WHEN VICTORIA Strong won the Young Gun Award at the 2004 Australian Law Awards, she was praised for “single-handedly debunk[ing] the myth that all lawyers are mustily-suited career men”.
Now, as she steps up to the top role in the peak body representing the Victorian legal profession, the 33 year-old wants to stem the exodus of young people leaving the law, while maintaining a strong and vibrant profession in that state.
Strong was elected as the 2005 president of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV), and quickly came to realise her taking up the position was an inspiration for some lawyers. “Young lawyers approach me and tell me that I am such a role model,” she said. “Although I hate the thought of being a role model, we needed one,” she said.
Pressed as to whether she is an inspiration to women or young lawyers, being both only the third female lawyer to take up the presidency and one of the youngest, she answered “both”. “Basically, anyone who is not a 50 years or older male.”
Everyone knows young lawyers are leaving the profession in large numbers, said Strong. “As a profession we need to ensure the best and brightest don’t fall through the cracks and that every effort is made to foster their interest in the law.”
The LIV will this year aim to continue offering solicitors opportunities to be involved in advocacy, law reform and pro bono work. This will help keep young lawyers in the law as they are given an opportunity to fulfil their hopes and intentions when they entered the profession, Strong said.
Speaking from experience, Strong told Lawyers Weekly last year that she went into law because she wanted to make a difference and help people. But being in a law firm did not give her that opportunity. “You may be doing great stuff, but you may not feel like you are making a difference,” she said.
“Many young lawyers move into the profession full of ideals, only to find their workplace can’t always accommodate their desires,” she said this week. The LIV has recently completed a survey of articled clerks in Victoria to determine the effectiveness and level of satisfaction with the current structure. The results are expected in the next few weeks.
Although law firms should be making more of an effort to try to keep their young lawyers, they alone will not be able to achieve it, according to Strong. “This is a profession-wide responsibility,” she said.