Last month, Anne-Marie Rice was named as the 2018 Leneen Ford AC Woman Lawyer of the Year at the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland’s 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner. Her acceptance speech attracted an overwhelming response from lawyers who resonated with her confession of being ‘tired’ from practising law through an inherently masculine lens.
In her acceptance speech, Anne-Marie discussed the fact that legal practice was initially developed in a male dominated space, which led to its one dimensional and aggressive nature. Through emphasising winning the fight and inflaming issues in the process, adversarialism has been understood as the key to successful lawyering. This prism has continued despite women’s immersion in the legal profession for many years now. Rather than influence a cultural change, women have been expected to wear the aggressive armour of legal practice even though it may not be a natural fit. Anne-Marie shared her exhaustion that emanated from embodying a masculine lens that is inconsistent with her inherent being. Although she is a highly successful lawyer, she shared that the one-dimensional nature of law has dimmed her light. This tiredness has seen women leave the legal profession, as wearing armour that is fundamentally uncomfortable is unsustainable.
Anne-Marie called for a change in legal practice towards one that is multidimensional and sustainable. All people in the legal profession have the responsibility to challenge the current practice of law which sees those with responsibilities outside the law depleted of resources and women in particular required to reconfigure their thinking. Anne-Marie stated that she used to think that her role in the legal profession was not of importance given that previous trail blazers already founded opportunities for women within the legal sphere. However, she now recognises the exciting weight of responsibility that women and men in the legal profession at this time have to redefine what it means to practise law. In an age of increased discussions of the wellbeing of those within the legal profession, it is apt to consider how the law can be practised through a lens that is healthier for lawyers.
The massive feedback that Anne-Marie’s acceptance speech received makes it clear that many lawyers are ready to stop being tired and create a new lens for lawyering.
You can read Anne Marie Rice’s speech here.