A Twinkle of Idealism


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Why did I choose a career in personal injury law?

Some people, both within and outside the industry, call it a gloried arts degree, you know, for people who have done well in school but really have no idea what they want to do with their lives. Not at all a bad option considering the future prospects that lie ahead when you complete your law degree, particularly compared to finishing up a Bachelor of Arts degree. In fairness, only those who hold an arts degree can take pot shots at it! Jokes aside, as with all education, it too is an important qualification which serves society in many untold ways. Additionally, it is arguable that an education in the humanities is needed in the world now more than ever.

Returning to the question “why law?”, the answer is never simple. For some it may involve a desire to attain a profession. Who could be judgemental of that goal? For others, it may mean job and financial security into the future. For many though, it often, at least initially, starts with the notion of wanting to help others.

For those school leavers, the idealism not yet sucked from their young spirits, they may start off in the industry with aspirations of social justice, righting wrongs (pardon the cliché) or protecting those against the strong and powerful. I personally believe, never let the idealism wane. It is important and if one can keep it in focus, it serves a useful guide and reminder as to why you got into the rat race in the first place. Idealism drives passion, change and improvement. When allowed to permeate your professional character, that same idealism can also fuel the engine of your professional career.

Yes, working within the law comes with a myriad of other important considerations. Bringing an efficient and proactive work ethic, along with a strong commercial acumen will never be underappreciated, particularly in private practice.

Whatever area you choose, getting things done for your clients is the name of the game.

There are also always winners and losers or perhaps varying degrees of winning and losing, both for clients and for practitioners.

In respect to my decision to pursue a career in the law, I think I simply read too many John Grisham novels, followed by watching too many of the movie adaptations. Being born abroad, undertaking law studies straight out of high school was not an option, so I did the arts degree to buy some time, with notions of teachers’ college percolating in the background.

Having never shown up to commence that teaching degree, when I was about half-way through my legal studies, as an annoying mature-aged student, a friend asked why I wanted to study law and where it was all going.

In reply, I explained the desire to be connected to history and to be part of a long history of lawyers and the court system generally. Aspects of philosophy were at play. Harking back to the paperback novels, personal injury law jumped from the pages and always grabbed my attention so that was in my future. Most of all, however, it was the idealism and the idea of helping people that spurred me on to study. And study I had to do. My friend, having a commercial background, basically laughed at my responses.

Nonetheless, even years later, it is the affected human being, the person standing behind the file number, that continues to push me to do what I do.

Working in the law is hard. There are incredible pressures and things that I never anticipated I would have to manage but which in reality are part of everyday practice. Importantly, despite the challenges, it is fulfilling on both a personal and professional level.

There are few professions where you can pick up the telephone and explain that an outcome has been achieved. This is at times life-changing, given some clients are on the brink of homelessness, often for the first time in their lives. Their lives were turned upside down after suffering an injury; the small part we play provides some with the means and ability to make decisions for their future again. The gratitude that often follows the delivery of that news is immeasurable.

So to my above friend, to revisit his questions of “why law?” and “where is it all going?” the answer remains the same. Indeed that old answer that was snickered at has been tested and proven to be solid.

The law is a strange beast and certainly not for everyone. Hence, practitioners come and go. But as long as there are outcomes that can be achieved, that potentially put people back in the position they would have been in had their lives not been upended by accident, injury or the malicious actions of others, the grind is certainly worth it.

And for anyone reading this contemplating legal studies, my advice is simply to go for it. It, somewhat uniquely, does present a vast array of career opportunities that cut across industry lines. And again, if there is a twinkle of idealism in that choice, latch on to it and harvest it, in complete disregard to those who criticise it as naivety, for you will form the next generation of leaders who shape the spirit, culture and character of the industry.

This article is of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require further information, advice or assistance for your specific circumstances, please contact the Fisher Dore team.


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