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It’s time to solve problems: VWL convenor

Briefs

Cite as: (2004) 78(1-2) LIJ, p. 21

New Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL) convenor Sarah Coffey has called on the organisation to move away from exploring problems and concentrate on implementing solutions.

Ms Coffey said VWL had done a lot of positive work over the past seven years in researching the problems facing women in the law, but that it was time to move to have these issues solved.

“Not that we’ve been ignoring solutions before, but we’ve just been banging our heads against a brick wall.

“We need to think about the systems that are in place in firms and see how they can be adapted.”

Ms Coffey said it was also her goal to listen more closely to the VWL membership, as well as widening it to include more women lawyers from outside the Melbourne CBD.

After graduating from Monash University in 1993, Ms Coffey said she was “absolutely determined” never to work as a lawyer.

“I didn’t believe that I could be effective in helping people. I didn’t actually believe that the system helped people and that it perpetuated problems. I was very disillusioned.”

She went overseas with the intention of travelling for six months, but instead stayed abroad for three years. During that time she worked in England at a law firm in Cambridge, as well as doing charity work and working at a recruitment agency.

She returned to Melbourne to begin work at a film financing company where she read film scripts and used her legal skills to examine financing packages.

A year later she decided it was time to practise as a lawyer. She got a job at Macpherson & Kelley in 1999 while continuing her volunteer work at community legal centres, something she has done since graduating from university.

Ms Coffey said volunteer work had been an important facet of her working life.

“It has given me a very broad experience in a way that if you join a private practice straight from university it is quite difficult to get.

“You get the experience to solve a problem very quickly and to extract useful instructions from clients and be able to communicate with clarity. And they have been absolutely invaluable skills for me.”

Ms Coffey went on maternity leave in 2002 and then last year accepted an approach from Middletons to work on secondment to electronics giant NEC.

Since joining VWL in 1999, Ms Coffey has chaired the Work Practices Committee and was assistant convenor in 2003.

For more information about VWL, call 9607 9390, email info@vwl.asn.au or go to the VWL website at http://www.vwl.asn.au.

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