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Six reasons why being a government lawyer is awesome

Six reasons why being a government lawyer is awesome

By Katie Miller

Occupations Opinions 

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I’m a career government lawyer – 14 years with plenty more to come. 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 or liberty.

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 unless you’ve been authorised by your agency and you certainly can’t 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. Clients within government agencies 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.

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 and held multiple roles and continued to explore other agencies through secondments to Victoria Police and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Now I’m at Victoria Legal Aid, where I am ‘working in the system and on the system’, i.e. we both deliver legal services to clients and work on improving the system through law reform and strategic advocacy. It’s a pretty special combination!

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. At VGSO, I talked about it at the 'VGSO extended family' - we all work for the one big government family. It made the move to VLA much easier – I wasn’t leaving, I was just moving to a different part of the 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.

For the latest updates and developments for government lawyers, don’t miss the LIV’s Government Lawyers Conference on Friday 22 June. With speakers including Sven Bluemmel, Victoria’s new Information Commissioner, and Justice Niall of the Supreme Court, register for this conference to receive practical tips and key strategies for succeeding as a government lawyer.

 


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