Solicitor Mark Leishman knows family law is unusually challenging. That’s why he committed to a four-year plan to prepare himself to practise in family. A key aspect of the plan was undertaking a Masters in Family Law, while still working full time as a partner in another field. Insights spoke to Mark about how it felt to be recognised, what he enjoys most about what he does, and what advice he might have for other lawyers looking to achieve excellence in their career and studies.
An unexpected honour
“I’m very proud to have been awarded the Mills Oakley – Sandra Paul Memorial Best Graduating Student – Family Law prize,” said Mark. “Family law is a particularly challenging area of legal practice and knowing the calibre of some the other graduates, it’s a privilege and an honour to be recognised. It’s certainly not something I was expecting!”
Commitment key to success
Critical to Mark’s success in his studies was commitment.
“For many years I had the desire to practise family law, but hadn’t pursued it,” said Mark. “When I decided it was time to enter the field, I committed to a four-year plan, which included undertaking the Masters, prior to starting practice in that field.
“Then it was all about commitment to the course, commitment to making the time to study whilst working full time as a Partner in another field and importantly, commitment to doing more than what was needed to just pass the course. I really wanted to learn everything I could so as to provide clients with sound advice.”
Helping people with dignity and respect
Family law is both emotionally challenging and technically complex. For Mark, helping people through their potentially toughest time in life is immensely rewarding.
“A family law issue is likely to be one of the worst experiences a family will have to endure,” said Mark. “How the family works through that process can have ramifications well into the future and affect people beyond just the immediate parties. Being able to help people through that process in a dignified and respectful way and see them move on with their lives, is extremely rewarding.
“Family law is also very complex, touching on many other areas such as trusts, property, taxation and crime. It also contains wide areas of discretion, which makes it quite challenging, and enjoyable, to work in.”
Intervening in the most extreme cases when people’s lives may be at risk is another rewarding part of family law.
“Being able to assist them to leave and to help protect them from future harm is not something a lawyer would generally get to experience,” said Mark.
College of Law Masters provided balance
Mark first studied family law at the Australian National University as a subject of his LLB in the 1990s. His plans to enter family law were diverted when his career took him in an entirely different direction.
“When I made the plan to enter family law, I wanted to ensure I was in the best position I could be in to provide advice to clients. Rather than updating myself “on-the-job”, I undertook the Masters in advance of commencing practice in that field.
“I chose the College of Law as its earning environment suited me well. The College of Law provided a good balance of committed time for tutorials, flexible time for study (along with good guidance) and programmed events (papers, workshops, etc.) that I could lock into my schedule well in advance.”
Work with purpose
To succeed as a lawyer, Mark believes lawyers need to be clear about their motivations.
“You need to have a clear purpose for working in the practice area you choose,” said Mark. “It can’t just be a job or a source of income. If you are focused on your purpose, then you will naturally want to be able to provide the best advice to your clients. If you do that, people will want to work with you and you will have a long and successful career.”
You might also like to read