find the latest legal job
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Legal Inhouse / Lawyer / Company Secretary
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Fantastic Company · Potential to be Part Time / Flexible Work Pattern
View details
Part Time Risk & Compliance Officer
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Brisbane City · Flexible Part Time Hours
View details
Law students urged to lead the good life

Law students urged to lead the good life

LAST WEEK Professor Hal Wootten returned to the University of New South Wales, of which he is the founding Dean of Law, to personally deliver the Law faculty’s annual Hal Wootten…

LAST WEEK Professor Hal Wootten returned to the University of New South Wales, of which he is the founding Dean of Law, to personally deliver the Law faculty’s annual Hal Wootten Lecture.

Professor Wootten — whose legal career spans the Crown Solicitors Office, the NSW Bar, the NSW Supreme Court, and the Aboriginal Legal Service — tackled the tricky question of whether its possible to live a worthwhile life as a lawyer, or whether it really is just about the prestige and the money.

Wootten said that he became a lawyer really by accident. Growing up in the lower middle class in the Great Depression, his mother engrained in him the value of obtaining “a safe job” and “improving” himself through study. So, by default he studied law: “The alternative was economics, about which I knew even less,” he said.

As a student of law, Wootten said he was given conflicting messages from different lecturers about whether the practice of law could lead to a worthwhile life. From one professor he learned that the law was “an evolving part of society, accountable to it”. From others, he got the impression it was “a tightly controlled profession, ruled by a narrow clique mainly concerned with the welfare of the profession, enforcing its restrictive practices”.

But Wootten’s conclusion, which he impressed on his audience of law students, was that it is up to each individual to make their life in the law worthwhile. “Life in the law was what you made it, not what some miserable lecturer in Legal Ethics reduced it to. It was not about achieving eminence or wealth — but realising oneself,” he said.

However Wootten believes that in recent times the growing emphasis on the pursuit of wealth has threatened the legal profession as well as “the crumbling world around us”. An example of this, Wootten said, is the appearance of large law firms, employing over 1000 lawyers, structured on a business model designed to generate income for equity partners.

“It is destructive when the pursuit of wealth becomes an end in itself, to which the good life must be sacrificed, or refined simply as ‘more’ — more assets, more palatial houses, more luxurious holidays, more powerful or ornate boats, more ostentation,” he said.

The global response to climate change is a devastating example of this mentality, Wootten said.

“Amid mounting evidence that climate change is much faster than predicted, no government has had the courage to take the lead in reducing a country’s carbon input into the stratospheric commons, because it might impinge on the pursuit of wealth,” he said.

Wootten made a telling comparison between the recent Government response to the financial crisis, and its less enthusiastic response to climate change.

“[With climate change] we sit like the frog in the water awaiting our fate as temperatures slowly rise. By contrast, when the water boiled and actual money — not just the future of the world — was at stake, frogs leapt everywhere. Billions that could not be found to tackle climate change appeared from nowhere to bail out delinquent banks,” he said.

His advice to the audience was in pursuing a career in law, don’t let the accumulation of wealth come at the expense of leading a worthwhile, fulfilling life.

“Life is not about the pursuit of wealth, of GNP, of getting more. It is about nurturing and respecting the precious self, and realising its potential to do worthwhile things, no matter how small the nudges you give to the world may seem,” he said.

“Always be true to that self; never surrender it to greed or a cause or ideology. Don’t enter law if you really want to do something else … don’t let the bastards get you down and don’t forget about climate change.”

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

Law students urged to lead the good life
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Nov 23 2017
Education a passion for YL president
Promoted by University of Melbourne. Melbourne Law Masters student Phoebe Blank is successfully j...
Crowd
Nov 23 2017
Anti-radicalisation programs playing ‘second fiddle’ to terrorism laws
Several academics have questioned the balance between Australia’s counterterrorism legislation and...
 William Ah Ket
Nov 23 2017
‘Bamboo ceiling’ thought piece wins inaugural law prize
A paper that explores the idea of affirmative action to achieve greater diversity among members of A...
APPOINTMENTS
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'...
opinion
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...
Help
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 & ...