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LIV President's Blog 2014

LIV President's Blog 2014

Geoff Bowyer, LIV President 2014 on the latest issues and topics. Read and comment.

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Six reasons why being a government lawyer is awesome

Six reasons why being a government lawyer is awesome

This weeks guest blogger is Acting LIV President Katie Miller as Geoff Bowyer is overseas.

I had an ulterior motive for agreeing to guest blog while President Geoff Bowyer is overseas. Yes, it's true - I saw this as my opportunity to convert you all to the benefits of being a government lawyer! I can honestly say that as a government lawyer with a career of 10 years, I love what I do and I feel that the career choice of the government career path doesn’t always get the kudos it deserves. Here’s why I think that being a government lawyer is awesome:

 

 

  1. You do work that matters. Yes, all lawyers do work that matters – particularly to their clients. But as a government lawyer, your work is all about the public interest, and that makes it very satisfying. Sometimes that means big things, like defending the constitutionality of an inter-governmental legislative arrangement. Sometimes that means small, but important, things, like ensuring a member of the public has had a fair hearing before a decision is made that will affect their livelihood.
     
  2. Your work is high profile. Your work is often in the media and talked about at parties and on Twitter (surely a clear indication of its importance). The downside is that you can't participate in those conversations or voice an opinion critical of the administration of government departments - but that's not much different to any lawyer's obligation not to disclose confidential client communications or an employee's duty of loyalty.
     
  3. You get to work with amazingly smart people.  I know - ALL lawyers are super-smart, but the lawyers who work for government are incredibly smart (and possibly just a little bit nerdy - which is a good thing). Most of us are here because we want to work in specialised areas of law in which government is one of, or the, main player, e.g. constitutional law, administrative law, child protection, education, etc. The clients are professional and, again, very smart.
     
  4. There is collegiality amongst colleagues. Because we're not working for profit, but the public interest, the focus is on getting the right answer that reflects the practical realities of government. This means that (in my experience) government lawyers are incredibly collaborative and collegiate and are always willing to share work and ideas. It's not like the dreaded lawyer stereotype of a competitive, dog-eat-dog environment born of time based billing practices and the race for promotion.
     
  5. Great training ground - I couldn't have asked for a better training ground as a lawyer. I got thrown into many deep ends and was always supported when I pulled myself out, dripping wet. I started out at the AGS and had my first High Court case within a year of being admitted. From there I had secondments to the Department of Immigration, the Office of the Aged Care Commissioner and a short stint in Canberra. I moved to the VGSO where I've been a senior solicitor, principal solicitor and now Managing Principal Solicitor. I've done secondments to Victoria Police (FOI) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
     
  6. You are part of a huge network. People I have worked with (colleagues and clients) may leave one role, but they often pop up in another part of government. I talk about it as the 'VGSO extended family' - we all work for the one big government family. And I love being part of my family!

So next time you hear yourself starting to say “why would anyone work in government”, stop and consider some of the benefits I’ve outlined– you might even consider a career change.

 
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Cam Forbes
Really great blog Katie - I certainly concur with your comments - I really enjoyed my time as a Government lawyer a few moons ago
1/11/2014 4:48:03 PM

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