Surviving your first year as a lawyer! By Freya Gardon

This is an image of Happy Lawyers surviving their first year as lawyers.

Surviving your first year as a lawyer! 

Author Freya Gardon

I still remember my first day in a law firm.  I ended up being sent to Court an hour in!  I had never been to a Court before and can honestly say I had almost no idea what to do!! But I survived and have survived many an awkward moment thereafter too.  In this week’s blog, Solicitor Freya Gardon shares her learnings on surviving that first year in ‘law land’ and there are some really great tips here for all of us- first year or not!


You have done it! You finally got admitted. After four plus years of University, answering mock exam questions to advise Bill on whether he can sue Woolworths for slipping on an avocado, developing a causal coffee addiction, and honing your skill to make a meal out of anything, it is time to be a proper lawyer!

The end of University is a triumphant and exciting time. Finishing a law degree is no mean feat, and by the end I think most of us feel ready to get stuck into real world practice. But with leaping into your first year as a lawyer comes real responsibility, work which can seem daunting, and even at times overwhelming. It is also a wonderful opportunity and time to learn, and embrace feeling comfortable with not knowing the answer to everything!

I am by no means an expert at navigating this time but have been surrounded by wonderful people who passed on their wisdom to me in my time of need! So, my top five tips for surviving your first year as a lawyer:

1. You won't always know the answer, and that is ok!

One of the hardest parts about your time after admission is learning to say you don’t know the answer, or what to do, and asking for help. By the end of University, we feel like we are nailing those advices and mock interviews (sort of!). Our confidence is up, and we are ready to unleash our new-found skills on real clients! Something that can be a challenge is making the transition from University into a real-world space, where we don’t always know the answer, and we do not feel as confident in our choices (because they will affect someone’s life!). As a part of this transition, it is important to know when to ask for help, and how to go about it. Push the work as far as you can, and then reach out when you need to. 

2. Mistakes are ok.

You will probably make one, or two, as we all do! And the good news is, usually they can be fixed. The important thing is to not let them get the better of you, and to use them as an opportunity to learn. It can be easy to dwell on what we have done wrong, rather than what we are doing right. My rule (which I am not always wonderful at following!) – allow yourself the day to feel upset, embarrassed, annoyed, whatever it is. Then, ask for feedback from a mentor or your boss, understand what went wrong, and take the time to plan what you will do differently next time. Doing this will mean you hopefully move onward and upward quicker than what you otherwise might have.

3. Have a go.

You might surprise yourself! No one learnt by being perfect on a first attempt, and part of your first year as a lawyer is to have a go! One of the great things is usually someone will be checking in what you are doing before it matters – take advantage of that by giving it a go and learning from what changes. Think about how you can take a task as far as possible before you get your work checked. Have you drafted that document to its fullest extent, and checked your own work twice? Checking your own work at least twice before someone else reads it is my golden rule – it will force you to slow down, and make sure its accurate.

4. Find a mentor.

I promise she is not making me write this but having Clarissa as a mentor was the best thing to happen to me as a part of becoming a lawyer. I have been lucky enough to never feel alone, or so stuck on a decision because I have always had Clarissa to reach out to. Not only can she answer my legal questions, she has also given me the most wonderful career advice and helped me make decisions that I would have otherwise found overwhelming. 

5. It's a marathon, not a one-year sprint.

When you feel like you don’t know anything, and you are constantly learning, a year is a long time! Make sure you slow down and appreciate that your learning journey is long one. You will not know the answers overnight, and more than likely you will feel frustrated at times by how long it is taking you to understand what you need to. If you rush through this process, you more than likely won’t enjoy your time as a baby lawyer! Instead, slow down, enjoy the process, and make sure work does not consume your life! 

There you have it! They seem simple and pretty obvious, but when you are working away, learning, and at times feeling stressed, they can be easy to forget! 

This is a photo of Happy Lawyer Freya Gardon

Freya Gardon

Collaborative Family Lawyer & Psychology Honours Student

Hi! I am Freya a Collaborative Family Lawyer who has worked as an essential member of the Brisbane Family Law Centre team for nearly a decade. Now four years post admission, I work closely with our Director Clarissa Rayward in upholding and developing our firm’s fresh and sincere approach to family law. 

