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Morgan Jane: The importance of saying yes to opportunities

Morgan is a Lawyer at the Office of the Director of Child Protection Litigation here in Brisbane. Morgan completed a Bachelor of Laws/Arts in a smaller regional university in NSW and has since completed a Masters in Family Law. Morgan is the poster woman for saying yes to whatever opportunities come your way – from your first law job to a fun run – Morgan shares how her willingness to learn has allowed her to achieve career goals in 3 months and run ultramarathons!

you don’t need to attend a sandstone university

Morgan completed her Bachelor of Laws/Arts at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale, New South Wales. Morgan chose UNE because it was close to home but also far enough away that she was able to move out of home while studying at university. When Morgan was studying, one of the lecturers told Morgan that if you went to UNE, you would never amount to much because it wasn’t a sandstone university. Hearing this as a first year law student wasn’t the positive encouragement that Morgan was hoping for. However, there were some fantastic lecturers and Morgan really enjoyed her time as a student at UNE. Morgan was a part of a smaller group of internal students and this meant that Morgan was able to work closely together with both her peers and her lecturers and develop meaningful relationships. Morgan has not been disadvantaged in her career because she did not attend a ‘sandstone university’. Rather, Morgan obtained her Bachelors Degree at UNE and then moved to Brisbane and completed her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (PLT) through QUT as an internal, on campus student. During Morgan’s Placement and the following three years, Morgan worked at four private law firms and gained experience in Family Law, Domestic Violence, Child Protection, Criminal Law and Wills and Estates. Morgan has now been admitted as a Lawyer for almost five years. Morgan also completed her Masters in Family Law in 2017 through the College of Law.

failure doesn’t have to define you

Morgan was unfortunately involved in a car accident in her second year of University and as a result, Morgan failed her second Torts unit. This means that Morgan has a ‘dreaded N’ on her academic transcript. Morgan repeated the unit the following year and obtained a High Distinction – proof that a failure doesn’t have to define you! Morgan also failed her Family Law major assignment at university BUT she listened to the feedback and performed well on her exam, so it didn’t hold Morgan back in terms of her final grade. Morgan says if you make a mistake, falter or fail an assignment or a unit, that’s okay! You have then got an opportunity to learn from that and go back and give it another go!

say yes to opportunities

Morgan’s first experience working in law was during her Placement. The Placement was at Caboolture which was a bit of a drive from where Morgan lived. Despite this, Morgan took the Placement, worked really hard, put herself out there and took every possible opportunity to learn. Morgan drafted client letters, court documents and spoke to lawyers whenever she had the chance. Morgan made some great connections because of this effort. If Morgan had of said no because of the location, she may not have the knowledge and experience that she has now. The experience that Morgan gained through accepting a Placement in a less than ideal location has helped her get to where she is now. Morgan would recommend taking the time to build important connections and also taking every opportunity that comes your way. Morgan says that you never know what might come out of saying yes to work experience or asking someone to have a cup of coffee with you. Morgan explains that you don’t know what you don’t know, so create relationships with lawyers who can help you and gain valuable experience by saying yes to and making the most of any opportunity that comes your way. Morgan acknowledges that not every opportunity will be a positive one, but that it is important to learn what you can from every opportunity and build some great relationships along the way. Morgan explains that studying law is very different from PLT, and again different to practice as a lawyer. This is why Morgan is an advocate for learning at every opportunity that you can, as it will help you transition into life as a lawyer. Morgan says to take it as it comes, be flexible and remember that law is a marathon.

no opportunity to learn is ever wasted

An opportunity arose for Morgan to be a Duty Lawyer for domestic violence matters. Morgan took it to her boss, who said yes and she then undertook training in order to advise people on domestic violence matters before they appeared in court. This exposed Morgan to great experience including exposure to different clients and situations, having to adapt with matters and to different courts. In Morgan’s first role as a lawyer she was told by her boss that she would be starting at the bottom. And for a while Morgan thought, why am I typing letters for you after having done all the study to become a lawyer? But, Morgan took the opportunity to learn what she could and it was how she learnt how to draft letters and interim and final orders. While Morgan couldn’t see it at the time – the jobs she was tasked with were really valuable learning experiences. Morgan says that you can let every experience count for something and take some learnings away from whatever you do – even if you are answering phones. Morgan says that all the basic day-to-day skills like file management and administrative tasks all play into making you a good lawyer.

smart goal setting

Morgan had a career goal for 2019 to be promoted to a senior legal position as an Applicant Lawyer. Morgan applied and was successful (woohoo!) – achieving her end of year goal by March!! Morgan received some really positive feedback about her previous work experience and how her experience was a large part of her receiving the promotion. Morgan says that goal setting can help you with your drive to achieve, however, Morgan says it is really important to be kind to yourself. Morgan explains that setting smart goals means accepting that sometimes things change and you may need to re-evaluate your goals along the way. Morgan had always wanted to work in Family Law and she discovered a role known as an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) and thought that would be great. However, in order to become an ICL, you need to be five years post-admission to be eligible to do the training and be put on the panel. Morgan’s current role puts her in a similar position to an ICL, where she is thinking about what is best for the children involved. Morgan says that knowing what is important to you, where you want to go and figuring out a good way to get there are important – but also being open to where your journey can take you can help you find your place in the law. Morgan’s advice is not to be closed minded about what you want to do because you might find something else that you really love doing if you try your hand at a few different things.

just start!

