Sophie Meehan has long been committed to the field of family law, and in particular, family dispute resolution. As a Senior Case Manager for Victoria Legal Aid’s Family Dispute Resolution Service, Sophie sees first-hand the turmoil a change in circumstances can bring to the lives of family members. Her work in Victoria Legal Aid is unusually vital, as her clients have less means than most Australians to financially and legally achieve an amicable outcome in a family dispute. Insights spoke to Sophie about what attracted her to family dispute resolution, what she enjoys most about her work, and how the College of Law’s Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Resolution assisted her in practice.
“It is a privilege to have clients open up about what is usually the most important thing in their lives – their family; their children – and trust you with their stories,” said Sophie. “When I’ve explained Family Dispute Resolution to people outside the family law sector, they are often surprised that clients are willing to share deeply personal matters with someone who is effectively a perfect stranger. Although the work can be challenging, being granted this insight into clients’ lives and an opportunity to assist them to navigate really difficult circumstances is an honour.”
Sophie undertook the Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Resolution to seek accreditation and broaden her knowledge of the area. Ensuring her experience was complemented with further study in the field was a priority, particularly as it would help her provide better advice to her clients and advance professionally.
“Obtaining the qualification has enabled me to register as an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner which is really useful in my work at Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service,” said Sophie. She was also fortunate as her work encouraged her to undertake the course, and supported her throughout the process.
“The skills and principles taught as part of the course really appealed to me as a way to broaden and sharpen my own skillset and gain insight into alternative dispute resolution (particularly in the family law context).”
Becoming an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner allowed Sophie to ensure her skills and experience were effectively recognised in a professional qualification.
“My Graduate Diploma will absolutely contribute to my work. This aspect – the qualification – definitely contributes to my current work as a senior case manager at the Victoria Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service. In addition to sharpening my knowledge, the qualification enables me to assist with oversight of files,” said Sophie. “However, just as important as the qualification are the skills that I’ve learned through the course which I apply daily in many aspects of my professional and personal lives.”
Despite her obvious aptitude for Family Dispute Resolution, Sophie remains modest, ascribing her success to intellectual interest in the field.
“It was a very pleasant surprise to receive this award, and I feel quite humbled. I find it’s always easier to do well at something that really sparks your interest, and this was certainly the case with the Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution,” said Sophie.