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16 July 2021

How FLPA Scholarship Winner Tegan Doherty brought her creativity to family law

Published on 16 July 2021

Tegan Doherty didn’t always know she would become a lawyer. Her high school years were shaped by a passion for acting and music, as well as a commitment to working to better her community. Insights spoke to Tegan about what influenced her to consider a career in law, and how her College of Law Queensland’s FLPA (Family Law Practitioners Association) scholarship helped steer her towards family law, and her current work with the Federal Circuit Court and the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Embracing creativity to become a better lawyer

“During high school, I enjoyed acting, performing in musicals, and playing multiple instruments. At the same time, I was passionate about involving myself in the community. In my senior years, I was fortunate to participate in my high school’s ‘Lest We Forget Commemorative Project.’”

The project saw Tegan travel abroad for three weeks, retracing the footsteps of Anzacs, as well as conducting research of local soldiers and their relatives within the community.

Throughout high school, Tegan found a genuine love of learning, and drive to achieve high academic results.

“It was a matter of finding a career which would be academically challenging, fast paced, community-focussed, in an area I was passionate about and one which allowed for an element of creativity,” said Tegan.

“The tipping point for me deciding to study law was recognising that a career as a legal professional doesn’t have to be devoid of creativity. In fact, some of the best legal practitioners I have had the privilege of meeting have embraced their creativity, in a way which makes them a better lawyer.”

Joining a supportive, hard-working and dedicated community

As part of her Practical Legal Training with The College of Law, Tegan was awarded the COLQ FLPA Scholarship.

“Receiving the COLQ FLPA scholarship solidified my decision to pursue a career in family law,” said Tegan. “It introduced me to an inspiring community of family law practitioners who are supportive, hard-working, and dedicated to what they do.”

“I am especially thankful for the mentoring aspect of this scholarship, as it has put me in touch with like-minded professionals who I am able to learn from and reach out to for guidance.”

She has found PLT with The College of Law to be challenging and interesting.

“I was able to have the majority of my work experience approved retrospectively, and am in the process of organising to complete my remaining days with the assistance of FLPA and this scholarship.”

Currently, she works within the Federal Circuit Court, externally for the Australian Institute of Family Studies (“AIFS”).

“My role centres around assisting AIFS in their studies on the PPP Property Pilot and Enforcement of Parenting Orders”. The most challenging aspect has been learning to understand the complexities of court files and court processes. In saying this, it has been one of the most enjoyable challenges I have faced to date,” said Tegan. “It has been particularly interesting to further my knowledge on how matters progress from initial consults to final orders.”

Helping people through extremely difficult life changes

It’s an area of law that continues to challenge and interest her.

“Family law arguably has the greatest impact on people’s lives, over that of any other area of law,” said Tegan. “It can be extremely emotionally charged, particularly in matters surrounding parenting arrangements, domestic violence or child safety concerns. Looking at my career so far, the most rewarding aspect has been working to assist people who are often going through an extremely difficult time in their life. It has been especially rewarding to work in community legal centres assisting self-represented litigants or those who are unable to afford general legal advice.”

In addition, her prior research with Zoe Rathus and work for AIFS has seen Tegan involved in evaluating Australia’s system of family law at a legislative level, and exploring ways to further improve it.

For PLT students looking to find direction and make the most of their PLT experience, Tegan emphasises the value of a good support network.

It is important to build a support network you can reach out to in times of heightened stress or increased workloads,” said Tegan. “My advice would be to build connections in your community by volunteering or attending networking events. FLPA runs some great networking events and seminars, which are a good place to start. If you can, seek out a professional mentor in an area you’re interested in.”

On a practical level, she also recommends exploring the course material within each subject.

“If you come across a particular area of interest, you can delve further and find ways to build your knowledge and experience in that area. whether through volunteering, paid experience, or further research,” advised Tegan.