“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.” – Barbara Gittings
Adam Saunders predominantly practices in commercial litigation and insolvency law and has a keen interest in social justice. He is passionate about diversity both within the profession and the wider society’s professional services. This is particularly evident when Adam speaks to issues affecting members from the LGBTIQ+ community, migrants, early-career lawyers or young professionals.
The latter of which is how we met Adam.
Adam joined the QLS Early Career Lawyers Committee in May 2019 because he wanted to be a voice for early-career lawyers. He wanted to work with QLS and the broader profession to improve retention of junior lawyers in the profession and do his part to help QLS support the profession.
SD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey in law so far?
AS: I started my legal career working for a national law firm as a paralegal, working on some of the largest class actions in Australia. Having only experienced a very niche but an interesting area of law at the time, I wanted to explore other areas of law while completing my practical legal training course, to give me a better insight into what areas I was passionate about. I’ve had the privilege of working for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Queensland, briefly worked in migration law before finding my love laid in the commercial litigation space.
As someone who took the opportunity to explore a variety of areas of law while completing my practical legal course before being admitted as a lawyer, I believe there is a lot to be said about taking your time following graduation to not just reflect on what you just achieved, but also to avoid burnout and set some goals and take time for yourself.
This also provides you the time to discover what truly fuels your passion in law. For example, as someone who identifies as a gay man and a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, I realised my passion for diversity and inclusion– in and outside of the legal profession. As an early career lawyer, I discovered I have a strong interest in the development and support of young legal professionals, which is why I joined the QLS Early Career Lawyers Committee.
SD: Where would you like to see the legal profession in 5 year or 10 years’ time?
AS: Our profession has made significant progress with respect to gender parity. However, there is so much work that needs to be done to have a truly diverse and inclusive profession.
Sexual harassment within the legal profession is sadly not a new thing, however the publicity surrounding the allegations against former High Court Judge, Dyson Heydon has meant that greater attention has been placed on the legal profession; a profession that relies on public confidence in the administration of justice. I think the public confidence in these institutions start to wane even more when people see in the media the behaviour of those within the profession.
I hope that in 5 to 10 years, the legal profession as a whole can find new and intelligent ways to address the ongoing issues of sexual harassment, bullying and the abuse of power that occurs most commonly from the top down. While not a simple task, the legal profession in Australia has the means and intellectual rigour to attempt to stamp out such issues and set an example. We are a great profession who can make a big difference in people’s lives and should always uphold the highest standard of behaviour as an example to the wider community.
SD: What do you think we can do, as a profession, to help realise that 5-10 year vision?
AS: While I am a young lawyer in the profession, I have been taking the time to reflect on the fact that I hold a position of power and privilege within our society, particularly as an educated white male, and that I need to keep my actions in check and ensure I am utilising my position to stamp out injustices when I see them. I believe that as a profession, everyone within it needs to take the time to do this and understand the way your actions may impact others.
I think that if you are a witness to bullying or sexual harassment within your workplace, you should call it out as you see it and show the victim your unquestionable support. I am a strong believer in the saying “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.
I think people should listen more and be open-minded, educate each other on unique perspectives and don’t just walk past unacceptable behaviour. To me, it’s a no brainer.
SD: What would be your advice to someone who is just joining the profession?
AS: If you’re a recent graduate and unsure about what area of law you want to practice in, take any opportunity you can to develop your skills. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and soak up any opportunities that come your way. Be positive, work on your confidence and most importantly, health comes first.
Early career lawyers are often noted as not having the same regard for the legal profession as their predecessors however in speaking with Adam, it was clear that he not only appreciates the seriousness of the role but actively wants to protect it from ill-repute. Advocates like Adam remind us that equality does mean more than passing laws or gender parity and that the struggle to win the hearts and minds of the community is an obligation – or burden – we all share.
QLS is actively working to promote inclusion within the legal profession by using its platform to support its members from diverse backgrounds and experiences. This includes the QLS Equity and Diversity Committee, the QLS Diverse Abilities Network and the upcoming Future Leaders Committee aimed at supporting the next generation of legal professionals. To get involved in either of these initiatives – or suggest another, contact QLS.
If you or someone you know ought to be featured in Lawyers of Queensland, please email email@example.com.