Collaborative family lawyer Kiarah Grace Kelly knows the value of education.
Throughout her career, she’s returned to the College again and again: whether to upskill, expand her horizons or demonstrate that she’s leadership material.
Kiarah embodies the archetype of a lifelong learner – and she’s kindly shared her story, her perspective, and her career tips for young lawyers.
An unlikely legal career
A career in law isn’t something most kids dream of. But I guess I break the mould – because I knew I wanted to be a lawyer when I was in Year 6.
Someone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I had Elle Woods from Legally Blonde top of mind. ‘Lawyer’ felt like an obvious answer. And the idea stuck.
I went to Miami State High on the Gold Coast (proud State high schooler, here). When I finished, I took advantage of the school’s strong ties with Griffith University – the local university in the area – and enrolled there to study law.
Opportunities are closer than you think
I studied a dual degree of law and government, and international relations – politics, effectively.
I graduated in 2018. After that, it was time to get my PLT.
The College of Law felt like the obvious choice. Staff from the College had made an effort to form relationships with us Griffith students, so I knew of and respected them.
I have a definite tendency to make career decisions based on the people in my immediate circumference. It’s worked out well for me; you don’t always need to look far for opportunities.
Authenticity and expertise
I’ve always been resolute about bringing my genuine self to work. I’m a bright, colourful personality; I’m not about to show up to court in a black and white suit.
After my PLT, I began practising at Brisbane Family Law Centre. I’ve stayed there ever since – in part because my director and team respect my need for authenticity.
But my boss taught me early on that if that’s how I wanted to show up – as my authentic, human self – then I needed to be technically excellent.
And I agree: technical competency gives doubters and naysayers that much less ammunition.
When I realised I had a knowledge gap during my first year of practice, I knew I needed to upskill if I was going to continue.
That’s when I returned to the College – this time to complete my LLM of Applied Family Law.
On the road to ownership
Studying my LLM was a challenge unlike any I’d faced before. I was pushed to sit up straight, focus, and dive deep into my studies every single day. It’s a course I’d recommend to anyone.
And my efforts paid off. I completed my postgrad at the end of 2021 – and found myself in a leadership role at the practice in 2022.
But I’m a self-confessed serial College of Law student, so my time with the College didn’t end there. I recently went back for round three: to complete my LPMC.
The LPMC is, obviously, the course you take if you want to lead or own a legal practice. And although I’m not there yet, I want to be prepared for it.
That’s why I believe this course is advantageous at even an early career level. It signifies to your employer that you’re serious about management.
There really is no harm in doing it as early as you can.
Career tips from a serial student
Want to get ahead in your role as early as possible? Here’s my advice.
- Map out your aspirational skillset. Take stock of the skills you’ll need in your role, in your organisation, to succeed. What kind of person has those skills? How can you acquire them?
- Write a personal wish list. Consider creating a wish list of your dream traits and characteristics based on those skills. After that, it’s just a case of plugging a different task or opportunity into each one.
- Define your goals. You might also make a wish list of what you want to achieve in your first year of practice. Try to think beyond what your supervisor thinks you’re capable of.
- Find mentors. Seek out mentors in the form of barristers and senior solicitors. Ask about the influential books and cases that have helped them upskill – and get your hands on them.
- Keep up to date with your CPD – but don’t stop there. Be sure to earn your CPD points each year. But remember: to grasp a particular topic, you need to dive deep. The College offers plenty of short courses for you to explore.
In a nutshell, I believe it’s crucial to see your legal education as ongoing – always.
Want to deepen your skills and expand your horizons? The College of Law is the place to do it. Check out our many programs for all career stages.