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Jun 05

It’s All Over

I handed in my very last law exam on Tuesday. It was for Industrial and Intellectual Property, which is a subject that for some reason is perennially popular, but is actually a lot less glamourous than it sounds. What an Australian statute is doing by defining a phrase by stubbornly referring the reader to a UK Act passed in 1623 (and which the UK itself itself has long since replaced) is quite bizarre.

But anyway, it’s the end of my six and a half year stint at UNSW. I pulled up my library borrowing record and it shows:

Borrowing record

Three items. As you can see, I’m a prodigious library user. One loan was for a set of keys to a moot room which I used for tutoring, one is a loan for a friend doing Med, and the other was an open reserve loan for another friend. So, in effect, I’ve never borrowed a book for myself from the library. God bless the Internet and electronic resources.

I’m definitely going to miss my time at uni. Now seems like an opportune time to answer the five questions Sarni asked of me a while ago:

1. Do you think you foresee any problems reconciling your faith with your work as a lawyer?
I’ve never seen law as an inherently evil profession, even before I became a law student, and regardless of whether the lawyer is one working in a community legal centre, LegalAid, in a Fortune 500 company or a large commercial firm. It’s a popular view that lawyers are evil, and one that’s not going to change in a hurry, but there’s not much we can do about that except influence those closest to us to recognise otherwise.

As a corporate lawyer, I think I see the biggest danger is the lifestyle pitfall. The long hours and vaulting ambition that most people have can make work all consuming and there’s a danger of beginning to “define yourself” by the work you do. Not to say that this is a bad thing, but it’s not something I want. I always thought that it was strange that the types of people who get into these types of firms have a very well rounded lifestyles, yet for a few of them when they start working, life becomes very one dimensional. This takes away from everything else in life, faith especially.

2. Who would be the five people at your ideal dinner party (dead or living)?
Ideally, I would invite four close friends and the fifth would be one interesting personality. But if this question is really asking which five people I would like to have a chat with, I would say, off the top of my head… Bill Gates, Meg Whitman, Michael Kirby, Gene Roddenberry and Bill Clinton. I don’t like these listing type questions because I always think of something better later on, but oh well.

3. If you were to have children, would you consider being the stay at home dad? Under what circumstances?
Possibly, yes. The circumstances would have to be that firstly finances weren’t an issue, especially in terms of being able to provide kids with a good education and the opportunity to have opportunities. Secondly, that I still would have freedom for other pursuits – perhaps genuine part time work that I can do from home. I enjoy variety in life, and I think it’s possible to raise a family and still be involved in other things. Or perhaps I’m being incredibly naive, I dunno. I’m sure I’ll eventually learn one way or the other.

4. How would you describe the differences between IT and law?
I think that in an abstract sense both professions are more similar than different. Both have two aspects: one of them everyone is familiar with – problem solving when things go wrong. The second of them is when things need to get built and IT and law act to support and facilitate the building (eg, if you start up a business, you’ll need someone to provide you with the IT gear to manage it, and a lawyer to draft up the lease agreements and so on). The problem with IT is that it’s often a thankless profession. There’s never really a good reason for why things go wrong, even if it’s the user that stuffs things up (“you should have built it simpler!”). People get irate and for some reason take it out on IT. When you do fix things up because it’s fixing something that shouldn’t have gone wrong in the first place, “you can sod off back to your call centre now so I can get on with my work”. It’s trite but true that when IT is doing their job well, they are invisible. So much for job satisfaction. On the other hand, the other aspect of IT, the creative, building side of things, is fun but there doesn’t seem to be much of that around since the Dot Com Bust, and the Australian IT industry was never very entrepreneurial in that sense anyway.

Law is about problem solving as well, but because the problems/issues are often client-caused and involve a third party, you don’t start off on a bad footing with them – the “opposition” is the third party. And in many cases, there is no opposition – you’re simply facilitating a business deal, helping someone to write their will, or so on.

Apart from that, I don’t think they are all that different.

5. What are the most important things your parents have taught you?
Typically Asian, the first is the importance of education, and atypically Asian, the second is to do what I enjoy. Regarding the first, I don’t think education is important because of what you learn in 3-unit maths or at univeristy, or that piece of paper you get at the end of it all. You can be successful in life with neither. I think education is important because of the people you meet during it, which really broadens your worldview, and the opportunities that arise through it.

Regarding the second, it’s a simple concept, I’ve written about it before. I tutor a couple of first-year law students and in the first tutoring session, I asked them why they chose law. “Because I didn’t get the marks to get into med.” Ok, but why law? “Because I got the marks to get into law.” For people that intelligent, you’d think their reasoning would be a little more well-thought out. I was lucky in having the freedom to choose a course that I thought would be interesting, yet I know that for lots of other people, their parents would have made it unthinkable to select a course whose entrance cutoff was 6% lower than the UAI they received. In the end, I figured out for myself that IT perhaps wasn’t what I wanted, but I wouldn’t have chosen differently even if I could do it all again, because I was able to make the choice for myself. My parents gave me advice, but didn’t choose for me.