Katherine commenced her legal studies at the University of Sydney before transferring to Adelaide. After completing her degree and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP), Katherine did her Practical Legal Training (PLT) with Johnston Withers in Adelaide. Now in her mid-30s, she has three children and works part time in the Johnston Withers office in Clare, South Australia.
I was never sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. Mostly I wanted to be a writer, and I even studied journalism for a short while. I realised that by studying law, many career avenues would be open to me – I could practise law, be a writer, an academic, a teacher, a diplomat, or a politician! Whatever the career path, I had an idealistic notion of wanting to ‘make a difference’ and to help others less fortunate than myself. I think many lawyers enter the profession wanting to blaze a similar trail.
In general legal practice it is important to be able to take instructions in many different areas of law including criminal law, personal injury, family law, employment law, property, wills and estates, defamation, general commercial and so on. I am very fortunate to have the support of my Adelaide colleagues who largely specialise in particular areas. My days are spent attending clients, providing them with professional advice and following through on their instructions.
General practice law is very humbling. While it can be emotionally draining and stressful at times, it is hard not to develop a healthy perspective on one’s own life after assisting other people during their times of significant strife, upheaval or crisis. It is personally very rewarding when I genuinely feel I have made a difference, even if only fleetingly!
Not being able to discuss my work or debrief with anyone in my local or immediate environment (including my family) due to the high nature of confidentiality involved. The work can also be very demanding and stressful in terms of having to meet deadlines and client expectations. To keep up with those expectations and to provide efficient service, I often take work home with me.
A magistrate visits Clare to hear cases once a month. I represent my clients at court. Occasionally I’ll brief a barrister for a trial, and occasionally the senior criminal lawyer from our city office will provide support when we have a large number of matters in the list for the day, as well as a large workload at the office to get through.
Enjoy the stimulating learning environment and the opportunity to gain an insight into our complex legal system and how it works. Some of the skills learnt whilst studying law will prove to be very handy, even if you never practise as a lawyer – for example, how to critically appraise a document, how to present a logical argument, and how to see things objectively.