Top 5 tips to keep your legal career charged
By Cav. Maria Saraceni, Barrister, Francis Burt Chambers
Lawyers are now facing an identity crisis – do we have a vocation or do we do a job? In other more eloquent words – are we autonomous professionals, part of a noble and long standing profession or are we an active participant in a legal services market with the intrusive imposition of commercial values? Or, if it were possible, can we be both?
What role will lawyers have moving forward with IBM Watson now a reality? With many sophisticated clients who use lawyers in essentially the same way as their other service providers, will lawyers be mere functionaries?
If that is a step too far to contemplate, how are lawyers in the current environment coping with the changing demands being placed on us not just by clients – or would it be more accurate to refer to them as consumers; by cost pressures in a globalising legal market; by employer demands of greater productivity and even greater efficiencies; a justice system that is changing the landscape of the art of advocacy and persuasion away from an adversarial system to what has historically been referred to as alternative dispute measures worked out as much as possible in private and a costing regime which reduces all legal thought, analysis, work output and advocacy to bite sized 6 minute units?
In Victoria, the health and safety legislation that applies to all employment relationships has recently been used as a disruptor such that the government-sponsored regulator has seen fit to intervene in work practices in a large commercial (albeit private) law firm that appears not to meet the standard of doing everything “reasonably practicable “to ensure that its employees (including lawyers) are not exposed to hazards that could adversely impact on their health and wellbeing.
How do lawyers navigate this ever-changing environment? A positive first step is joining the Law Society of Western Australia, an organisation that is at the forefront of caring for its individual members health and wellbeing and ensuring that lawyers retain their professionalism and standing in the community and before the Courts and Tribunals of this land. In my view, it has never been more important to take charge and invest in your career, and joining your professional association is very much part of this strategy.
Here are my five tips that have helped me in my legal career and which I share with you:
- Join your professional body – Play an active role in, the Law Society and its advocacy and thought-leadership work. With over 90 years’ history and over 4,000 members (including prominent and well-respected members of the legal profession) and a proud history of advocacy, you will have a powerful support network through the Society. For less than the daily cost of your mobile phone, the benefits far outweigh the cost of your membership. The Law Society provides access to an influential network and significant support and guidance (including a mentorship programme) throughout your career journey.
- Never stop learning and seek out quality professional development – participate in the Society’s highly regarded and relevant seminars presented by leaders in the profession and at discounted member rates and access the exclusive CPD Freedom subscription, it is unbeatable value.
- Always be astute in managing your risk exposure – cap your occupational liability through the Society’s Professional Standards Scheme.
- Work hard at staying connected – keep abreast of changes in legislation, case notes, local news and articles of interest and see what your colleagues are getting up to.
- Get support when needed – for example, LawCare WA provides a wealth of resources on life, family, relationships, finances, health, education, work and career wellbeing, as well as three confidential and free counselling sessions through your membership with the Law Society.
Join me at the Law Society and be part of the history and future of the legal profession in WA. You can make a difference – and give your career a powerful advantage to achieve your career goals. How can you afford not to be a member of the Law Society?