Stepping into the role of Queensland Law Society President this year is wills and estates practitioner, and 2022 Deputy President Chloé Kopilovic.
Chloé, a Director of Queensland law practice FC Lawyers with offices in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Sydney, lays claim to being the Society’s youngest female President at 35, a title previously held by current Legal Service Commissioner Megan Mahon, who became President in 2007 at the age of 37.
She may also be the Society’s youngest President, as W.P. Rowland was also 35 when he became President in 1938.
“I might be young, but age is just a number and I wouldn’t take on the role if I didn’t think I wasn’t up to the challenge,” Chloé said. “I think [2022 President] Kara did a wonderful job and she’s our first millennial President – I’ll be our second.”
Chloé, who was first elected to Council in 2016, joins Immediate Past President Kara Thomson as the longest serving members of the current Council. During her tenure she has served as both Vice President and Deputy President, and been active on several Council committees, including the Committee of Management, CPD Committee, Executive Committee, Finance & Risk Committee and Governance Committee.
Chloé grew up in Western Australia, where her first career choice was medicine.
“After leaving school becoming a lawyer was the furthest thing from my mind,” she said. “I started on the path to medicine with a pre-clinical biology degree. However, it became fairly obvious quite quickly – in the first two years – that I wasn’t suited to that path!
“I then looked at my strengths and weaknesses, and law seemed to be the stand-out degree, so I changed over and I guess the rest is history. I started law at 21 and finished at 26 – sometimes you come to the party a bit later, which isn’t such a bad thing.
“My mum had pushed me in that direction from a very early age, but I was like many young women who push back against their mothers at some stage, but I got there in the end. By the time I’d decided on law at 21, I knew that was what I wanted to do and I gave it a good crack.
“I knew I loved working with people and I knew I understood process, attention to detail and guiding people – that ticked a lot of boxes early on, so it sounded like it might be the right career for me.”
Chloé moved to Queensland in 2011, joining FC Lawyers as a trainee. After both working and studying full time, she was admitted in 2013. She was first elected to the QLS Council for the 2016/2017 term and in 2018 she completed her Masters in Applied Law through the College of Law, majoring in wills and estates.
Looking at the year ahead, Chloé noted the rapid change across the legal profession over the last five years.
“A lot has happened in the five years between 2018 and 2022!” she said. “We’re living in a very different world and the way we engage and interact both professionally and socially is evolving at a rapid pace.
“I think one of the big issues for 2023 is going to be people coming out of COVID. We were all ready for Armageddon at the beginning of COVID and everyone was expecting the worst, but it didn’t happen.
“In fact, Queensland legal practices have had record years and the profession has done very well. The Queensland property market boomed, but we are already seeing a slowing of the market with interest rate increases. Businesses had incredible growth and there were significant acquisitions and mergers, but there is a caution in the air now.
“QLS was very proactive through the COVID period and we all owe a great debt of gratitude to my predecessors – Luke Murphy, Elizabeth Shearer and Kara Thomson – for their hard work and exceptional guidance through that time.
“The QLS really did stretch itself and it is now in a position to continue delivering for its members. We’ve got the renovation of Law Society House under way, and I think some really smart strategic decisions are being made now to ensure that QLS is going to be well placed for its members and the profession into the future.”
She said that, in her primary practice area of wills and estates, blended families would remain an ongoing issue, and growth in the superannuation space could be expected.
“That is becoming quite large in my practice – claims against superannuation death benefits – so it will be interesting to see what happens in this space as sometimes there is no estate to challenge, but there is a death benefit to lay claim to,” she said.
One of the things Chloé is keen to promote is the collegiality of the profession.
“My focus in 2023 will be on harnessing and celebrating relationships in law,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of hard years with a lot of really significant issues in front of the law society, so I think this year will be a nice time to step back and focus on the good things in law – the relationships you make, the friendships you build which are often lifelong relationships.
“We have a saying in our practice, ‘That our clients are our friends and our friends are our clients’.”
Chloé has a strong friendship base that not only has been built around her colleagues but with the many clients she has acted for over the years, and now it is becoming generational.
“I think this year will be a good opportunity for everyone to take a step back and look at all the good things that come out of law, and collegiality, relationships and friendships are all things I’ve been fortunate enough to build through law.”
Chloé also believes pro bono is an important part of her professional life.
She does legal work for Uniforms 4 Kids, a charity that repurposes the uniforms of our frontline emergency services workers including police, ambulance and Australia Zoo.
“They are repurposed into children’s clothing and then distributed to communities of children in need, including in domestic violence shelters,” she said. “We have a series of sewing groups throughout Queensland and in other states where our volunteers create beautiful children’s clothing.”
Chloé also is a committee member of the Australasian Council of Women and Policing, a organisation comprised mainly of policewomen which advocates for women in the law enforcement space. It includes regular conferences and sessions aimed at professional development and relationship building.
Chloé is looking forward to the challenge of being the President in a unique period, including the year that marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of a law society in Queensland.
“We are obviously a professional association and yes, we have done well, but we should always be striving to do better,” she said. “I’m eager to be a part of that.
“I would like to say I’m a fairly pragmatic person who believes you need to listen to others to learn.
“One of my favourite quotes is from the Dalai Lama who said, ‘when you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new’.
“In wills and estates, you have got to really listen to people and make sure you are paying attention to the things they say just as much as the things they don’t say. So I’m hoping that will come through in my term as QLS President.
“When people have asked me why I am taking on the role I simply say, ‘As a person who is proud to be a lawyer, I can think of no more proud and humbling experience than to lead the profession I love’.”
John Teerds is Queensland Law Society Publications Manager and has been editor of Proctor since 2003.