The new Legal Landscape from the perspective of a Rookie

Change Makers in The Legal System
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This article is written by Melahni Dean

On 22 September 2017 the first Change Makers in the Legal System (“the Change Makers”) Celebrity Lunch was held, with special guest Ms Cathy McGowan. Like-minded financial planners, psychologists and lawyers who are committed to moving away from traditional legal services delivery, formed the group back in April 2017 and have been picking up momentum since. I had the privilege of assisting Marguerite Picard, the founder of the Change Makers group, to organise this event. An exciting break from my daily grind of textbooks and lectures, the Lunch provided me with a great opportunity to test my networking skills.

The lunch kicked off with a stimulating discussion between Ms Cathy McGowan and her sister Helen. Similar to the Change Makers introducing a new way of “doing law”, Cathy is introducing a new way of “doing politics”. Cathy described how she was able to build her following by having kitchen style conversations and giving her community the gift of time. By ensuring everyone had a role to play and his or her opinion and concerns were valued, Cathy fostered an environment of inclusiveness. What makes Cathy so successful in my opinion is that she is not susceptible to getting caught up in world of politics where many so easily lose sight of their purpose. Responding to the community’s needs and not the candidate’s drove Cathy’s campaign.

Melissa Lyon from Hive Legal then gave a different perspective on this same concept of thinking as it applies to private practice. Inspired by new law models overseas, Melissa and a group of other partners started Hive Legal from scratch to suit the 21st century. Similar to Cathy and the Change Makers, Hive Legal is introducing a new way of “doing work”. Listening to Melissa talk about reduced “face time” and office spaces, value-based billing, and the evolution of technology in the legal space; my cookie-cutter law school brain was blown. Who knew law firms like this existed? Traditionally, young lawyers are given the repetitive tasks that don’t require much skill or experience. Technology will play a big part in efficient completion of these tasks, giving us the chance to work on more complex tasks. Coupled with the move away from billable hours, this will allow young lawyers to spend extra time learning and developing to become more effective lawyers

Getting caught up in the competitive nature of law school, we are bred to be one track minded. One discussion at the lunch that particularly resonated with me was with Mira Stammers. Mira was working as a banking lawyer in London, and returned back to Melbourne after the GFC. After turning down a lucrative position at one of Melbourne’s top law firms, she decided to build Legally Yours. Legally Yours connects clients with quality lawyers using a fixed-fee system. Talking to Mira, I began to understand the contemporary role that lawyers have in today’s society. There needs to be greater awareness in law schools of the range of career options available to us.

The discussions from the lunch made me realise just how unprepared the majority of Law graduates are for the rapidly evolving Legal Landscape. Following the traditional law path by narrowly focusing on the black letter of the law leads to unrealistic expectations. Instilling this holistic way of thinking that Change Makers group entered on is necessary to adequately prepare graduates for the realities of the modern legal profession. Today’s graduates are tomorrow’s partners.

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