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Young urged to help themselves

Briefs

Cite as: (2009) 83(02) LIJ, p.13


The inability of some young practitioners to strike an appropriate work/life balance is at the core of retention issues faced by law firms, according to new LIV Young Lawyers’ Section (YLS) president Kate Harry.

Ms Harry said that during her tenure she wanted to help members marry the needs of cluttered professional and personal lives.

She cited billable hours and high-pressure performance demands as causes of “burn-out” of young lawyers and said the YLS would look at addressing some of these problems.

However, while firms could do more to ease the pressures many young practitioners faced, Ms Harry said practitioners could also become more proactive in fashioning a career path for themselves.

Ms Harry, who graduated in arts/law from Monash University in 2004 and is currently a commercial litigator for Cornwall Stodart Lawyers, said young lawyers were more likely to commit to a life in the law if they fostered relationships with more experienced colleagues capable of providing guidance and took part in networking opportunities.

She suggested that a way to do this was to join LIV committees and attend law-related events.

“We want to provide a platform for young members to go one step further and getting more young lawyers involved in the LIV will offer them invaluable opportunities as they meet the older and wiser lawyers,” she said.

“My goal for the next year is getting members to know people in committees and find out what is really going on.

“We need to create an environment that can be fun but also offers a good solid support network. [YLS] has so many good ideas and so much to offer. I hope this involvement can reward them and keep their enthusiasm alive.”

Ms Harry said while fostering relationships was vitally important in a lawyer’s development, young professionals also increasingly needed security and certainty to remain in the law.

Ms Harry, who understands working in isolation after beginning her articles in a suburban law firm before branching out and joining the YLS social committee, said she would like to hold more seminars offering advice and experience to law students and graduates.

“It is OK to have concerns and sometimes it can come down to where a person works in the first year or two and the different experiences and what different workplaces offer,” she said.

“And for some young lawyers employment is not as secure as we thought.”

However, she believes retention problems will always exist because of inherent pressures, the lure of overseas work and the number of people who study law without intending to practise it.

“I want this to be a fun year and I just hope that whatever we start this year we build up enough momentum for the following years, that we can give people opportunities,” she said.

For more information on the YLS, see http://www.liv.asn.au/members/sections/younglawyers.

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