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Lessons in chambers: LIV Judicial Mentoring Program

Lessons in chambers: LIV Judicial Mentoring Program

By Ashleigh Morris

Young Persons 


This year the LIV was pleased to offer newest members of the profession a unique opportunity to be mentored in groups by a member of the judiciary. In a two-part series, program participant Ashleigh Morris provides her reflections on what she learnt in chambers with Justice Ginnane.

Every month since February this year, I have been meeting Justice Ginnane of the Supreme Court as part of the LIV Judicial Mentor Program. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have long held aspirations to become a judge myself one day, so I suppose I hoped to gain some inside knowledge about how to ‘become a judge’. I’ve learned from this experience, that there’s no standard blueprint and that there’s so much more to a career as a lawyer than the end-game.

I’ve set out some of the insights gained from Justice Ginnane below, but the real value has been the depth of understanding of the ‘culture’ of practice that the mentor program has provided.

  1. Find what you’re good at
    Justice Ginnane suggested that while some people are fortunate to have a passion that they’re eager to pursue, many of us don’t. And that’s ok. Instead, he suggested identifying and pursuing the things you’re good at. Doing something really well will put you in good stead for a promising career.
  2. Develop good working habits to be more productive
    With the ever-increasing use of technology in our personal and professional lives, it tends to result in more distractions and interruptions. Justice Ginnane suggests identifying the tasks that require complete focus, and to reduce distractions by switching off your phone, turning off email notifications and going to a quiet space. Indeed, at this early stage of our careers we are often concerned about the need to be ‘seen’ at all times, which includes being responsive to emails and phone calls. Compounding this would be that most offices are open-plan, and are rife with distractions. To overcome this, it’s useful to develop a routine so that others know you regularly go to a less-distracting space for better focus. Consequently, you’ll become much more productive in your work, and will become known for getting things done.
  3. Set client limits and expectations
    At this stage in our careers, we can feel pressure to be responsive to everyone at any time, and quite often we become overloaded with work and demands. It’s in our nature as lawyers to take on those pressures because we’re worried about appearing slack. But it is also an unhealthy and unrealistic expectation of ourselves. Justice Ginnane suggested we set specific limits on client and work demands. One way to do this, time permitting, is by providing an initial response that includes specific expectations, such as “Thank you for your instructions. I have started preparing the affidavit, and I will call you on Thursday afternoon to gather further details from you”. This way, you’re acknowledging your client and providing an immediate response, whilst setting a bit of a buffer to give you time to prepare the work within realistic timeframes.
  4. Success is dependent on how you define it
    We asked Justice Ginnane what were some key attributes of a successful lawyer. His Honour’s response was that we should think about what success meant to us personally, and that should inform what attributes were necessary to achieve it. It might be that you regard success as having lots of money, a big house and a nice car.. But you might define success as being reputable and of good character. Or you might regard the pinnacle of success as being well-known for getting things done and done well. In that case, being focused, productive, and identifying the things you’re good at, are the key attributes to career success. As Justice Ginnane put it, “how do you want to be regarded as a lawyer in 30 years’ time? Everyone wants to be successful in their career. What that involves is up to you”. However, all lawyers should bear in mind that ultimately they are members of a profession whose role is to serve the community.

The LIV Young Lawyers is grateful to both Justice Ginnane and Ashleigh for participating in this year’s LIV Judicial Mentoring Program. If you are interested in taking part in the 2018 program please get in touch. Applications will open in January next year.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by commentators are not necessarily endorsed by the Law Institute of Victoria Ltd (LIV). No responsibility is accepted by the LIV for the accuracy of information contained in the comments and the LIV expressly disclaims any liability for, with respect to or arising from any such views.

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