Renee Toy didn’t start out in dispute resolution. In fact, her career took her through family law and a stint with the federal parliamentary service before leading her to mediation, family dispute resolution, and conciliation. Insights spoke to Renee about what it’s like to work in dispute resolution, and how lawyers might move into the area.
An energising and fulfilling role
Renee was first lured to mediation and family dispute resolution during her time as a family lawyer.
“I became really energised when I assisted clients through challenging negotiations, and I wanted to learn more about conflict resolution and mediation,” said Renee.
However, it was some years later, while working with the federal parliamentary service, that she considered venturing back into the field.
“I started my Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Resolution at the College of Law, and as soon as I started I knew that was where I wanted my career to go,” she said.
Renee now runs her own business as a mediator and family dispute resolution practitioner, Listen Talk Resolve. She is also on the mediator panel for Canberra’s Conflict Resolution Service, and works part-time as a conciliator and review officer with a statutory organisation.
“In my conciliation and review role, I assist people to work through complaints in areas such as health services, community services, and discrimination matters,” explained Renee.
“This can include facilitating a conciliation between parties to help resolve their dispute outside of the court process.”
Listen Talk Resolve offers family dispute resolution and mediation services for individuals, families and organisations.
“This involves meeting with parties who are interested in resolving a dispute or conflict outside of Court and assessing whether their matter is suitable for mediation,” Renee said. “If it is suitable, I facilitate a process to help the parties work through and hopefully resolve the outstanding issues between them. Mediations can be face-to-face, by phone or video link, or by shuttle conference.”
Helping people at their most vulnerable
For Renee, it is an immensely rewarding role.
“It’s a real privilege to help people work through a vulnerable and challenging period in their life, such as a family separation, or to work through an experience that has resulted in conflict or a complaint,” said Renee. “It’s satisfying to see positive change result from conciliation or mediation, and to empower people to create this change themselves.”
Dispute resolution training need not be confined to dispute resolution practitioners; lawyers have much to gain.
“All lawyers should consider mediation or dispute resolution training, regardless of whether they want to practice as a mediator,” urged Renee. “The skills I have developed in mediation training and practice have been invaluable. Much of what I do focuses on how to help clients think about their interests and needs, rather than fixing on legal positions.”
Indeed, the former family lawyer finds much of her work focuses on supporting clients through conflict.
“This would definitely have benefited my practice as a family lawyer,” observed Renee.
When it comes to your career, think outside the box
As a law graduate, Renee’s career has traversed the full gamut of legal experience. It is an approach she encourages in lawyers looking to move into dispute resolution.
“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when considering job opportunities,” said Renee.
“There are many jobs that aren’t traditional lawyer roles that can utilise your skillset, such as policy work, dispute resolution and advocacy roles.” Renee said. “Think about how you might upskill yourself to set yourself apart, by completing short courses in mediation or another area you’re interested in specialising in. Seek out mentors who can support and encourage you, and help point you in the right direction.”