Category Archives: Life as a barrister

Why I’m a Lawyer

Recently on twitter a topic has been circulating with the hashtag #whyimalawyer.* For those unfamiliar with hashtags (and indeed twitter) the point of such a hashtag is that people looking for what tweets are being said by all different people about particular topics can find them by a search.

There have been many tweets about it by a variety of lawyers in the last few days.  Repeated word for word below these include:

  • Because I like working long hours and getting panicked phone calls at the last minute
  • Because why wouldn’t you want to be one (people listen to what you say), plus it was the vibe.
  • Because I find phrases like ‘incorporeal’ hereditament amusing
  • Because words all day
  • Because DRAMA (aka fun)
  • Because I like to argue about the correct definition of a word or meaning of a sentence
  • I love wearing a wig
  • Because sometimes people can’t resolve conflicts on their own
  • Because finishing a good cross examination feels wonderful
  • Because CENTRE OF ATTENTION
  • Because I wasn’t allowed to do medicine for work experience, and instead read Justinian and had lobster lunches for a week
  • Because you can’t really make money from history
  • knowing sharks won’t attack you in the ocean due to professional courtesy
  • I became a lawyer by accident.  I choose to stay in the hope that I can help families through their toughest times
  • Because I like wearing suits and pulling a trolley full of papers, folders and books
  • Because I love reasoning and argument.  I am a reasoner myself, and hence, law is the perfect match for me.
  • There was a cohort whom would answer “LA Law” to#WhyImALawyer but they were shallow.  And they went into merchant banking
  • Because I love being at the centre of policy making – that feeling when you see a provision you influenced come into existence! 🙂
  • Being a lawyer challenges me, has opened many doors & given me many different opportunities
  • Because I got the marks to study law and I liked debating at school and archeology was hot and dusty
  • because at the age of 10 I thought it would be cool. As I got older, it became about ensuring change in the world
  • I get paid to say “Objection Your Honour”
  • Because a youth worker mocked me in HS when I said my dream was to be a QC…there’s that…
  • Because I love all stationery, particularly fountain pens, highlighters, post-it notes and flags
  • Because when things go pear shaped clients go “ohshit better call isobelle” & because I get to say “don’t panic” a lot
  • I like to explain complicated legal terms using words my clients can explain
  • And Rumpole, and Kylie Tennant’s biography of Evatt, and David Marr’s Barwick
  • Because a small laugh from a judge to a perfectly timed witticism is golden
  • The anxiety you get at 4.55 when a client walks in and tells you they have a hearing at 9.30 tomorrow morning
  • Why has no-one mentioned Perry Mason and his amazing ability to get people to confess
  • Because carrying around large files and books is a great upper body workout
  • In honesty – words, arguing & enforcing rights & speaking truth to power.  And Atticus Finch, of course.
  • Because I like working long hours and getting panicked phone calls at the last minute
  • I love being at social functions and betting on how long it takes for someone to ask “can I ask you a quick question”
  • I’m waiting for someone to say its because they read a lot of John Grisham novels
  • I want to make a difference.  Esp for victims of #domestic violence
  • Because of Welcher & Welcher**, the most realistic TV depiction of small practice I’ve ever seen.

 

 

My own reasons for Why I’m a Lawyer? Co-incidentally I was recently interviewed and asked that very question – and a few more – by New Lawyer Language.  So my own more extended answer to #WhyImALawyer is to be found at their blog: http://newlawyerlanguage.com/2014/05/16/samantha-marks-qc/

 

* After writing this blog, I found out that the #WhyImALawyer hashtag arose as a result of a NSW Young Lawyers Law Week Twitter campaign in May 2014. This initiative was coordinated by NSW Young Lawyers Executive Councillor, David Porter. The NSW Young Lawyers Debrief newsletter included a brief article on this campaign, which can be viewed at: http://ecomms.lawsociety.com.au/rv/ff00182a2e0415d2901d75b6184abf7dadddb8e4.

If you would like to see who posted all the tweets mentioned above, just go into twitter on the internet and search #WhyImALawyer.

 

**I was delighted to see someone mentioned Welcher & Welcher.  This sitcom with Shaun Micallef is the funniest show about lawyers I have ever seen.  Mind you, almost anything with Shaun is funny…

 

 

 

 

All the World’s a Stage…

I have just had the great pleasure of being in my first play in 25 years.  Way back before life as a barrister  took over many of my waking moments, I used to love acting.  But who had time when litigation can be so all consuming – and if there is one thing life at the Bar does not include, it is regular hours.   So drama has taken a back seat (save for that provided by the ever changing and interesting parade of life I see in my practice – and family!).

