find the latest legal job
Inhouse Legal Counsel -18 months-4 PAE - Real Estate Investment Company
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· In brand new prestigious CBD offices
View details
Senior Associate - Competition, Policy & Regulatory
Category: Other | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Work with a well regarded Partner · Sydney CBD
View details
Commercial Litigation Senior Associate
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Lawyers Weekly Australia Partner of the Year 2016, Insolvency
View details
MULTIPLEX Regional Legal Counsel (Vic) | 7 to 10 years + PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Career defining in-house role · Tier One international contractor
View details
Junior Lawyer - Personal Injury Law
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Parramatta & Western Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Highly specialized practice · Challenging role with great opportunities
View details
Trailblazing institutional change with advocacy 101

Trailblazing institutional change with advocacy 101

Pushing for change in the legal profession is much the same as developing a winning case in court, according to Fiona McLeod SC.

A prominent figure in the Australian legal profession and an advocate in every sense of the word, Fiona McLeod has dedicated her career to being a champion for change.

Whether it be clearing institutional hurdles for the career advancement of female talent in law, or addressing the systemic inequality which hurts some of society’s most vulnerable, she likens her method to the way a lawyer approaches a case.

“If you have a vision for where you want to be and you can take people with you, and if you can assist in the design of practical implementation of change and the steps that organisations can take to transform themselves, then that’s going to be successful,” Ms McLeod said.

Just like effective advocacy, she believes evidence and allies go a long way in helping achieve results.

“Prepare it like you would a case in court. Ground yourself in evidence, prepare an argument, get allies on side, answer all the grounds as to what it is you want to see happen.

“Because, just like if you come into a court and berate people and tell them that they’re doing the wrong thing, but without any solutions, then you won’t drive institutional change,” Ms McLeod said.

Ms McLeod has forged a successful career as a barrister and been at the forefront of Australia’s legal professional bodies. Over many years she has dedicated her voice to speaking about issues touching the profession. Critically, she has also focused her efforts on addressing them.

“The ability to be a spokesperson comes from taking on responsibility within an organisation for leadership.

“I’ve been in a position to speak to issues where there are legal ramifications and often they do overlap with social issues but that doesn’t mean, in my view, that lawyers should hold back when there is clearly a legal foundation for injustice or legal barriers to justice,” Ms McLeod said.

“I’ve always been drawn to the law as a way to serve community interests and have a strong sense of social justice,” she said.

Service and conviction have been hallmarks of the Victorian barrister’s 27-year career. Ms McLeod took silk in 2003 and has practised in commercial, administrative, common law, human rights and government law. She is the president elect of the Law Council of Australia and immediate past president of the Victorian Bar Association.

In her current role, Ms McLeod said she was determined to confront enduring access to justice issues impacting Australia’s Indigenous community. She is focused on how a current Royal Commission concerning youths in custody in the NT can engage a wider discussion about the alarming incarceration rate of indigenous Australians nationwide.

“I’ve got the opportunity this year and next year particularly, to work on issues on and around how justice affects different people in our community. Our first peoples in particular are below the radar in terms of being able to access to justice,” she said.

Ms McLeod’s love for advocacy was sparked during law school mooting and witness examination competitions, while at university. She pursued her passion two years after admission as a lawyer in Victoria and singed the bar roll in 1991.

“I set out that goal for myself,” Ms McLeod said.

“I took a risk in terms of my financial wellbeing but it certainly was the right time for me to go […] The bar has been brilliant for me. I love being self-employed, answering to myself and having that direct responsibility for the management side,” she said.

In Ms McLeod’s view, fostering a collegiate culture at the bar and in the wider profession is critical for future change-makers. Being able to fall back on a strong network of family and peers was essential for anybody seeking a dynamic however stressful career, she added.

She urged young practitioners to back each other with “wholehearted” confidence, acknowledging that some of her own grit was sustained by the knowledge that others were in her corner.

“It’s really critical we support each other […]  and it’s one of the easiest ways to deal with a natural reluctance to promote yourself and your qualities – that we promote each other wholeheartedly,” she said.

While there can be little discussion of Ms McLeod’s career successes without reference to the encouragement from colleagues and family which spurs her, there is no doubt that the goals she has kicked have been hard-earned.

Ms McLeod advised aspiring lawyers and barristers to stay steadfast in pursuit of their goals and never to fear that those goals were beyond them.

“I takes commitment, you can’t just turn up and expect the world to be presented to you but if you really have a vision of what it is you want to achieve; then you make it happen,” she said.

Last year Ms McLeod was recognised for her outstanding service to social justice and the profession at the Lawyers Weekly 2015 Women in Law Awards. She won a trifecta of awards for Barrister of the Year, Mentor of the Year and the Women in the Law Excellence Award.

Submissions for the 2016 Women in Law Awards close soon – submit or nominate today!

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Trailblazing institutional change with advocacy 101
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Animal law moots, advocacy, Melbourne University, Australia and New Zealand Intervarsity Moot on Animal Law
Sep 25 2017
Moot unleashes animal advocacy
Melbourne has played host to one of the largest animal law moots, with student participants put th...
Sep 25 2017
Transgender teens should not need legal approval for hormone treatment, court hears
A transgender 17-year-old known as Kelvin has appealed in the Family Court against the requirement o...
Appointed, Victorian Legal Services Commissioner
Sep 25 2017
NFP CEO appointed Victorian Legal Services Commissioner
The CEO of a Victorian not-for profit pro bono legal services provider has been named as the state...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...