I have been lucky enough to work with Clarissa since 2010, prior to even starting my law land journey. In that time, I have enjoyed working not only as a lawyer, but as a content writer, automation bot builder, and now, a legal product developer. 

Looking to expand my work in law, I am currently in my final year of Psychology at the University of Wollongong, and can’t wait to see how I can use these skills to continue assist client’s in a creative way. I love working with a team that do things differently, and Brisbane Family Law Centre has always done just that.


Starting an Online Business: A Quick Legal Checklist! By Grace Cue

This is a image of lawyers planning their online business

Starting an Online Business: A Quick Legal Checklist!

Author Grace Cue

Everyday I am contacted by lawyers who are ready to make a leap; maybe they’re working on a side-hustle to compliment their legal life, maybe they’re productising their IP to add a competitive edge to their business (something I highly recommend you explore) or maybe they’re putting law land to the side to focus on a completely new and different endeavour. Whatever it may be, I think you’d be challenged to find a lawyer who hasn’t at one point thought about what more they could offer. 

I’m sure I don’t have to tell lawyers that no matter how creative and fun starting a new business can be, your legal obligations around this time are not to be taken lightly. As a family lawyer, setting up businesses is not really my thing but lucky for me (and you!) some of our legal colleagues have set up some great tools to help us along the way!

This week, Grace from Law Squared-  a firm known for its clever solutions for new businesses of all shapes and sizes- is here to take us through a few of the things we need to think about when it comes to start ups in law.


You have a great idea for a product or service, you have your website up and running, and you’re getting ready to go to market online. It’s an exciting time and the last thing you want to think about is your company’s and your website’s legal compliance. But it’s an important step to take to ensure that disputes over the use of your website and the purchasing of your products/services don’t arise, or if they do, that you have the right protections and agreements in place to protect both you and the consumer.

There are many legal considerations when it comes to creating an online business and as part of my work at Cubed by Law Squared I am able to share some of the most important steps to ensure that you begin your startup journey on the right foot. 

Use of Your Website by Customers

You might have a very clear idea of what your website and products or services will be used for but this is not always obvious to the people who visit your website. A well-drafted Website Terms of Use (WTOU) is integral as it allows you to articulate the purposes and the permitted uses of the website. It also gives you the ability to indemnify yourself in the instance that someone uses your website for an unauthorised purpose.

Engagement with Your Customers

Terms and conditions are also a useful document to put in place for your website particularly to govern any monetary or service exchanges. Website Terms and Conditions create IP rights, and impose rights and responsibilities on both the user and the owner of the domain. A Terms and Conditions document ought to contain details about how a commercial transaction unfolds. How do your customers pay for and receive your goods and services? How much do they have to pay for them? Having these details set out in black and white helps to prevent unnecessary disputes arising and allows for speedy dispute resolution.

Privacy of Your User's Information

If throughout the course of your business you are collecting, using or storing your customer’s information you need to have a privacy policy in place to govern these processes. Privacy Policies should be bespoke and tailored to your business, the way you handle and collect data and the purpose for which you collect that data. Your privacy policy needs to be compliant with Australian Privacy Laws and also may need to contemplate the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) applying to all European Union citizens. It is critical to understand that if your business collects sensitive information (as defined by the relevant laws), then your data handling and collection needs detail attention.

Intellectual Property

On a website intellectual property (IP) can encompass anything from the name of the company and its logo to the source code in the background. Protection of your IP is important to a company as it preserves your rights to those elements now and into the future and stops others from using them unnecessarily unless permission is given through an IP Assignment or Licence Agreement. 

Protection of IP often is a process of trademarking your designs, logo and name (among other elements of your website). If you are looking to commercialise or protect your IP for the benefit of your business, you can contact the team at Cubed by Law Squared for more information.