Morgan is also a pretty impressive runner! But how Morgan started running marathons is what I find the most inspiring of all. Morgan ‘fell’ into running by signing up to do an obstacle course with a friend. Morgan was so nervous for the event and she never thought she would finish it – but she did! Morgan climbed over a 7 foot wall, ran some of the event and crossed the finish line. The next week, Morgan thought to herself – I’ll try parkrun! Morgan would attend parkrun each week, running a little bit further or a bit faster each time. Morgan then joined a run club and before she knew it she was running 3 or 4 times a week! Once Morgan was able to run 5km non-stop, she then thought – I can run 10km! One day while Morgan was waiting for her partner to finish the Gold Coast Marathon, she saw all of these amazing people crossing the finish line for the half marathon. Morgan said to herself – I want to do that! Morgan then had a goal to improve her running enough so she could finish the Gold Coast half marathon. Morgan got a running coach, followed a training plan and now she has run 7 half marathons (OMG!) and last year Morgan completed her first marathon in September and ultramarathon in October. Now, for all the people who don’t run, like me, a marathon is 42.2km and an ultramarathon is anything longer than that. Morgan says that if someone had of told her 3 years ago that she would run a marathon, she would have said you were crazy! Morgan explains that it’s important to just start – give something a go and then once you’re up and running you can think about setting some goals to push yourself. You don’t have to have your end goal when you start, sometimes just starting is the hardest part. Morgan feels that how her running goals have progressed is similar to how her career goals have progressed. Morgan started her career in law without any legal experience, having worked in retail, and so she said yes to opportunities, put herself out there and worked hard. Just like Morgan did with running!

respect the chapter of your life that you are in

Morgan says something that is really important is to respect the chapter of your life that you are currently in. Morgan is currently really busy at her work in the transition from her old position to her new position. This has meant that Morgan has had to put some of her running training on the back burner. Morgan says that it is important to take a step back and understand what the chapter you are in right now needs you to focus on. For Morgan, that meant cutting back her running to focus on understanding her new role and having enough time to manage her larger workload. Morgan says that when you first start out, you might have to work long hours, make some cups of coffee – and you need to respect that it’s just a chapter and take what you can from it. And when you have learnt all you can from that chapter – it is time to look for the next opportunity.

you can’t do it all, so be kind to yourself!

Morgan says that it is important to be kind to yourself and understand that you aren’t able to do everything. When Morgan had to sacrifice her running training for an upcoming ultramarathon because of her workload, Morgan understood it was what she needed to do. Morgan explains that while it was a hard pill to swallow, if she went into a 50km race underprepared, she wouldn’t have enjoyed the day. Morgan says that since she cut back on her running training, when she does get to run it is much more enjoyable because she has been kind to herself – understanding that work is what is most important to Morgan right now and that running will always be there. Morgan says that it is important to find a balance. Morgan explains that if she were to commit to the training necessary for the ultramarathon and the time needed to complete her work tasks, she would have had to sacrifice valuable time with her partner and her puppy, Oliver. Morgan’s partner works 7 days a week so it is important that Morgan has time to spend with him when he isn’t working. Morgan says that being kind to yourself means managing your commitments when you are going through a busy period in your life.

the importance of exercise

When Morgan was working as a lawyer and undertaking her Masters of Family Law, she was working long hours. But when Morgan joined a running group, that gave her a reason to leave work on time. By making time for exercise, Morgan met new people, obtained a better work/life balance, was able to clear her head and improve her general wellbeing. Last year Morgan was injured and unable to run and during this time she noticed the difference in her ability to function at work because she didn’t have running to clear her head and de-stress from the day. Morgan also believes that when you exercise, you eat better foods and when you eat well – you feel well. Not that we don’t need coffee and chocolate – but eating well makes you feel healthier. When Morgan stops running for a couple of weeks she can feel the difference, both physically and mentally. It also means that she isn’t able to see her running friends, so it’s also a social outlet for Morgan. Morgan says – find your jam! Morgan is a runner, I’m definitely not – so for me, I prefer riding my bike or playing tennis. Morgan says find something that makes you feel good and stick with it, whether it is taking your dog for a walk, paddle boarding, yoga or lifting weights. Morgan says that we often spend a lot of time inside, as both law students and lawyers, so it is important to get outside in the fresh air.

morgan’s awesome tips

It doesn’t matter what university you went to – you don’t have to study at a ‘sandstone university’ to have a great career in law!

Failure doesn’t have to define you – let it be an opportunity to learn and improve for next time!

Say yes to all of the opportunities that come your way because you never know where they might lead you!

Don’t be closed minded and keep your career options open!

If you want to achieve something – just start! You don’t need to have all of your goals mapped out from start to finish, you can work on them along the way!

Respect where you are at – each job is a chapter in your career so learn what you can and move on when you’ve learnt all you can!

Be kind to yourself – understand you can’t do everything and you need to prioritise sometimes!

Make time for exercise – it will give you an excuse to de-stress and clear your head!

Morgan is happy for you to reach out to her on LinkedIn or by sending her an email:

Morgan’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/morgan-jane-32321196/

Morgan’s Email: morgan.jane@hotmail.com