with participants. These informal webchats will also be an opportunity for legal professionals and law students who are interested in inclusion and diversity issues to connect with like-minded peers.

Are you studying law but not sure if you want to become a practising lawyer? Have you thought about how you may be able to use your legal skills beyond traditional legal roles? Are you ready to be inspired by a panel of ACT lawyers who have done things a little differently on their career journeys? If so, join us for a panel discussion on leaving (and returning to) the law, led by Susan Platis (Senior Legal Officer with the ACT Justice and Community Safety Directorate), Petrina Schiavi (Associate Director at the University of Canberra) and Kath Taplin (Head of the ACT’s Intermediary Program).

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Susan Platis ‘left the law’ in 1998 after obtaining her LLB to spend six years working as adviser to Australia’s longest serving Foreign Minister. In 2010, once her two children were off to school, Susan returned to the law to complete a legal placement at Clayton Utz as part of her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Susan went on to complete an LLM and tutored at the ANU College of Law before obtaining her first practicing certificate as solicitor at Legal Aid ACT. In 2019 Susan paused her criminal practice to take up a nine month secondment as Counsel Assisting the ACT Coroner. Susan is currently working in the area of criminal law and policy with the ACT Government until March 2021. For the past three years, Susan has also served the legal profession as a member of the ACT Law Society Council and enjoys regularly mentoring young legal professionals.

Dr Petrina Schiavi is Deputy University Secretary at the University of Canberra. She has practised law in Queensland and the ACT across all categories of law firms — small and mid-tier firms, government departments, and top-tier firms — and was also a volunteer at Queensland’s Women’s Legal Service for many years. While working at Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Brisbane in her early thirties, Petrina decided to ‘leave the law’ to pursue a PhD in Sociology and during this time had her first child. This led to an academic role at ANU researching global climate governance, where she published several research papers in corporate social responsibility, risk, trust and climate governance. She then took a break to have her second child, after which she ‘returned to the law’ as a commercial lawyer in a Canberra corporate law firm. Last year, she ‘left the law’ again to take up her current role at the University of Canberra, where she is responsible for the governance of the university. 

Kath Taplin has practiced in NSW, Victoria and the ACT. After starting her career as a NSW Supreme Court Judge’s Associate and then the NSW Supreme Court Commercial Law Researcher, she worked at Minter Ellison’s Canberra and Melbourne offices in their litigation and alternative dispute resolution practices. She has been Principal Solicitor, Solicitor and program designer in Australian community legal centres and has also been engaged by the Australian Government to design and evaluate law and justice, family violence, child protection and social inclusion initiatives for neighbouring Pacific Island countries. Kath ‘left the law’ for some years to raise her three children, obtain her Masters and work as a Senior Diplomat in neighbouring countries. She now leads the implementation of the ACT’s Intermediary Program at the ACT Human Rights Commission working with criminal justice and child protection stakeholders.

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