When Ashlee Wachtel started her Masters in Family Law, she knew she would need to study while working full time. This meant she would need to be committed, organised and diligent. Without a doubt, her approach paid off; she was recently recognised as the Family Law’s Best Graduating Student, winning the Sandra Paul Memorial Best Graduating Masters Student Prize. Insights spoke to Ashlee about her studies, and how she struck a balance with her full-time job as a specialist family lawyer, and what advice she might have for lawyers looking into further study to progress their career.
Navigating challenging times in a positive way
“It’s a great privilege to receive this award,” Ashlee, who works as a family lawyer in Adelaide firm, Resolve Divorce. “We are a specialist family law firm with a mission to help our clients achieve better divorce outcomes. I absolutely love what I do. I love that I am able to help my clients navigate often one of the most challenging times in their life, but navigate it in a positive way.”
Like many family lawyers, Ashlee describes her most significant challenge being the fact that clients come to her during a highly emotional and stressful time in their lives.
“In my role as a family lawyer, I do everything to ensure that my clients have the right support surrounding them through their divorce journey,” said Ashlee. “A separation involves so much more than just the law. One of my challenges is ensuring that my clients have that support network - which could include an accountant, financial planner, psychologist or family therapist - also assisting them to ensure that all of their needs are being met.”
She completed her LLM alongside her demanding full-time job; committing, early on, to making the most of her studies made all the difference, ensuring her LLM informed her daily practice.
“I wanted to complete my Masters to help take my practice of family law to the next level,” said Ashlee. “To do that, I had to remain 100 percent committed and put in the hard work to ensure that I was able to get the most out of it. Maintaining that work ethic through my studies is probably what helped me achieve the most I could get out of my Masters.”
Witnessing the transition of clients through their divorce journey
“The most rewarding aspect of what I do is definitely seeing the transition that my clients make through their divorce journey,” said Ashlee. “At the start of their journey, it is really important to understand what is important to my clients. I do this by working with my clients to understand their goals, hopes, and worries. We then put in place a plan and a process to help my clients achieve an outcome which aligns with their goals. At the end of the journey, seeing the growth that has so often occurred in my clients is amazing and something that I love to be a part of.”
For lawyers wondering whether an LLM will help advance their career, Ashlee is encouraging.
“Completing my Masters through The College of Law was a fantastic experience and one that I would certainly recommend,” said Ashlee. “For any lawyers looking at taking this next step to return to study, I would definitely recommend doing it. To make the most out of it, I would recommend fully immersing yourself in your studies. Make sure that you have time set aside each week to study; it can be easy for work to take over, but by blocking out set time each week, you’ll ensure you’re able to remain committed and make the most of the opportunity that you are giving yourself.”
Ashlee knows that her LLM has helped take her practice of family law to the next level.
“I found the course to be highly practical, which allowed me to refine my knowledge and skills in family law,” said Ashlee. “Studying in my LLM helped build confidence and strengthen my advocacy skills while also refining my drafting skills. Having a Masters has certainly helped progress my career.”