Written on the 14 November 2016 by James Perkins & Paris Faint


BRISBANE family lawyer Clarissa Rayward (pictured) is inspiring the legal fraternity to speak up about mental illness through her weekly podcast, "Happy Lawyer Happy Life".

Founder of The Brisbane Family Law Centre, Rayward is on a mission to normalise the issues faced by those in the legal profession and find the secret to happiness in a stereotypically stressed and overworked industry.

She says she established the podcast as a medium for lawyers across Australia to share their stories and the different ways in which they have overcome challenges to find success.

"It is largely quoted that one in three lawyers will suffer some form of depression or anxiety at some stage in their career", she says.

"The more I started to ask people about why they were lawyers and what they enjoyed about their job, the more I realised that everyone has moments in their law career when they aren't loving it.

"The podcast for me was an obvious platform for opening up the discussion a bit more frankly, not necessarily from the point of "here's someone with anxiety", but more from a place that we all have different live and challenges, and there's a lot of different ways people become successful."

In a cut-throat culture where asking for help is an admission of weakness and confessing you aren't coping can jeopardise your chance at a promotion, Rayward says the struggle to stay ahead can take its toll.

"I think there is a sense that as a lawyer if you let people know too much about your own life and your challenges that you may be perceived as being weak when it comes to negotiations or cases in court," she says.

"Due to the adversarial nature of practice, you might be supported by your own team, but then you're also pitted against colleagues or friends from other firms.

"So it can become quite aggressive and unhelpful it generally isn't a profession where people are kind to each other or supportive outside their individual firms."

She says the negative nature of the work itself can also make lawyers more vulnerable to psychological problems.

"From a human perspective, lawyers are dealing with other people's problems all day," she says.

"They're often complex problems or challenges, and it's rare that a lawyer becomes involved when something great is going on in someone's life," she says.

"It's generally something difficult or quite tragic."

Rayward says that while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having passions outside of work are common secrets to success among those she has interviewed, each has found a unique way to sustain a positive attitude and mindset.

"I've interviewed people from Sydney, Adelaide and LA and they have all taken very different paths in law, but they've all been very comfortable and focused on creating their own pathway and finding something that fits with their personality type," she says.

"They all have their own life story, passions and interests, and that's the beauty of it.

"I think there isn't always a dialogue about all the different ways you can pursue law and this is particularly important for law students. Just because you miss out on the top tier job, it's not the end of the world."

In addition to the podcast, Rayward is currently writing a book about the concept of happiness and finding it in law.

Author: James Perkins & Paris Faint





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