Returns and Defects for Online Product Sales

Return policies and product defects often arise in the area of consumer law when online businesses selling goods end up in trouble with consumers and in serious situations, with the ACCC. It is often tempting, or seems logical, to exclude returns or exchanges on items or goods purchased more than three months ago; however, ensuring you are compliant with consumer laws is important. Some key areas where businesses get it wrong on returns:

  1. ‘We do not provide refunds’ – this is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law and should not be written anywhere on your website;
  2. ‘No refunds on sale items’ – same as above
  3. ‘Major faults vs. minor faults’ – 
    • If MAJOR – the consumer can elect to have a replacement or a refund for the goods or services
    • If MINOR – the consumer has a right for the fault to be repaired without a refund

This is a image of Grace Cue

Grace Cue

Law Graduate & Legal Project Officer at
Law Squared

Hi! I am Grace a Law Graduate and Legal Project Officer at Law Squared. 

After first beginning my time at Law Squared as a Legal Project Officer in early 2018, I  have moved into the position of Graduate Lawyer within the Employment + Workplace Relations team. 

I am eager and excited for what the future holds, currently working behind the scenes, creating content, providing day-to-day support, and exercising my developing legal skills in the employment law arena, under the guidance of Andrew Brooks and Catherine Brooks. 

At the same time, I am currently undertaking my PLT at Leo Cussen part-time. Outside the office, I enjoy playing sport, going to escape rooms, and coaching my old high school badminton team on weekends. Otherwise, I am is often found playing guitar or playing video games with my partner Ryan.


Daring and Disruptive Workshop, with Lisa Messenger!

Daring and Disruptive with Lisa Messenger

Author Rachael Hempling

This week my colleague and friend Rachael Hempling, Barrister and Mediator shares her reflections after the two of us had the opportunity to spend a day with the ever amazing entrepreneur Lisa Messenger. I have followed Lisa for a number of years now and have learnt a lot from her approach to business and the chance to hang out with her for a full day earlier this year provided much inspiration for the business year ahead. You might think what could lawyers learn from a magazine publisher but let me tell you we learnt a lot that day as Rachael shares below. 


Last Month I attended the most inspirational and mind blowing day at the ‘Daring and Disruptive Workshop’, with Lisa Messenger, the founding genius behind the “Collective Hub.” Lisa is unapologetically raw and honest about her journey, yet manages to flip everything around to a positive even when talking the challenges and heartbreaking moments’ that she has faced. 

Attending her workshop was an absolute game changer for me. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as I prepare to pave a new path. She unapologetically challenged me to reflect where I am, yet inspired me to forge forward into the brave new world of entrepreneurship and innovation. 

So with my mind still buzzing with ideas, I thought I’d share my 5 top takeaways with you, as they were so powerful and incredibly thought provoking.  

1. Build like-minded non-competing relationships and networks.

You are likely to have a very similar client base, but are not in direct competition for the goods or services you are providing. For example, if you are a small boutique law firm specialising in conveyancing, you might want to partner or build relationships with a local boutique real estate agent. You are likely to be more aligned from an ethos point of view rather than targeting the larger nationwide agents where there may be referral policies in place. 

2. Stop seeking validation from external parties.

‘Haters gonna hate’, but you don’t need to listen to them. Be bold, be brave and have the confidence to believe in what you are doing or creating. There will always be people saying, ‘that won’t work’ or ‘that’s a bad idea’. Don’t listen to those nay-sayers and flip that negative energy around. Grow and be comfortable in the knowledge that these are not your people!

3. Incentivise your staff.

All of Lisa’s staff now have ‘skin in the game’. The more they sell, book or produce the more financial reward they receive. It makes sense, right? Your staff help you grow and expand your business in exchange for maximising their pay packets. Win win! It also has the added benefit of assisting you scale up or scale down and as the market shifts and changes. 

4. When building networks & partnerships think about a 'value-added exchange'.

So don’t approach people, influencers or potential partners with the notion of ‘what can you do for me’, as it won’t be conducive to opening a line of conversation or developing a working relationship. Think of what you might be able to add to their business in exchange for what they add to yours. For example, you could offer to showcase that Boutique Real Estate Agent in your latest blog in order to open up a line of conversation about referrals.

5. Take off the "Busy Badge"!

Most of us go through life being overwhelmed and telling people how ‘busy we are’. Wearing it like a badge of honour. Take it off, slow down and learn to rest, be still and breathe. Some people can continue running at an exhausting pace, but it can and does catch up with you. So do the work you love, but learn to schedule time out to rest as well. You are your greatest resource so be kind to yourself.

