‘Don’t give up on the law’: How the profession is changing for young lawyers
The revelations that a former High Court justice had sexually harassed associates were delivered alongside the news that those same women were driven out of the law. Now, leaders are promising change and urging young people not to give up.
The news that young lawyers were driven out of the law due to experiences with sexual harassment was received by a legal profession that had fostered a culture that ignored or brushed away complaints. With a new spotlight on the inappropriate behaviour, the leaders of the profession have promised change for the next generation.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly’s Protégé on the concerns it has received from studying and new lawyers about the culture, the Law Council of Australia (LCA) president said that the profession is changing fast and encourages young lawyers to “not be put off”.
“The profession has been slow to change but it is changing, and you can see it. I think there is real hope and I don’t think people should be put off because it is a great career for women and there is a lot of amazing stuff going on in our profession that you can’t contribute to if you’re not in the profession anymore,” said Pauline Wright.
The Australian Lawyers Association (ALA) national president Graham Droppert added that he was not surprised young lawyers were concerned, telling Protégé that “we are all disappointed as a profession” that more measures were not taken prior.
“However, there has been positive change and momentum is building. There are now many women in senior positions in the judiciary and law firms that are driving change,” said Mr Droppert, adding: “Many of the senior men in the profession are also acting to call out bad behaviour, rather than overlook it.
“I think we will see that this cultural change accelerates from here on.”
Law students should be aware that their future in the law is entirely up to them. Change of culture starts at universities and can be carried through into new careers, as women and more progression move to the tops of the firms and the judiciary.
Victorian Bar CEO Katherine Lorenz asked that young lawyers not give up on the law, adding it is a “great profession” with opportunity to learn new skills and meet people.
“Hang in there but choose your own path and decide what’s right for you,” Ms Lorenz said. “Don’t be constrained by what other people might think is an accepted path for you because it’s such a terrific career to do what you want to do professionally and have a really rewarding career in lots of different ways.”