March 9, 2023
March 9, 2023

International Women's Day Q&A with Terri Irvin

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Why I chose a career in the law?

Becoming a lawyer was not my first choice as a career. I was a police officer in South Australia but when I moved to Victoria to live, due to my life partner getting a transfer with the Air Force, I had to give up my policing career.  In the mid-90s transferring as a police officer to another State was not allowed. I was required to start as a cadet again at the Police Academy in Victoria, which was crazy given that I was a senior member of the police force in South Australia.  My partner then decided that he wanted to study law whilst remaining in the Air Force, and he asked me if I was interested in sitting the university entrance exam for law with him.  I had nothing better to do at the time, so I decided to sit the exam and was successful. The rest is history!

What unique perspectives do women bring to the law?

I think women bring a unique perspective and value to the law because of their diverse experiences and backgrounds.  Historically, women have been underrepresented in the legal profession, which has resulted in a lack of female perspectives in the development and application of the law. However, as more women have entered the field of law, their voices and experiences have begun to shape legal policies and practices in meaningful ways.

I believe that women bring a unique style of leadership to the legal profession that emphasises collaboration, relationship-building, and consensus-building.  This can lead to more effective and sustainable legal policies and practices. Women also bring empathy and compassion to the law.  By this I mean that women are often socialised to be caregivers and nurturers, which can translate to a greater sense of empathy and compassion for others.  This can be especially valuable in legal contexts where clients may be facing difficult and emotionally charged situations.  

Finally, while resilience is an important attribute for all lawyers, women in the law often face unique challenges that require a particular kind of resilience. Studies show that women lawyers are more likely to experience gender bias, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace.  However, despite these challenges, many women in the law have demonstrated remarkable resilience. They have persevered in the face of adversity, overcome obstacles, and achieved great success in their careers.  It is important that as women in the law, we support and advocate for each other.

Any female role models and why?

I have a few but in relation to law, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg tops my list.  She advocated for gender equality, broke barriers by becoming the second woman appointed to the US Supreme Court, paving the way for other women to follow in her footsteps and she was a strong leader, both on and off the bench.  Despite facing many obstacles throughout her career, Ginsburg persevered and continued to fight for what she believed in. She inspired women and girls to pursue their dreams through courage, hard work, humility, determination, and perseverance.

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