On Monday 17 September, DLSS Geelong and Coulter Roache held their first ever Wellbeing and the Law Panel. The event brought together students on the brink of joining the legal profession, young lawyers from Coulter Roache, and Nicole Pluim (Deakin University psychologist) to discuss the many challenges that are present in the legal profession, especially for young people making the massive jump from University to working in the law.
This year has seen the commencement of a new partnership between DLSS Geelong and Coulter Roache, one which has now produced the hugely successful Social Justice Luncheon featuring the Honourable Michael Kirby, the Social Justice Moot, and today’s Wellbeing Panel.
The event opened with Nicole giving a talk on the many stressors that can negatively effect mental health, especially for law students and young legal professionals. Nicole stressed that whilst many of us may experience episodic periods of mental ‘unwellness’, or mental illness, with proper care, treatment and support, many people can function well and go about their daily lives without too much interference or set-back from their illness.
She went on to discuss how finding a balance between all of your commitments is hugely important, by drawing up a ‘wheel of life’. The wheel should comprise of 8 parts, labelled with the various commitments and passions you have in life, and then determine how many parts of the wheel that commitment or passion takes up time-wise. Then you can analyse if your time is being spent on things you enjoy, if you’re spending too much time studying or working, or if you should spend more time engaging with family and friends.
We then welcomed our panel of lawyers from Coulter Roache – Tess Aberline, Satbir Singh, Allison Murhpy and Harriet Burton. All of these panelists, recent law graduates themselves, moved through a discussion on the various phases of moving into the legal profession, the challenges faced at each phase, and how each of our panelists tried to overcome the associated stress and anxiety that each phase brought on.
The resounding suggestion that came from our panel was to prioritise time on things you are truly passionate about, and to “say yes to less” – This stemming from the realisation that often many of us over-commit to work, volunteering, university life, socialising, and can’t contribute 100% to each task, which results in poor performance across the board. If you focus your time and energy into commitments that you are passionate about, you’re more likely to achieve better results and enjoy your time doing those tasks!
Each of our panelists gave a realistic and relative account of their transition into working as a lawyer full-time, coming out of many years of grueling study. Whilst the approach to overcoming adversity and set-backs is highly personal and changes from person to person, our panel were encouraging of students not comparing themselves to their colleagues and focusing instead on your own personal progression through the profession. Whilst it can be hard to see friends and fellow students attaining those sought-after clerkships and grad roles, and you might feel like you’re lagging behind, the only person whose progress you should be focused on and competing against is your own!
We cannot thank Nicole and the panel from Coulter Roache enough for their time, and for sharing their knowledge and experiences with our students! Also we are hugely appreciative of Coulter Roache for also allowing a large number of their staff to partake in this event and network with students before and after the presentations. It’s wonderful to see a regional firm engaging on such an intimate level with our student community and really practicing what they preach in regards to health and wellbeing initiatives for staff!
In 2018, DLSS Geelong published our first ever Wellbeing Guide, which can be accessed online here. We strongly believe in equipping students with the skills to navigate their future careers, and as such, greatly appreciate the support that Coulter Roache has shown in kind for these initiatives throughout the year!