3/04/2005

I have a mission.

This was my post that was lost in the blogosphere during the last 24 hours it has finally reappeared for a good old edit.

I thought I had better dispel any myth that I might be considered a high-flying lawyer as was suggested by Kitschenette from the Red Kitchen on the comments on my food blog. I would give up being a lawyer in an instant for a caterer's life so long as I were the boss of course and had total creative and financial control.

I have had defining career moments that have seen me land where I am today. The first was my deciding to be a solicitor instead of a barrister. The next were in London where initially I spent several months in hospitality due to the Gulf War - yes it WAS that long ago and I couldn't find a job in law because the economy almost stopped during the uncertain times.

When the offer finally came we were also planning a trip down the Nile. The job I eventually took was in the London Borough of Hackney - my first impressions were bad, very bad of the area that I was to make spend the next 9 months for 5 days a week. I recall walking down the High Street to my interview and seeing more economically and socially disadvantaged people I had ever seen in my life thus far. Many seemed to have drug-related and mental problems as well.

I told the interviewer we were making plans to go to Egypt so they better make a decision quickly. I thought, quite incorrectly as it would transpire ,that it would put them off hiring me, instead by the time I had returned to the more gentrified area of Maida Vale they had called to offer me the job. I decided to take the job because I had already been in London several months and I needed some legal experience before I returned to Australia.

The job itself was local government prosecution and it was a very poor local council. I recall one day locking the doors of our office to prevent the Sheriff's from removing our delapidated furniture for the failure of the local council for paying a debt!

I also had to endure an acrimonious relationship with our clients and the courts. The office I was working for had earned a bad reputation. My boss though sweet, was thoroughly incompetant and even worse had a stutter, not a good look in court. I tried my best to put some procedures in place and obtain some respect from my clients for my professional opinions.

After 6 months of being there, we decided to go on tour of the U.K. and Europe with P's parents who decided to come over, we never did make it to Egypt in the end.I thought it was timely for me to consider a new legal position and resigned from the council and went on the trip.

After we returned I went back to my agency and applied for some positions separately. We had now been in London about 12 months, and I finally got an interview and an offer from a big firm in the south of London (Enbankment) they had a sister office here in Brisbane as well.

My job would be assisting with the defence of a pharmaceutical company involving the use of failed IUDs (inter uterine devices)- I thought it might be particularly horrible given at that time failed IUDs could cause some horrible side effects. But I thought I need some credibility after my time at the council and this might give it to me.

At the same time P's sister sent us an invitation to her wedding, and the agency called me up offering me my old job back at the council. My choices, stay and take on the IUD job which could see me with a big firm back in Brisbane upon my eventual return or return to the Borough save some money and then return to Australia with P whereupon we would plan for our next working holiday , Canada. I followed my heart, because the IUD job was dragging out as to when I could actually start, I decided to return to the council job and return to Australia for the wedding in 3 months time.

I did think about starting the job with the big firm but I didn't think it was fair to commit knowing I would be leaving and perhaps not return. It was a year since P and I had been together we were very in love, it was a lot of whether to follow my heart or my head.

If I had decided to use career head, I would have stayed and probably have given up P in the process. I don't regret it for one minute, it was simply a cross road. I have to admit I have never worked for the baddies, so it would have been quite a shift in my perspective to not work work for prosecution. I don't have a bias against defence I just decided very early in my career I preferred to prosecute everyone who have the benefit of being presumed innocent than to defend and deal with whole but what if they really did it, kind of thoughts.

There have been other decisions since there about returning to Australia, going to Canada, pursuing a career in hospitality or travel, then finally returning to the law 10 years ago. Having children has since guided most of the decisions I have made in the last 7 years. I think the public service needs people like me too. I don't think everyone should be prosecuted, when we can exercise discretion and people have rights that need to be protected and government shouldn't be omnipotent.

Sometimes I do put on my try-to-do- the- best for my client at the expense of everything else and have assisted in removing certain rights, however at the end of the day I have had to defend those actions and I haven't had trouble doing that.

For now my life of public service suits my home life, one day I may consider a higher flying life and my experience with public administration and the infrastructure law may get me there, but for now preparing Mission Statements, and answering stoopid requests, means that I can come home in time to help with homework, read, cook and simply enjoy the briefest of time in my life, raising a family.

Here is my tasks from the other day, to give you an idea of exactly how bland many of my day to day tasks can be and why it is I may yet consider that career in catering!

A mission statement is like regurgitating a dictionary with lots of bureaucratic words like, "inclusive, cooperative, strategic, responsive, adaptive, efficient, effective and quality".

I found that applying myself to this task was marginally more interesting than my usual task which is to respond to requests for more power when the person asking already has too much power (and does not know how to use it anyway). My initial non-verbal response is usually so incredulous that I then find it difficult to create a narrative to express why it is that I have to say no. Unfortunately by having to respond in writing I feel I am undermining my own beliefs and lending some credibility to the stupid suggestion in the first place.

I can give you one example for a grab for complete power:

"We want the power to detain people who don't or won't supply their name and address."

There are checks and balances needed for the exercise of such a power and we already have those in place, but it was obviously complicating the practical scenario when wanting to detain someone without the suspicion of anything, and that person was stupidly trying to preserve their right not to have to talk if they don't want to, particularly given they are not doing anything suspicious in the first place. I said to a colleague yesterday I know why I won't get very far in my career, my views are not extreme enough and probably too balanced. In my experience it seems in a career only the truly unbalanced rise to the top.

Instead I was lured into competing for a bottle of (no doubt dubious) champagne which will be awarded to the person who comes up with the best mission statement for our Division. Want to hear it so far:

You will have to suspend belief and pretend that I answer to the Prime Minister about ice-cream production.

  • To assist the Prime Minister through the provision of effective ice-cream policy options developed in an inclusive, cooperative and informed environment.
  • To deliver to customers quality strategic policy outcomes about ice-cream production and its role in the food industry.
  • To maintain the strategic position of the Department of Ice-cream as an efficient and effective leader in ice cream production.
  • To create a strategic plan that is highly responsive and adaptive to change.

4 Comments:

At 10:15 am, Anonymous OLS said...

Your mission statement looks good to me... but then, I'm not even sure what the mission statement for my department *is*.

We have people who want to take away the Crim Code defences on a fairly regular basis. It's only scary when they succeed!

- OLS

 
At 11:02 am, Blogger Lushlife said...

Radically different post now OLS, Blogger playing up (what's new) and it wasn't the post I intended to publish. I too have people regularly wanting to remove the "reasonable excuse" provisions. It's all a bit too grey for them I think. We work with the grey day to day I suppose maybe that's why we have a different perspective from investigators who seem to see things as black or white.

 
At 11:06 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know Mare Street Hacknet quite well - had to go through it in order to get to friends who lived in a more salubrious area a little to the east. It was always depressing to travel along that street.

Susoz

 
At 8:49 pm, Blogger Jellyfish said...

A very interesting post, Lushlife! I have a lot of respect for you. I don't know *how* you lawyers do it, I really don't I can't even bear to watch those law tv shows because the confrontation makes me so nervous.

 

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