This year’s South Australian Gray Young Lawyer of the Year, Claire Victory, has some interesting plans for the future.
Perhaps most interesting of all, is that they don’t include being a lawyer.
That’s quite a revelation in light of such lofty recognition from The Law Society of South Australia, and given that the Flinders University law graduate has built a successful career over the past seven years at Duddy Shopov Solicitors.
Ms Victory, who was attracted to Flinders Law School because she believed it offered the best vocational and mooting skills training in South Australia, acknowledges her plans might shock some people, but believes they will come as no surprise to those who know her best.
“I suppose it might seem quite unusual given the award and that I am doing reasonably well in practice and enjoying my work as a solicitor, but I don’t see myself practicing law in the long term,” she said.
“I do enjoy being a lawyer and I think that, in spite of some of the negative perceptions out there, many lawyers are making really positive contributions to the community; it’s just not the area where I think that I will always be able to make the biggest difference.”
A hint at where her heart truly lies is in the description of the Gray Young Lawyer of the Year award itself, which recognises “outstanding contributions to the legal profession and community”.
The key word is community, which is where Ms Victory wants to have the greatest impact.
Unfortunately for the law profession, she believes she can have this not as a lawyer but as a professional mediator.
Professional mediators are neutral people who help disputing parties to discuss issues and negotiate a solution. Unlike judges they do not impose solutions, and the people they work with are under no obligation to reach an agreement.
Instead, they facilitate discussion, identify key issues and interests, consider the available options, help with negotiations and eventually facilitate a mutually satisfactory agreement.
“The skills and experience gained at Flinders and as a practicing lawyer will be very useful to me in mediation,” Ms Victory said. “I believe I can use them to make a more positive contribution as a mediator, which is less adversarial and more facilitative than the role of an advocate/lawyer.”
She said she is especially interested in helping to mediate domestic disputes – particularly when children are involved.
It’s a career change that would better reflect her personal values and allow her to extend her existing track record of service to the community through volunteering.
Ms Victory has a long history of volunteering for the St Vincent de Paul Society and is currently a Vice-President on the Society’s National Council.
She said her colleagues at Duddy Shopov shouldn’t panic just yet about her career plans, because in the medium term she wants to continue building her experience and skills as a lawyer, while also helping the firm build its business and client base.
“I’ve had fantastic support at Duddy Shopov and want to repay that by continuing to work there for at least the next couple of years,” she said. “During that time I hope I can help to develop the firm while developing my own skills.”
She remains resolute, however, about her plans for the future, and has clearly given the implications and potential consequences much thought.
“Some people might consider leaving a successful career in law for mediation to be a step backwards, and of course there are big differences, particularly when it comes to professional prestige and salary,” Ms Victory said.
“But anyone who knows me well will know that those things aren’t really important to me.
“And no matter what happens, I believe it’s better to be at the bottom of a career ladder that I want to be on than to be halfway up one I don’t.”