In 2016, her final year at university, Georgia applied for Justice Journeys in an effort to gain some experience in an area of law outside of her main interest. Now living interstate and practising law at a major commercial law firm, Georgia looks back on what she gained from her journey with the Dispute Resolution Branch.
I applied to participate in Law Week last year (2016) because my law school was promoting it. All my experiences to that point were in commercial law. I was getting towards the end of my law degree and I thought what if I don’t know the law outside of commercial law - how can I do something about that? The Law Week program looked like a great opportunity to expand my horizons.
It was absolutely worthwhile. It was one of the best things I did in my last semester, if not in my whole law degree. It was incredibly eye opening. I was enrolled in a mediation course – mediation gets grouped with other kinds of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the law. It is something we don’t learn much about in law school – something that gets mentioned in passing in a couple of lectures.
Essentially, ADR is an alternative to litigation. Where litigation is all about confrontation and winning, ADR is about resolving a problem in a better, less-confrontational way. Confrontation is at the heart of law, so finding out about other ways to achieve similar, or possibly better, outcomes, was an incredible way to round out my degree.
Coming out of law school, we are so quick to jump to a position of “how can we take this matter to the courts?” There is a growing body of research that shows litigation and going to the courts, in some cases, can have a negative effect on clients. It can be confrontational. Psychologically, the experience can impact people. Timelines involved in litigation can be lengthy, and sometimes, even when people get a result which shows they technically won the case, they can leave feeling less than satisfied, because of the stressful, protracted experience they have just been through.
I found with mediation, you can avoid a lot of that. It tends to bring out the issues in a way litigation can’t. That makes me think, now, when I am practising law on a daily basis, is litigation really the best option?
I’m always thinking, is there another way we could achieve the same, if not a better, result for our client, using a different approach?
I don’t work in a setting at the moment where I can use mediation. It is not a big area within competition law, or commercial law more broadly, but my mediation experience does make me think about the way I approach things with my client. I think that is something I will always take forward as a lawyer.
The Law Week experience was incredible!
When I arrived at my law firm for my first week of training, something you have to complete is practical legal training before you become admitted. We completed a three day course with a barrister, who happened to be a trained mediator.
I had a chat to him and said I’d completed a mediation course in Queensland and asked him if it was something I should pursue. He said absolutely. The barrister said he had found it so handy in being able to offer a range of services to his clients.
It is certainly something a lot of people are thinking about now in the profession – and I hope mediation is something law schools will start to include a lot more in their courses.
Law Week for me was an outstanding experience. For students thinking about becoming involved in Law Week this year, and in future years, I encourage them to be really open minded. I had no idea when I signed up for Law Week what I was going to experience!
The mediation course was fantastic. My advice to students is to ask a lot of questions. There were 11 other people taking the mediation course with me. I found being curious helped me get more out of the experience. Talking with the 11 others in the course, talking about their backgrounds, and asking how mediation could factor into their work, provided me with many insights.
Even interacting with the instructors, finding out how they came to mediation, helped me learn so much.
I do hope the Justice Journeys Law Week experience is something DJAG will continue to offer. There are so many benefits for young Queenslanders who take the opportunity to become involved!
If you’re interested in becoming an accredited mediator, visit www.qld.gov.au/learnmediation.