Volume 1, Issue 4 (Originally Published 19 March 2012)
In the 20 years since she began her law degree, Paula O’Brien has been an editor of MULR (at the same time as Andrew Mitchell and Catherine Button), worked for one of Australia’s largest firms (Minter Ellison) progressed to PILCH (Public Interest Law Clearing House), became a senior lecturer at MLS, and completed a Masters degree at Cambridge.
Law as a Lifelong Career and the Ability to Remain Driven
Paula is adamant that law is a lifelong career. What does this mean? That the first job you get out of law school will almost certainly not be your last, and the area of law you start in is probably not the only one you’re going to engage in professionally.
But how does one get a sense of direction with so many options out there? Paula uses a number of techniques that encourage success.
Most importantly, “do what you’re passionate about.”
How does one identify their passions? The most significant tool is self-reflection. “Set time aside to think about yourself. These are deep personal questions, they are not going to be answered in one go. Write down your thoughts so you can reflect back on them. Talk to people you know and who know you, and even people who don’t know you about career options.” There’s no magic answer, and it won’t happen quickly. You need to be active in identifying your passions and following them.
Secondly, set goals and make resolutions. Paula uses short term and long term goals to identify what she wants to achieve. “But don’t just write them down and forget about them. Go back to them every few months.” Check to see if you’re sticking to the goals, or if they need to be adjusted.
One of the things Paula highlighted that can be challenging about working with lawyers is that “lawyers often think they bring the most to the table, which can block out other valuable perspectives”. In her time at PILCH, Paula saw this in action.
Paula is now working on two research projects. The first is her PhD, looking at the legal regulation of alcohol in Australia and its link as a risk factor for health. Her second project highlights her respect for interdisciplinary learning. This research is being done in conjunction with a number of faculties, including Political Science, Development, and Health, which focuses on issues associated with temporary migrant workers.
Did you know?
Paula was taught by some of the instructors that you may have had... Namely, Maureen Teehan and Lisa Sarmas.
Other worldly advice
Stress handling techniques: “Physical activity. I ride my bike to work. I also play netball and do pilates.”
Best advice ever received: “The need to have confidence in yourself. Believe that you can fulfill your goals, and avoid self-doubt. If you notice that you’re slipping into the mentality of self-doubt, actively engage in self- affirming conduct.”