Being able to assist, volunteer, and apply her legal knowledge to everyday situations are some of many reasons why Phoebe Blank loves working as a lawyer.
Graduating from Deakin in 2012 with a double degree in law and commerce, Phoebe is also the president of the Law Institute of Victoria’s (LIV) Young Lawyers where she represents more than 9000 law students and early career lawyers.
‘My role is to foster a young lawyer's community which develops young lawyers and law students’ careers, provides networking opportunities and ensures young lawyers and students feel supported in their career,’ she explains.
Phoebe is the second Deakin Law School (DLS) alumni to hold the role of president and says she’s grateful for the opportunity to support the LIV.
‘I was lucky enough to receive great mentoring early in my career and appreciate how valuable it can be,’ she says. ‘I understand the challenges faced by young lawyers and I absolutely love helping them grow in their career. To me, this role is about giving back to the LIV and the profession which has always supported me to become the lawyer I am today.’
Currently a fourth year solicitor at McKean Park Lawyers, Phoebe works alongside a leading workplace relations specialist on a broad range of employment law matters from discrimination, industrial relations to workplace health and safety.
‘We represent various stakeholders in both the public and private sector. I am fortunate to have always had great mentors who have assisted me to become a well-rounded lawyer, capable of understanding practical and commercial solutions for clients,’ she says.
Although Phoebe first enrolled in a Deakin law degree, she soon added commerce to the mix after advice from her colleagues (she was working as a paralegal in a law firm) that a combined law/commerce degree would give her a better grasp of corporate law.
‘I chose Deakin because I wanted to study at a university that gave me access to practical learning with a commercial focus. Deakin offered a broad range of subjects to choose from and has a great reputation in the legal industry,’ she says.
After graduating and commencing her traineeship, Phoebe found herself increasingly drawn to the field employment law and is now studying a masters degree in law.
‘A masters is an excellent way to stay connected with academics and to be at the forefront of changing law. Once you have identified an area of law that you enjoy, it provides you with the opportunity to study the area at a more advanced level.’
Like many others in the legal profession, Phoebe is noticing a tide of change in the practice of law including the shift towards a paperless, online workplace.
‘Law firms are also keeping abreast of social media and moving away from time based costing and towards fixed fees which is great for clients. I think the profession is also increasingly conscious of lawyer's mental and physical health with many firms now offering a range of health incentives and support,’ she says.
While she acknowledges that the hours can sometimes be both long and difficult, learning to manage clients – along with their expectations – is a skill that develops with experience. And this is where the support of the YLS is important.
‘I think it really helps to have other young lawyers to talk to about issues and concerns because I've found that any challenge I have faced, my contemporaries have faced similar issues,’ she says.
Phoebe adds that the rewards come from being involved in a profession that offers a variety of specialisations and the knowledge that she can play a role in finding solutions to range of complex problems.
‘No two days are the same and there are always new challenges to solve. I love meeting new people and am a firm believer that help will always be given to those who ask for it. Whether I'm meeting new clients or colleagues, I love finding out what their story is and assisting them in anyway that I can or learning from them,’ she says.
And her advice for those considering a career in the legal profession?
‘Immerse yourself in the industry. You will enjoy studying and learning about the law if you can understand how it fits into the world around you,’ she says. ‘A career in the law can offer so many different pathways and you never stop learning. Go to seminars, join committees, network at events and get your name out there. If you're not sure where to start, ask someone! Contact Deakin, the LIV, or even me to chat about what the industry has to offer.