A little while ago now, I accidentally registered to attend a two day forum put on by the Wellness for Law network.
Yeah, I know. Accidentally registered.
In the end, I couldn’t really afford 2 full days out of the office, and so I compromised with myself and gave the student focused day a miss, and attended just the practitioner focused day yesterday.
I decided to go along to the forum because I am interested in the future of law.
What will our legal practices look like in the future?
How on earth we can shift our culture and our traditions to keep our practitioners happy, healthy and whole?
I believe that it simply has to be the case that happier, healthier and more whole practitioners will perform better work for our clients. It seems abundantly obvious to me.
Anyway, I had signed up for the forum, and headed on down to Brisbane with a very definite future focus.
Now, although I traipse up and down to Brisbane regularly, I really only go to the Harry Gibbs Commonwealth Law Courts Building, and come home again.
The forum, was however, being hosted at the Queensland University of Technology at the other end of the inner city.
This was also uni at which I had attended and grappled and groaned my way through the 4 years of my law degree way, waaaay back in the *coughs* early 90s.
I deliberately decided to make a bit of an “event” of the day, and so I followed some excellent tips from Facebook friends (seriously – how did we work out anything before FB and Twitter? – oh, maybe that is just me) and parked over at Southbank and walked over the Goodwill Bridge to QUT on the other side of the river.
I spent the time getting from the car almost all the way to QUT feeling like a tourist in a city that I was used to visiting once a week.
It was AMAZING!
I came up out of the underground car park to walk along the winding path, with the beauty of nature hugging me from either side.
I saw a natural ampitheatre with concrete seating nestled into the grass, looking out over the river. It is absolutely the truth that the people have their park.
Anyway, I walked over the bridge, and began to bring my thoughts to the day ahead. And giggled when I saw this image of myself in the glass.
This is nothing like I thought the lawyer I was training to be would become. I thought it would all be Country Road, linen shirts, pearl earrings, suits for weekdays, with elegant shoes. Mmmm life has definitely taken me somewhere completely different 🙂
I was still in the wonder and gratitude of how amazing these community spaces were … until I saw this.
And then. It was like I was back. At the very beginning. When I understood absolutely nothing about what the law, being a lawyer, or the culture of the legal profession.
For me, my time at law school was rough. I had truly never felt as lost, as inadequate and downright stupid as during those years.
After all, those who get into law school, have obviously had the marks from school to get there. For me, that meant years of report cards covered with As, with just the odd B, and I think 1 C in all of my schooling.
Then I began law school, have NO idea what I’m doing, and struggle to get my mind “thinking like a lawyer”. So suddenly my report cards are the absolute opposite of school. Covered in passes, the odd B, and maybe 1 A in all of my time at uni.
And, despite my 16 years working as a lawyer, my 2 years before that as an articled clerk, and my 1 year before that of part time work as a law clerk, I still walked into that conference with my mind full of
“Who am I to come to this conference”
“I’ll probably have no idea what they are talking about”
“They’d better not talk about anything too complicated or I just won’t get it”
“What if I get asked a question in front of everyone that I don’t know how to answer”
“Should I just head over to the mall, and pretend I forgot or something”.
Fortunately, the building that the forum was being held in was the very first building in my line of sight at the end of the Goodwill Bridge. Which meant I really had no option but to walk on in.
All of this made it very interesting for me when the forum presenters and discussions mentioned the studies about mental health issues within the legal profession, and that those findings say that the damaging behaviours often begin in law school.
And although no one did anything at all TO me, and I did it all to myself, it is clear that my law school days did their own damage.
I am SO glad that I attended, that I felt my discomfort, let it be what it was, and headed into that space anyway.
I felt reassured on the way home that I had been precisely where I was meant to be.
I couldn’t help but feel reminded to breathe and flow when I noticed this on the way back to the car.
And, as a final reminder to me.
If anyone doubts that collaborative practice methods will be part of our future … check this out.
The future, to me, seems clear.
I am a lawyer. There will be no escaping that.
More importantly, there is no need to escape that.
And now, of course, I’m full of vulnerability talk about my colleagues who will read this piece, and have had university marks full of HDs and that they will know the truth.
Aren’t our minds an interesting place to visit?
We just have to remember to leave them as often as we can, and remember to visit our hearts and our souls.