One day in July I came back from Court to find an email advising that a play was going to be put on with a cast of barristers, just a few months hence, and calling for auditions.  Rehearsals were on Sundays, and the play would be performed in the legal precinct, out of Court hours.  It was do-able. On the spur of the moment, I replied.  Which led to an audition.  And which, to my delight, led to a part.

Two weeks ago, I was one of a cast of Victorian barristers performing the roles of the 12 jurors and one tipstaff in the classic Reginald Rose play 12 Angry Men.  It was the first production put on in the Supreme Court of Victoria and it was part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

 As the cast grappled with learning lines and work-shopping the best way to perform this play which has all the jurors on stage for the whole 90 minute play (the audience is privy to all the jurors’ deliberations as they decide if the man charged of murder is in fact guilty beyond reasonable doubt), we not only had a lot of fun but also got to know each other in a quite different way then would have been possible through our ‘normal’ legal lives.  Before I started the play, I knew a few of the cast and production crew between a little and a lot – or not at all.  Of those I knew, at one extreme, I am married to one cast member. At the other, one of the junior commercial barristers had been in a mediation I was mediator of; another had been a reader (baby barrister) on my floor many years ago. Many I had never met before, including recent members of the Bar, criminal barristers, and the judges’ associates and junior solicitors who directed or were in the production team.   Close friendships have been formed and some mentoring relationships developed. I for one have a new appreciation of the diversity and strength of the Victorian Bar – and of some of the very talented, able junior lawyers getting started in our profession.  

Yes, it was a busy time fitting in rehearsals and performances with work and normal life.  But it was also stimulating, invigorating and very enjoyable.  It was a great reminder of the need to keep other joys and passions going alongside our busy practices.  We then go back to those practices and the people we work with and help, with fresh energy and insight.

The group of lawyers who have set up BottledSnail Productions have done so with the intent of reducing some of the depression and anxiety that working in the legal profession can engender, by promoting drama and musical outlets for lawyers (and it supports the Tristan Jepson foundation which works to counteract depression in the profession).  It is a wonderful idea.  I encourage anyone reading this who themselves has a budding inner actor or musician eager for an outlet to get involved.  Law Revue auditions are coming up; there is an Orchestra and Choir being formed; I hear there is a Battle of the Bands to come.  All great ways to get to know other lawyers – outside our adversarial system. 

Reprise season in 2 weeks

Just in case anyone reading this now wishes they had seen the play – tickets have just been released for an extended season.  12 Angry Men will be on again, this time at the Council Chambers, Melbourne Town Hall on Tuesday 22, Wednesday 23, Thursday 24 and Saturday 26 October 2013 (at 8 pm).

The cast is –

  • Samantha Marks SCForewoman
  • Andrew Buckland – juror 2
  • Kylie Weston-Scheuber – juror 3
  • Angela O’Brien – juror 4
  • David Kim – juror 5
  • Danny Cole – juror 6
  • Sam Tovey – juror 7
  • Simon Marks SC – juror 8
  • The Hon James Guest – juror 9
  • Ashley Halphen – juror 10
  • Loula Athanasopoulos – juror 11
  • Rachel Ellyardjuror 12
  • Samantha Dixon – tipstaff.


Tickets can be purchased online at <http://www.bottledsnail.com> (follow the link from the front page). 


Some comments from the first season:

  • It was my great privilege to attend the opening night, last night.  The performance was phenomenal.  I am extremely proud of you all and feel deeply honoured to have been invited to attend. I was extremely impressed by the quality of the performance.  At times, the tension was so palpable you could cut the air with a knife.

       

  • A great show…I have been raving to my colleagues about it this morning. When you have information on the new dates in the Town Hall can you give me as much advance notice as possible.

 

  • We saw 12 Angry Men tonight.  Absolutely terrific.  I loved the Henry Fonda/Sidney Lumet version and thought it would be pretty big shoes.   It was riveting. 
Immensely satisfying – didn’t need to be held in the courts, would have been just as terrific anywhere – for me, just a location bonus.



An interview – and an ‘aha’ moment

 

Today I was interviewed about what it is like to be a barrister.  I realised I had a smile on my face for my whole answer.  After twenty three years I still love the excitement of opening a new brief, coming to grips with a new set of issues, thinking about the best way to solve a client’s problems, working out to convince a judge of my client’s case, and – of course – appearing in court and arguing matters.  Every day is different as I move from  conferences to researching law to drafting advices to negotiating settlements and – of course again – to going to court and doing my best to win my case.  How many people have that smile on their face after 23 years in the one job?   Aha, indeed!  I am in the right place.