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Interview with the Young Lawyers Committee of the Law Society of Western Australia

What does it mean to be awarded the 2022 Australian Young Lawyer Organisation Award?

The Young Lawyers Committee of the Law Society of Western Australia (WA YLC) is incredibly grateful to receive this award.

The WA YLC has put in a significant amount of time and dedication in developing its Know Your Rights Guide and other important initiatives aimed at improving working conditions and employment practices in the legal profession. It is fantastic that this work has been recognised and can be promoted nationally, to the benefit of all Australian law students, graduates and junior lawyers.  It is a privilege to be able to help shape the future of the legal profession.

Can you tell us about the Know Your Rights Guide, which was the project for which you received the award?

The WA YLC has been working on advocating on improving working conditions and employment in the legal profession. Unfortunately, the legal profession has not been immune from instances of underpayment and unfair employment practices, and sexual harassment remains a significant concern.

The need for the Know Your Rights Guide became more apparent after surveying the WA YLC’s members in 2020, and again in 2021. Those surveys identified a number of ways in which students, graduates and young lawyers would benefit from a clearer understanding of their workplace rights and entitlements, including in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

Over the last three years, the WA YLC set about preparing both the Guide and the Fair Safe and Inclusive Legal Workplaces: Guidelines for the employment of clerks, graduates and lawyers.

The Guide is informative and aims to increase awareness of applicable workplace rights and entitlements, to help empower them to take action if they are not being treated fairly in the workplace. It is part of a broader initiative and was developed together with the Guidelines, which are directed towards assisting employers to make meaningful changes in this space, recognising that due to power imbalances raising awareness in junior levels of the profession is only part of the answer.

What’s next for the Young Lawyers Committee of the Law Society of Western Australia in 2023 and beyond?

In 2023, the WA YLC will continue to focus on student, graduate and young lawyer wellbeing. In relation to working conditions, as a Committee we will continue to actively encourage the profession to strive to meet the standards recommended in the Fair Safe and Inclusive Guidelines. We will also work to increase the awareness and acceptance of both the Know Your Rights Guide and the Fair Safe and Inclusive Workplaces Guidelines by the legal profession.

More broadly, the WA YLC will also continue to engage in and develop opportunities to help support new members of the profession and to foster collegiality through its social events, law student mentoring programme, CPD events and advocacy.

What does the Committee consider are some of the key legal issues and challenges the legal profession needs to focus on, particularly for young lawyers? 

Aside from working conditions, but an issue that is synonymous, is mental health and wellbeing of young lawyers in the profession.

In order to cultivate the next chapter of the legal profession, steps must be taken to address burn out and the dangers of the “hustle” culture. 

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