Maria Linkenbagh has practised as a solicitor for over 50 years and gained experience in a range of areas. Now semi-retired, Linkenbagh provides consultancy services to DINA Lawyers and works as a volunteer for a number of organisations including the NSW Animal Ethics Committee. Linkenbagh tells us about her career and what it takes to survive in the legal profession.
What led you to pursue a career in law?
My great uncle, who was the only educated person in our family, encouraged me to pursue law because I was bright. From that point on, that was it, I was going to be a lawyer. My mother was widowed when I was four, and she experienced a very hard life in the 1950s as a single mother. She always wanted me to have a profession that I could rely on if circumstances become hard. Consequently, she was keen for me to go to university and back then it was easy to because we got a commonwealth scholarship. They paid me $7.60 a week to cover my living experiences, which was a lot at that time.
How have things changed since you first started in the legal profession?
It’s a totally different world. The volume and complexity of legislation has been the most significant change. Back then it was easy for us to be general practitioners and either know it all or know where to find it. Now, people have to specialise and compartmentalise their practice because you can’t spread yourself over the volume of law there is now. We also used to know the name of everyone in court, but now everyone is anonymous. Now that we’re relying more and more on the internet, it’s going to be less personal.
What has 50 years in the profession taught you?
It has taught me to listen to all sides of the story. It’s important to balance and consider everything that comes your way. There’s a breadth of thinking that lawyers have which I’m glad to have acquired. The legal profession has taught me to be interested in everything – news, travel and the natural world.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
When you retire, everything is spare time. I work part time as a consultant; I am a member of the NSW Animal Ethics Committee and spend a lot of time looking after my own animals. I have three alpacas – Coco, Pablo and Boris Johnson. I also have two sheep, two ponies and 15 chooks. I go walking, I listen to classical music and I love to watch ballet. I also look after my five acres in Cooma and accommodate houseguests. I’m a bit of an old granny in one sense, but I can still go to court and be a solicitor.
How have you adapted to the challenges of COVID-19?
The main effect it’s had on me is that I don’t go to Sydney for hearing days anymore. I’ve had to learn to do things online, which can be tricky. I recently had a day with the NSW Animal Ethics Committee where we spent eight hours on Zoom. I was exhausted by the end of the day. I miss my jaunts to Sydney.
What is the secret to maintaining a long and happy career in law?
To regularly consider whether you are satisfied in what you’re doing. If you’re doing family law and it’s driving you nuts, get out of it and do something else. You’ve got to let the profession be satisfying for you on the inside. It’s not about money, it should be about how you feel you can serve the profession, the community and your clients.