From Elle Woods to Collaborative Family Lawyer: Meet Kiarah Grace Kelly
In a way, Kiarah Grace Kelly owes her career to Elle Woods. Like many lawyers, she was inspired by the iconic pop-law film, Legally Blonde, at a formative age. One LLB, PLT and LLM in Applied Law (Family Law) later, Kiarah is now a Collaborative Family Lawyer at the Brisbane Family Law Centre. Insights spoke to Kiarah about her path to the law, what it means to be a collaborative family lawyer, and how her LLM helped consolidate her family law knowledge and connections.
Helping people live their best lives after separation
At eleven years old, Kiarah Grace Kelly decided she might like to be a lawyer.
“I wish that I could tell you that there was a really noble reason behind my decision, but I was watching that iconic cross-examination scene in that iconic movie featuring the very blonde, very pink lawyer, Elle Woods, and I just fell in love,” admitted Kiarah. “Really though, what the law meant to me was that I could change my story, improve my situation, and have a fine-tuned craft - all while helping people in need.”
This led Kiarah to become a Collaborative Family Lawyer at the Brisbane Family Law Centre.
“I help people live their best lives following separation and divorce. Working in family law involves helping people through one of the most emotional and difficult times of their lives,” observed Kiarah. “You’re helping them to make really big decisions at a time when it's really hard to do so. You’re helping them to make healthy and happy choices so that they can have a healthy and happy future ahead of them.”
It’s a major responsibility and one that goes well beyond simply providing legal advice.
“The most rewarding thing about family law is that our real-time advice has really big consequences,” explained Kiarah. “People in a family law matter are making decisions and dealing with one another at a time where relationships within families and with children can be impacted into the long term. In family law, the impact of your work is felt all the time, and the rewards are really tangible. I think every family lawyer is chasing that feeling when they have a client come into their office completely distressed, but then leave their office with their shoulders relaxed and their chin held high. You know they feel like they have a plan.”
Treat your LLM as part of your work
As with any endeavour, undertaking postgraduate study requires serious and considered commitment.
“I consider my LLM study as part of my work, but it certainly does push out the work hours required,” Kiarah admitted. “I have dedicated time that I give to my study, which I work into my week, just like a regular appointment or a regular meeting.”
“I find that making study a non-negotiable part of my day really helps. It’s made studying my LLM, working, and being with my loved ones really manageable.”
Due to the practical nature of her College of Law LLM, she saw the fruits of her further study fairly swiftly.
“I am getting such wonderful feedback about how my LLM has improved my skills from my employer,” said Kiarah. “It is so wonderful to be engaged and really love what you're learning, and higher education provides exactly that. It's so thrilling to feel like you have an edge, and you know the why behind what you do.”
Finding friends for life in family law
Kiarah’s postgraduate study also delivered fresh - and lasting - connections in family law.
“Just before I started my LLM, I met the amazing Jessica Grumelart,” said Kiarah. “What started as a chance encounter has meant I’ve genuinely found a new friend for life. In Jessica, I have someone who understands the unique challenges of trying to be a fully functioning human and a family lawyer, at the same time!”
“There aren't too many weekends now that Jessica and I aren't catching up for markets, hanging out with her two incredible puppies, or on occasion, plant shopping. Jess and I have bonded over our love for Gorman clothing, trashy TV and having a good belly laugh over a good glass of wine. As fellow LLM students, we’ve also been able to keep each other accountable and motivated. We’re here to remind each other about the light at the end of the tunnel and all of the amazing, crazy, wonderful things that we want to get done in our careers.”
For lawyers considering further study to progress their careers, Kiarah encourages commitment.
“You should never begrudge studying when you're doing it at a higher level,” said Kiarah. “Higher education is a choice that you make in order to improve yourself and your career. It’s just like any other self-work that you do - it should be enjoyable and motivating.”
“I do encourage people to think of it as part of their work though, as it really is. Study has such wonderful benefits for your career and can be incorporated into all the other crazy things we lawyers do each day!”