JLU: Junior Lawyers' Union

Asserting the rights of junior lawyers, who have much more power than they realise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dating, Depression and the Firm

The Tea Lady has only once flirted with the world of online dating. It reeked of self-conscious insecurity and deceit - full of air brushed photos taken a good five years before the present and plumped personal CV’s jam-packed with lies of omission. Truth is the first casualty of self-promotion... The Tea Lady never once came across Ben from [insert a suburb near you] who could change his underwear more often, smokes in bed and has unresolved issues with his overpowering mother whom he must call nightly when Neighbours is on.

Before you began as an optimistic AC, your firm probably sold you a dream too. No doubt, the partnership promised work life balance, “interesting work”, an environment dedicated to continuing learning, a corporate culture of openness, a love of long walks on the beach and watching the sunset, making italian food at home and cuddling....

I have only worked in one law firm but after speaking to fellow comrades, I suspect law firm HR departments are little different from the desperate and dateless so eager to gloss over the truth. One rule of thumb seems true, if a law firm says one thing when they are wooing you, the inverse is usually true. Work life balance is in fact code for cab vouchers and fast food on the firm. “Interesting work” means discovery locked in the dungeon from the Princess Bride and openness means taking instructions from your supervising partner while they are seated in a toilet cubicle because it’s the only moment when they have time.

But, during the courtship of those heady pre-articles days, perhaps their greatest lie of omission was that you were about to join the most depressed profession in Australia. I still find the statistics hard to believe: 25% per cent of lawyers suffer from elevated feelings of psychological distress - inadequacy, anxiety, social isolation and depression - up to 11 per cent of lawyers contemplate suicide monthly... But then I think about the people that work around me - the eyes that refuse to meet yours as you pass in the corridor, that haggard, focused look, the colleague that drinks themselves into oblivion at every opportunity. It all seems to fall into place.

Everyone has their own reasons for feeling depressed. Firm culture plays its part but then there’s the personalities of those that are attracted to law - we are often driven to perfectionism and like to be in control. [This paper by Dr Gautam is an outstanding investigation into depression in the legal profession.]

So enough of my trite whinging. Instead, from this day on, the JLU officially declares war on depression and on the corporate culture that allows it to fester.

Stay tuned for the campaign.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Let [s]he who has not sinned cast the first stone

Gadens, like many other law firms, has signed up to the Law Institute of Victoria Articles Guidelines. These guidelines allow participating law firms to make 'priority offers' to paralegals and to law students who have obtained vacational clerkships with the firm. Firms can make priority offers before the normal date for regular offers. Once made, a priority offer must remain open for about a month.

The JLU has recently been informed that Gadens, during the recent 2007 round of graduate recruitment, has acted outside of the LIV guidelines. The JLU will not give a detailed account of the allegations in order to protect the individuals involved. However, one of the allegations involves Gadens putting a priority offer candidate under significant pressure to sign a contract with the firm. Another involves Gadens' demanding that a priority offer be accepted within a 24 hour period, contrary to the guidelines.

Gadens, through some fairly ironic viral marketing, seems to be trying to distinguish itself from firms that mistreat their employees. The problem with acting holier than thou is that people will demand that you meet your own high standards.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sometimes lawyers say the darndest things...

The unexpected never ceases to amaze. Hail in summer. The TV anchor who lets fly a string of obscenities when they think they are off air. The 70 year old man who was doing chin ups on my train home last night. And then there's this article from the lawyers weekly about the Sydney Careers Fair. If you haven't seen it already, look at the section devoted to Gadens.

It begs the question, was it just a tongue in cheek stunt or maybe a well aimed parting shot from a disgruntled employee? Whatever the motive, the Junior Lawyers' Union salutes you.

Tea anyone?

We chose this profession because we thought we might want to be lawyers. This Tea Lady never realised that it meant sacrificing her life on the communal alter of a top tier firm.

And it shouldn't have to be.

The fact is, while junior lawyers are supposedly part of some kind of up and coming intelligentsia, for many of us, our choices have left us feeling powerless in the face of working in the law.

The sad thing is, for this tea lady, the JLU is the closest thing she has had to a legal union. But, it is in places like this that as junior lawyers, we can begin to express our dissent.

We deserve reasonable working hours.

We deserve to have a life outside of work.

We deserve basic respect in our work places.

Tea ladies may be a dying breed but this tea lady isn't giving up without a fight.