This is an image of Rachael Hempling

Rachael Hempling

Barrister-at-Law | Nationally Accredited Mediator | Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner

Rachael Hempling is a barrister and mediator from French Quarter Chamber on the Gold Coast. She is a proud member of the “Happy Lawyer Happy Life Club” and is soon to release her first digital course, ‘The Online Family Separation Course’.


Shall we dance? By Zinta Harris

This is an image of people dance

Shall we dance?

I have recently started Latin dancing classes with my hubby Craig. 

We have been talking about doing this for about 15 years, and finally after a friend challenged my thinking, we signed up and started in the new year!

We love it!

As parents of two kids, each running our own businesses, we don’t get a lot of time for – just us. So, this is something we have really enjoyed (even if we don’t swap partners as the rest of our class do – they know us now and understand!) 

We have just started our second term and things are getting a little more complex! We have learned the basics in salsa, merengue, zouk lambada, bachata and samba – now we are getting stuck into learning how to add in turns, waves and the occasional body roll! 

For someone like me – a self-confessed control freak and a dancer used to choreography – I am having issues with being a follower and letting Craig take the lead!

In the beginning I couldn’t help myself, I would take over and tell Craig what to do! But as time has gone on (and Craig has been taught how to lead) I am actually letting go and going with his flow.  I can even now get to the point where I can close my eyes and relax, knowing that I don’t have to think – all I need to do is go with his lead. Actually, pretty life-changing for me! That said, poor Craig does have steam coming out his ears most of the time having to think about what comes next!

So how has this transformation occurred I hear you ask? Well, I will happily admit that in the most part it took quite a bit of “unlearning” and letting go from little ol’ me!

Our instructors talk about connection and frame (yes, yes, just like in the movie Dirty Dancing!). But I can tell you – it is everything! 

We must both keep our frame (our arm position and body angle) strong and aligned with each other. This is because it is key to how the leader communicates the next move to the follower. If Craig steps forward, the resistance in my arms means that I can only step back. 

The frame is key to connection, but connection is more than frame. Connection is literally the physical communication between the leader and the follower to signal what is coming next. If Craig takes a step sideways and guides me with his arm around my back, then we change direction from a front-to-back movement to a side-to-side movement. If Craig lets one arm of our frame go and raises the other, it means he is about to spin me around. 

The connection is possible in both “closed frame” or “open frame” dancing – whether we are closer together or further apart. The key for me as a follower (in my total 16 weeks of experience – ha!) is to keep watching the angle of Craig’s chest. Thankfully even at the age of 50, his is a pretty nice chest to be looking at….but I digress! The angle of his chest is telling me how he intends to travel next. If he plans to move sideways it will turn as he gets ready to change direction. 

So why, oh why am I rabbiting on about frame and connection and steamy Latin dancing on the Happy Lawyer Happy Life blog? 

Well – apart from dancing being part of my own way of injecting a bit of “happy” into my law life – it struck me recently, when being asked by Clarissa Rayward to speak about Creativity in the Law, that we as lawyers might benefit from a bit of “unlearning” so that we too might better follow our client’s lead. 

This year I have learnt a few new skills. 

I have become trained as a collaborative lawyer (thanks to the training provided by none other than the happy lawyer herself) and I am now a nationally accredited mediator (having completed the intensive (and quite intense) course and assessment with the College of Law)!

Before undertaking these courses, I have, in my 20 plus years of practice, taken many a client through mediation and I have practiced in what I considered to be a “collaborative” way (i.e. I always try first – and over and over again – to reach a practical, commercial resolution as soon as is humanly possible so that legal costs are not wasted fighting over things needlessly).

Before undertaking these courses, I thought they would be “easy” to complete. They were anything but! Why? Because my thinking was challenged. I was forced to unlearn all that “lawyering” had taught me – how to analyse “facts” through the relevant legal “filters” and to then suggest the best “solution” to the clients. Now there is, of course, nothing wrong with that approach. But what this approach seems to miss is that these “facts” are actually lived out in a real way by actual people – most of whom are adults capable of making their own decisions about their life and how to live it. To these people, while there might be a legally “correct” position at law – a more creative, flexible, practical solution might actually work better for them. 

