Alongside my busy work schedule as a lawyer in the public service, I am a participant in the gig economy. I am also an Uber driver, I assemble furniture on Airtasker, and I am also Israel Folau’s social media manager.
The third-year lawyer from the NSW Department of Industry took the crown – or gavel, as is the traditional prize – in this year’s instalment of the prestigious NSW Young Lawyers’ annual comedy debate on 18 May.
Public servants might be known for starting their days later than most corporate lawyers. But the 7.30am start didn’t stop government lawyer Tom Sorrenson from schooling an 800-strong crowd of corporate suits over breakfast in this year’s Golden Gavel competition.
Sorrenson’s winning speech tackled the topic, “Multitasking mindfulness for the modern lawyer”. His topic drew guffaws from lawyers in government and non-government sectors.
“You must find synergy in day-to-day life,” Sorrenson said, mimicking a maddeningly familiar archetype in the legal profession – that of the “wellness” ambassador.
“For example, you could use your headset to speak to a client, while typing at a computer at the same time,” Sorrenson continued. “While operating a small sandwich press with your feet to prepare lunch.”
Ten young lawyers including Sorrenson had the packed ballroom at the Westin Hotel in stitches as they spoke on various topics they were given just 24 hours before the event. As is the ritual each year, the competitors had a strict time limit of between three and five minutes for their speeches.
7.30am is a tough time to be cracking jokes rather than eggs, but the accompanying breakfast kept the crowd happy, full and caffeinated. Some young audience members lamented a lack of smashed avocado – the scrambled eggs presumably unfamiliar to a generation locked out of the Sydney housing market.
Final-year law student Joshua Clarke from University of Technology Sydney won the runner-up prize as well as the People’s Choice Award for his hilarious remarks on “Practising in foreign jurisdictions: life outside Sydney CBD”. He admitted after the event that he was secretly jealous of those regional lawyers “living the dream” who go surfing on their lunch breaks and can actually leave the office at 5pm.
Justice Fabian Gleeson of the NSW Court of Appeal, who is the 2018 Patron of NSW Young Lawyers and headed the judging panel at the event, presented the awards with droll commentary about his own profession.
“Lawyers tend to have unique, somewhat eccentric, personality traits,” Gleeson said.
“A few of the eccentric lawyers who can’t get on with each other tend to become barristers. Those barristers that can’t get on with each other become judges. Imagine judges working in open-plan offices!”
Tom Sorrenson will go on to represent NSW in the National Golden Gavel Competition, hosted by the Law Council of Australia, in October.
The 2018 Golden Gavel was sponsored by Sparke Helmore Lawyers, Unisearch Expert Opinion Services and the University of NSW. If you missed out on the fun, visit the NSW Golden Gavel Facebook page to watch the speeches in full.
Winner’s speech: Multitasking mindfulness for the corporate lawyer
Today I am presenting on “Multitasking mindfulness for the modern lawyer”. As you already know, this is an important topic. It’s a tight legal market and now, more than ever, clients expect more for less. This is not about getting ahead anymore; this is about not being left behind.
As luck would have it, I am a model of a mindful multitasking lawyer. Alongside my busy work schedule as a lawyer in the public service, I am a participant in the gig economy. I am also an Uber driver, I assemble furniture on Airtasker, and I am also Israel Folau’s social media manager.
Now, if you listen to me very carefully you can achieve similar levels of success.
The three elements are: mindfulness, multitasking and modern.
Firstly, key to my dizzying success is mindfulness. Mindfulness is, of course, the process of bringing one’s own attention to the experiences occurring in the here and now. At 1 Martin Place, at the Westin. This can be developed through meditation. Please join me now for a quick meditation exercise.
Everybody get into the comfortable position. Yes, stay seated. Now put your hands on your knees and close your eyes. Now slowly breathe in, and out. Imagine a balloon inflating, and then deflating, in your chest. Picture a pair of lungs, inflating, and then deflating, in your chest. Both examples are equally effective.
I recommend that you do that meditation exercise for at least one hour each day. However, if you are having a particularly busy, stressful day, as all modern lawyers will have from time to time, I recommend two hours on that day.
Now, to enhance your multitasking you must look for opportunities to create synergies and efficiencies in your day-to-day working lives. You could use a telephone headset to talk to a client while writing an email to another client. While operating a small sandwich press with your bare feet to prepare lunch. What could go wrong?
Now, finally, modern. Modern legal practice is all about open plan. Open plan is wonderful. The comradeship that open plan builds between colleagues is something that’s spectacular, colleagues working together collaboratively to work through complicated and sometimes painful problems.
I’ll leave you with a story. Just the other day, I had a problem and I found myself hurt and in peril. I had burnt my foot very badly on a small sandwich press I keep under my desk. Without skipping a beat my colleague sprang into action. Old Bruce held me down, Jasmine applied the burn cream and Humberto wrapped my foot with a bandage. (Shows audience foot)
This is not the first time this has happened. I dare say I owe my right foot to open plan offices.
Thank you all, I hope you have heard my message and I hope you don’t get left behind.
Biggest mic drops
“You must find synergy in day-to-day life. For example, you could use your headset to speak to a client while typing at a computer at the same time. While operating a small sandwich press with your feet to prepare lunch.”
Thomas Sorrenson, NSW Department of Industry
“The partners encourage us to ‘bring your whole self to work’. As long as your whole self can fit into a 20-by-30-centimetre locker.”
Mama Puna Monica Florence, K&L Gates
“The Brady Bunch can teach us a lot about gender diversity, because that family had an even 50/50 split. But not so much about ethnic diversity. That show was white as f***. May as well call it the Barrister Bunch.”
Patrick Dunn, Dentons
“When you start getting that full-time lawyer wage, you feel posh and become addicted to the lifestyle. You can buy a punnet of strawberries, out of season! With NO consequences!”
Pierce Hartigan, Lander & Rogers