Interview | Jerome Doraisamy (The Wellness Doctrines)

Jerome Doraisamy is a lawyer from Sydney, New South Wales. He attended St Aloysius’ College and then the University of Technology, Sydney, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Social Inquiry). Over the course of his legal career he has worked in a range of fields, from commercial practice to academic research to a major federal government inquiry.

The Wellness Doctrines is Jerome’s first book, and it examines the prevalence, causes and effects of psychological distress, anxiety and depression for law students and young lawyers in Australia in a manner never before seen – thematic discussion inspired by personal stories, first-hand accounts and case studies of over 45 legal professionals and health experts. It is hoped that his book will serve as a “survival guide” of sorts for new law students, incoming and current legal graduates, and other young lawyers.

Studies report one in three legal practitioners will be affected by mental health issues. What do you attribute to the anxiety and mental health issues suffered by legal practitioners: is it law school, the legal profession, or are anxious people just simply attracted to law?

It is a combination of all of those factors, although it is too crude to say anxious people are attracted to law. Statistically speaking, persons who display personality traits such as competitiveness, perfectionism and pessimism are more drawn to disciplines such as law, which can have the effect of increasing their anxiety levels when combined with the nature of law school and legal practice, and the issues pertaining to it such as a high volume of work.

Management of all issues facing those students, both internal and external, is imperative in order to retain optimal levels of health. Any solutions and strategies implemented should look to holistically and proactively combat issues across the board rather than focus on narrow or short-term items.

For those yet to read your book, what would you describe as its number one take-away point?

If a reader was to only take away one point, I would want it to be the idea that it is much better to proactively look after your health and wellbeing rather than react to a situation if and when it occurs. Putting in place preventative measures to be healthy and happy will significantly reduce your chances of burning out, meaning your chances of being an efficient legal professional will increase. Thus, to be the best, most successful lawyer, it is important to ensure that you are first a healthy, happy person.

If you were to look into a crystal ball ten years into the future, how do you see the legal profession’s relationship with mental health issues?

It would be too optimistic to hope that mental health issues will have been completely stamped out in the legal profession ten years from now; in fact, it is likely that rates of diagnosis may even increase in that time.

However, I do think it is possible for the profession to reach a point, within ten years, whereby both institutional support and individual responsibility is significantly heightened beyond what we currently see. Internal mechanisms for support in law firms, universities, organisations, etc. should be at a point whereby all persons feel supported and that there are avenues of help that compliment their personal needs, and individuals themselves should know exactly how they can take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing within the context of their personal and professional existences.

How do you think law schools and law firms could better support young lawyers and law students so that they don’t fall into depression?

Legal institutions should be re-framing the conversation around mental health issues in law to be more positive and uplifting, rather than talking about it in a way that seeks only to raise awareness and thus scare people into staying healthy. Instead, law students and lawyers should be motivated to look after themselves to be the healthiest, happiest individuals they can be so they have the best possible chance to be productive, successful lawyers. It must be reinforced that one is a person first, and a lawyer second.

What would be the one piece of advice you would give to a law student commencing their first year of law school in 2017?

Be kind to yourself. You are commencing a hugely challenging but rewarding journey, and it is one that will be more enjoyable and successful if you ensure that you retain a sense of self and prioritise what is important to you, on a personal and emotional level. Take care of yourself and everything else will then become easier to take care off!

Who is your biggest inspiration in tackling this profession-wide problem?

My inspiration is every law student coming through the ranks whom I meet. No student should ever have to experience the crippling, debilitating depression that I and many others have suffered, and any little thing I can do to help the new generation avoid those issues, I will be doing. That is what is getting me out of bed in the mornings!

Jerome is available for consulting and speaking engagements at law firms, universities, legal organisations and institutions, other professional service providers. Sessions (i.e. lectures, interactive workshops, book club meetings and small group discussions) can be claimed towards a lawyer’s mandatory continuing legal education, and fees are determined based on the session/s being delivered. Get in touch at jerome@thewellnessdoctrines.com for information about a tailored session.

Book Review | The Dream Enabler | Business advice for legal professionals

The following review of ‘The Dream Enabler’ (a book by Matthew Burgess) was written by Daniel Owen, a member of The Legal Forecast’s Student Executive Committee.  

The Dream Enabler

To read the The Dream Enabler, which Matthew Burgess makes available online for free, click here.

Matthew Burgess is a lawyer. In 2014 he founded Brisbane-based View Legal, a specialist firm focusing on tax, structuring, asset protection, business succession and estate planning. The title to his book alludes to the fact that since the early 2000s he has helped people achieve their goals and visions in business.

Matthew Burgess
Matthew Burgess

The Reference Guide accompanying The Dream Enabler catalogues a collection of Burgess’ ideas and extracts.  Burgess describes himself as an obsessive studier of history’s greatest thinkers. It is from the collecting and ordering of these ideas that Burgess constructs ‘101 tips for staying young and foolish,’ a nod to the Steve Jobs mantra: ‘stay hungry; stay foolish.’

The Dream Enabler serves as a guide to managing personal growth in business and an insight into the key attributes that govern View Legal.

It offers a pragmatic, no-nonsense approach to coping with the changing landscape of the legal industry.

At the outset Burgess highlights the importance of maintaining energy and enthusiasm while still retaining the beginner’s mindset. A central theme of The Dream Enabler is that traditional firms are being challenged by a more streamlined, customer-centric and technology infused version of legal practice.

Burgess argues that disruptive innovation is an undeniable truth. The legal industry is on the cusp of what has happened to countless other industries. If law firms are not disrupting their most profitable products with a cheaper, easier, IT driven solution, then competitors will.