My area of specialisation is in complex estate administration and contested estates. In this context I have seen items of “sentimental” value far more hotly contested than items with pure “monetary” value. Why? Because these items are the things that are important to the client. 

After completing these courses, I am more convinced now than ever, that the key to resolving disputes quickly (with the least cost to the client) is to let go of our temptation to jump in with the legal solution and to instead ask clients what they want. To do that will mean (particularly for those of us who have been around the traps for a while) that we will need to “unlearn” our problem-solving skills and to learn new skills so that we can empower our clients to author their own settlements. We will need to learn the skills of active listening, of re-framing negative statements into statements with a positive future focus, of finding commonality between feuding clients, and of keeping communications calm and respectful. Some might say these are “soft skills”, but if you have witnessed how they can transform the mood in a room and how they can cut through to the real life issues driving the conflict – you will know their power.

As lawyers in this “dance” with our clients – we must learn to follow the client’s lead, but we must also remain strong in our frame so that we are sure to partner well in the best interests of our client. 

So, as we look for “new and creative” ways to lawyer and stay relevant and useful to our clients – let’s not just focus on the ways in which technology can improve the way we deliver our service, let’s also look for ways in which we can adapt and learn new skills so that we can allow our clients to take control of their own settlements. It might just be life-changing!

Zinta Harris

An image of Zinta Harris

Zinta Harris

Specialist Succession & Business Lawyer  

Zinta Harris is a specialist wills and estates and business succession lawyer and the owner of Resolve Estate Law. Over the past 24 years, Zinta has worked with grieving families to help them manage the fallout after the loss of a loved one. Her specialist focus is now exclusively in resolving wills and estates disputes and complex estate administrations. As a Nationally Accredited Mediator and trained collaborative lawyer, Zinta always seeks to guide matters to settlement as quickly and as peacefully as possible. 

Zinta’s goal is to change the face of how contested estates are dealt with. She is developing a training program on a collaborative practice framework (already successfully applied in the divorce context) for disputed estates matters – so that families are empowered to manage their inheritance without inheriting heartache.

In response to seeing the impacts of grief on her clients last year Zinta began to write her personal blog “Catching the Curveball” where she talks about how we respond when curveballs come our way. 


In Case You Missed It: Creativity in the Law Panel Discussion presented by Clarissa Rayward

This is an image of creative lawyers shoes

In Case You Missed It: Creativity in the Law Panel Discussion Presented by Clarissa Rayward!

Kiarah Grace Kelly; When a Barrister, a CEO, a Judge, a Dual Accredited Specialist and a Founder of a Non-for-Profit sit down to chat you can be sure that plenty of seriously inspiring words will be shared. However, when those same people gather to discuss creativity (and in the Law of all places!) and the discussion is being facilitated by The Happy Family Lawyer – Clarissa Rayward, you can also be sure that we never really did know what to expect. Of course this was most obvious when a panellist pulled out a sandy blonde mullet wig and demanded to be called ‘Jayse.’ All of this and more really did occur when we gathered to raise funds for Dancing CEOs and the Women’s Legal Service at the offices of Grant Thornton on Wednesday 9 May 2018. 

On the panel we had Matthew Hickey – Barrister, singer extraordinaire and member of the hugely successful group the 10 Tenors, stories of which he can no doubt dine out on for ever more. To his right sat the 2018 Agnes McWhinney award winner – Ann-Maree David. The panel also included His Honour Justice Colin Forrest of the Family Court, Zinta Harris – founder of Harris Law and Dual Accredited Specialist as well as Milan Gandhi – founder of The Legal Forecast and Graduate at McCullough Robertson. 

What Does Creativity Mean to You?

