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Breathing new life into the law

News

Cite as: (2003) 77(9) LIJ, p.29

More than 100 judges and young lawyers gathered to witness the official launch of the Law Institute’s “Life in the Law” program.

“My participation in the program was the motivating force ... behind a re-examination of the point of my job and its place in the greater scheme of things.”

With those words, on 30 July the Law Institute’s “Life in the Law” program, which brings young lawyers into regular informal contact with judges, was launched.

While the program, which ran as a pilot last year, was conceived as a way to provide clarity to the sometimes-jaded vision of young lawyers, the above quote came from Supreme Court Justice David Harper.

Justice Harper spoke at the launch, which coincided with the Institute’s annual reception for the judiciary, about the program’s ability to redress what 19th century American author HD Thoreau described as “those who have outlived their enthusiasms”.

“Somewhat paradoxically, [the program] has the potential to do so on two fronts,” he said.

“Its principal purpose is to avoid the minor tragedy which occurs whenever formerly enthusiastic young lawyers turn away from the profession after only a few years practice, disenchanted with the law’s capacity to satisfy their desire to make a difference – perhaps even a difference for good.

“A secondary benefit of the program, and here the paradox is revealed, is its potential to rekindle the enthusiasm of the very persons, the judges, who are supposed to be shielding their much younger fellow participants against its loss.”

The importance of the program was emphasised by the appearance of a large number of judges and magistrates, including High Court Justice Kenneth Hayne, Federal Court Justice Mark Weinberg and Chief Magistrate Ian Gray, along with dozens of young lawyers.

One of those young lawyers, Alicia Carroll, a third-year solicitor at Geelong firm Coulter Roache, spoke of the benefits she gained from her involvement in the program.

She said her meetings with County Court Judge Elizabeth Gaynor unveiled numerous surprises, including the judge’s experiences as a young lawyer of intimidation by judges and the collapse of well-prepared cases.

“It’s an amazing insight for young lawyers to realise that the judges ... who often appear so prestigious and worlds away from us as young lawyers are real people and, once [were] young lawyers,” Ms Carroll said.

This year, the Life in the Law program, which is run by the Law Institute Young Lawyers’ Section’s Professional Development Committee, has involved 45 judges from the Federal, Family, Supreme and County Courts and about 200 young lawyers.

Ms Carroll said the program was of particular benefit to young lawyers in rural and regional Victoria.

Justice Harper agreed, having had the responsibility of running a group while on circuit in Warrnambool.

“I cannot be overly optimistic about the benefits anyone else obtained from the meetings which I then had with young practitioners,” he said.

“I can say that for me, the results were entirely positive.”

Jason Silverii

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