Burgess’ model for innovation is a simple one: doing more with less.

In order to cope with disruption, he argues that firms need to put themselves in the client’s shoes and determine where they can add the most value through technological intervention  and outsourcing.

Burgess describes View Legal’s business model as being based on classic ‘McDonald’s marketing’: the goal is to first become synonymous with one core product to generate acclaim and then to up-sell related products. For McDonald’s this took the form of focussing on their basic range of hamburgers, then offering upgrades for soft drink, fries and desserts. For View Legal this involves estate planning, with the adjacent products being tax planning, asset protection and structuring.

The execution of this strategy can involve borrowing from across the industry as well as within. Employees who supplement their traditional legal skills with additional skills in process management, IT and customer service are to be highly valued. Burgess recommends aligning with entrepreneurs.

The Reference Guide contains pragmatic tips for the day-to-day operations of a firm, offering concrete productivity fundamentals.

Burgess implies the need for tight time frames due to ‘Parkinson’s Law’: any given task has a tendency to expand to the maximum amount of time available.

View Legal does not use time sheets. On the contrary, it utilises sophisticated project management tools, offering service and price guarantees upfront. It favours flexible work practices that match supply with demand. Perhaps most notably, customer satisfaction is placed before revenue generation. As a result, Burgess advocates for 24-hour firm communication to better facilitate this goal. Other tips include finishing the most important work first, printing documents for proofreading, avoiding multi-tasking, managing energy rather than time and utilising a business structure where one person is accountable for decisions rather than a committee.

Burgess is also acutely aware of the mental health of his employees, and offers several solutions on this front.

He insists that activities be focussed on the strengths of the individual, which more often leads to a flow state that increases employee happiness.

A self-professed green-smoothie addict, Burgess believes that a healthy mind requires a healthy body, and encourages employees to eat healthy, exercise and meditate. He does not believe in the ‘work-life balance’ as much as he believes in seamless integration of paid and unpaid activities in a person’s life. He suggests that everyone should end the day by talking to someone about what went well that day.

Another tip involves ‘gamification,’ which involves taking systems, services and activities and seeking to make them more enjoyable to the user.

From a business standpoint Burgess sees the current job as the best marketing tool, though writing a book is also a resonating way to create a permanent business card at nominal cost.

Burgess is of the belief that one should ‘fail fast’ by producing and releasing a minimal viable product or “MVP” so any faults can quickly be remedied, and that firms should take full advantage of their smartphones’ capacity to voice record and type, exchange files through Dropbox, view documents, scan and plan.

The Reference Guide concludes with a ‘Quotes to Note’ section that enhances the overall message of innovation and disruption. Two especially noteworthy quotes are:

“The young are always in the right, because time is on their side. And that means we have to change.” –Peter Drucker

“It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” –Charles Darwin

 

Event Review | Happy Lawyering | New law, new practice and new starts

The following was written by Richard Gifford a co-founder and Executive Member of The Legal Forecast.  Richard’s portfolio is access to justice and mental health.   

On Thursday November 2016, Angus, Tegun, Milan and myself had the opportunity to attend Happy Lawyering – New Law, New Practice and New Starts, the final College of Law alumni event for 2016, at the scenic Sage rooftop function room – if you haven’t had the chance, this rooftop patio boasts a spectacular view of King George Square and the Brisbane skyline. The evening featured speakers Clarissa Rayward (Family Lawyer and author) and Matthew Burgess (Director of View Legal) sharing their perspectives on how disruption has helped them to be happier and more successful in their practise of law. His Honour Colin Forrest of the Family Court of Australia was entertaining and insightful as the evening’s chair.

Clarissa Rayward is a family lawyer, perhaps better known as the ‘Happy Family Lawyer’, who runs her own practice, the Brisbane Family Law Centre and her own mediation centre, the Brisbane Family Mediation Centre. Beginning with coaxing the 50-odd in attendance into getting up on their feet for a boogie, Clarissa provided a cheerful and optimistic account of how lawyers can, and should, be happy in legal practice. The Happy Family Lawyer was refreshing in her approach: through her H-A-P-P-Y acronym she painted a bright future for the legal fraternity, provided lawyers look after their ‘Health’, have the right ‘Attitude’, are clear of their ‘Purpose’, continue to pursue their ‘Passions’ (particularly those outside of work) and remember to be ‘Yourself’. Her latest book release, Happy Lawyer Happy Life is available in bookstores now. She has an active social media presence and has recently begun a fantastic podcast series interviewing members of the legal profession.

Matthew Burgess was formerly a partner at McCullough Robertson – a feat he managed in 5 years after starting as an articled clerk! Matthew is now director of View Legal, an innovative firm that, as he puts it, engages in the same areas of work as his former firm, yet distinguishes itself in terms of its work culture. H boasts that he is no longer bound by billable hours; outsources work internationally; and has no policy on holidays – that is to say, he has no maximum cap on his employees’ holidays, provided they get their work done. Matthew painted a picture of View Legal as a challenging, dynamic place to work, which takes its work culture very seriously. The View Legal director urged the audience to make the following books new additions to their book collections: “The Future of the Professions” by Richard and Daniel Susskind; “Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?” by Seth Godin, and “To Sell Is Human” by Daniel Pink.

The theme of the night was undoubtedly optimism: on both speakers’ accounts, young professionals must seize disruption and innovation; so as to enable them to undertake work of greater meaning and quality. Both Clarissa and Matthew, though greatly differing in their areas of work, were living, breathing embodiments that happiness, curiosity and work-life balance are vital to a lawyer’s success.