The evening started with each of the panellists reflecting on what creativity really meant to them. Although a simple enough question, the responses which followed were incredibly insightful, practical and allowed us a chance to get to know each of the panellists. Matthew believes that creativity occurs when we have to “work out what isn’t, and then work out how it can be”. This concept of problem solving and out-of-the-box thinking is extremely commonplace in the work that lawyers do and yet we so very rarely put these skills in the same box as our creative ones. Zinta said that creativity evokes a sense of flow, slowness and reflection. The concept of flow is by no means a new one, now a widely accepted term in positive psychology; flow is the full immersion in a feeling of energised focus (thanks, Wikipedia)! Justice Forrest described creativity as the flexibility we must have with the pathways we take in life. For me, His Honour’s advice applies to the big and small journeys we have to complete. Whether it be your wider career path, a plan for what you want out of your life or even how you plan to approach a single matter, we must prepare for surprises and be creative in our efforts to overcome them. Milan insists that creativity can, and does, occur in our everyday lives and Ann-Maree reminds us that it’s not something that happens according to plan. Ann-Maree’s reflections reminded me that creativity and flow can occur in even the most unexpected ways, which means we must also look for creativity in unexpected places.

My journey toward creativity has been fraught (well, not really). However, I do feel like I’ve always lived with the impression that creativity is for those who paint, recite poetry or have complicated coffee orders. While these are clearly very worthy creative outlets, they are not an exhaustive list. I discovered creativity when I decided to make an effort to live as ‘authentically Kiarah’ as I could. This inspired a love for unique fashion and using greater expression with how I dress, it also meant that I would decorate the spaces where I spent the most time with colour, fun and special things which felt more me. You probably won’t find anything of mine which isn’t obscenely colourful and that’s exactly the way I love it. 

Making Mistakes!

I can’t tell a story of creativity without producing a cautionary note – beware the spare room in my house. To put it simply it is a graveyard of all my abandoned hobbies and projects, if anyone is in the market for half completed paintings or unknitted scarves, I’m your girl. This brings me to a personal highlight of the panel event. Clarissa asked the panel to reflect on what it means to make a mistake and the following quote was splashed across the projector screens; “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainty.” When asked to respond Milan explained that he has seen firsthand the unique brand of self-doubt experienced by lawyers. He said that even when we are called on to attack a completely blank canvas, where there is seemingly no right or wrong answer, our rigidity as lawyers will surface and may cause us to be too afraid to make a mistake or to even try. Milan told us stories of the early days of The Legal Forecast, when doubt had come across his team and the fear of making a mistake had put a hold on the project which they were working on. Milan encouraged us to remember to give our all to everything that we do. If we do, a task which might make us feel like we could have done better, which we may have only mustered 60% of our capability for – that 60% will still blow people away, and that we will always be left with a sense of pride. It was after this part of the night where I realised the very important place failure has in the discussion of creativity. There is no right way to be creative, to incorporate it into legal practice or to embrace it across our own lives. Rather, if we try and try again we can find new passions, find flow in our existing passions and be better people and lawyers because of it. 

Is creativity the answer to the future of law? Or perhaps more importantly, is creativity your answer to a future in law that you love?

Kiarah Grace Kelly 

Some wonderful moments from the night!

Kiarah Grace Kelly

Kiarah Kelly

Blogger and Happy Law Student 

Hi! I am Kiarah Kelly a conscientious and hard-working soon to be lawyer living on the Gold Coast with an eye on social justice and effecting much needed change in the community, even if that means starting small. I am studying a dual Bachelors degrees in Law and Government and International Relations as Griffith University on the Gold Coast. I have been testing my legal toes in the water at boutique Gold Coast Law firms and I am currently merrily serving as a Legal Secretary to Merv Morris and Blayne Ledger of Barron and Allen Lawyers- GC in the Property, Commercial and Family Law sectors. 

I have also been championing a personal cause of Youth Road Safety Issues over the last 12 months, unrelentingly working alongside the minister for Road Safety Mr Mark Bailey, on numerous projects within his office.

What’s on my horizon? My passion for family violence prevention, family law issues and women’s legal issues will be a guiding light for my future career.  I aim to graduate with dual degrees in November of 2018 and until then, I will travel the world, focusing heavily on volunteer pursuits here at home and continue making waves in the discussion of Youth Road Safety issues in this country.

I would love to connect with you on Linkedin and Instagram!