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Newly admitted lawyers improvise celebrations during lockdown

Newly admitted lawyers improvise celebrations during lockdown

By Karin Derkley

Young Persons 

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Since admission ceremonies were suspended by the Supreme Court from 17 March because of COVID-19 restrictions, newly admitted lawyers have been celebrating their achievement as best they can – with the people they are locked down with during the pandemic, or virtually via Zoom, or even dressing up to capture some of the spirit of the traditional ceremony.

OPP lawyer Lucy Green (pictured above with her partner Jeremy) says that while she had always looked forward to a traditional admission ceremony at the Supreme Court, she will look back on her experience during the pandemic as "quite a special thing". Ms Green was fortunate to have her live-in lawyer partner witness her affidavit and celebrated with a glass of champagne at home with other housemates, and with friends and family via Zoom.

"I think it'll be more memorable in retrospect because it was such a unique and weird way to have done it,” she says. “Plus, I had so many friends and family members that could be a part of it – more than would have been able to come to the ceremony."

Ashlee Maywald of Clarendon Lawyers was happy to make light of her experience after having her affidavit signed and witnessed by her lawyer partner in the printer queue at Officeworks. "I didn't have a printer at home, so I had to go to Officeworks to print, sign and then scan it."

When the notification of her admission arrived she and her partner staged a photo of their own “Supreme Court” ceremony. "I put a jacket over my activewear and Maurice used some tissues and a dressing gown to make it look as if he were admitting me in the Supreme Court. It was not quite the same as appearing in court but it was great to get the admission finalised!"

Fellow Clarendon lawyer Millie Clayton says she had been looking forward to being admitted by her mentor at the Supreme Court since witnessing her friends’ admission ceremony back in December. But after she learned that her ceremony would be cancelled, one of the lawyers still working at the-then still open office witnessed the affidavit instead. "After that I sent an email to my mentor joking that even though he didn't move my admission in reality, he moved it in a spiritual sense!," she says.

A week later an email arrived from the Victorian Legal Admissions Board notifying her she had been admitted as an Australian lawyer. "It wasn’t the same as the experience in the court room but I was grateful that the Supreme Court developed an alternative process at short notice.” To celebrate, the firm organised a zoom ‘virtual drinks’ event to congratulate the firm’s newly admitted lawyers. Ms Clayton's housemates also cooked up a Mexican feast. There are also plans for a big celebratory event when life gets more back to normal post-COVID-19.

Abubakar AIdabel describes his admission as “a really bitter sweet experience”. He started his law degree at Victoria University with three other friends, who all graduated and finished their PLT together. “We were eligible to get admitted in February, but we all decided to wait until March, except one person in the group.”

“Luckily that person (Sarah Kattab) pushed our admission. She came over to our homes individually, and we made our oath or affirmation in front of our families and took some photos together.” The four friends plan on taking a group shot with their practising certificates once the restrictions are over.

Gabby Maginness says she had mixed emotions when she received the email advising her of her admission. “I was excited that I had finally become an Australian lawyer, feeling proud of my achievements over the past six years. However, this feeling of achievement was clouded by the disappointment of not getting to celebrate the occasion with family, friends and peers in the way I had hoped.”

But determined to focus on the positives, Ms Maginness messaged her immediate family and a few close connections “to inform them of the good news in these tough times” and was happy to be able to get a hug from her Nana, who she is staying with during the lockdown. “I also received a package from my parents with a gift of earrings they had bought me in anticipation of my ceremony."

“The last six years of studying has given me an abundance of life changing experiences and great friendships, so when all this is over I will be able to celebrate achievements (and freedom from isolation) and begin my career in the legal profession,” she says.

OPP lawyer David Brown says that while he too was disappointed to have missed out on a proper admission ceremony, "there are many worse things going on in the world right now". He celebrated with his housemates at home, including his judge associate girlfriend who witnessed his affidavit, joined by his family and a couple of close friends on Zoom.

"My barrister dad was going to be moving my admission. He was looking forward to it and was a bit upset that he didn't get to play that role. But it was okay, and it was nice to have them involved via Zoom."


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