On the day of graduation no one could’ve been prouder to don the gown and accept her law degree than Laura Paterson.
After more than nine years of study and 17 years at Slater and Gordon, Laura can finally call herself a lawyer following her recent admission ceremony at the Supreme Court of Victoria. Her story is one of sacrifice, persistence and unwavering commitment no matter what curveballs life threw her way.
When Laura first joined Slater and Gordon as a junior legal assistant back in 1997, she would not have ever imagined this day would come. In her formative years she worked hard and was rewarded for her efforts, being promoted to senior legal assistant and then support team leader. Along the way she was fortunate to learn a lot about the profession from a number of inspirational managers at the firm.
Nine years is a long time to follow a dream to fruition and Laura says there were times where she thought of quitting, especially after having children. ‘Whenever I thought of quitting, I thought about all those years I had already devoted to my studies; if I didn’t finish I’d have nothing to show for it. Especially in the last few years, this really spurred me on. I also learnt not to look too far ahead and I always took each semester one step at a time.’
Laura says she could not have come this far without the support of the firm, her accommodating managers, loving husband and supportive parents. ‘I felt that Slater and Gordon always had my back and wanted me to succeed,’ she says. ‘My colleagues always asked how I was going and I had good managers who understood when I needed to take time off to study. Since I’ve been studying I’ve had two children as well so work has given me time off for maternity leave and allowed me to work part time.
As for my home life, I have been fortunate to have a very supportive husband and parents. Obtaining a law degree is a team effort and I could never have completed it without the support of my super team.
Having been on this journey Laura has not only graduated with a degree in law but has also earned a degree in life experience. In many ways this sets her apart from the influx of fresh-faced graduates taking their first tentative steps from academia. In contrast, for Laura the transition to becoming a lawyer will be all the more seamless having learned the process of running a case from beginning to end. What’s more, she is ideally placed to impart advice to the legal assistants with whom she works.
Laura’s story gives hope to many other legal assistants wishing to follow in her footsteps. ‘There is a perception that to study law you have to be a real “brainiac”,’ says Laura. ‘Sure, you have to be intelligent but so much of a law degree is about dedication – doing the work, following through with the reading and staying on top of things. My advice to anyone here wishing to pursue a career in law is that it’s not out of your reach if you really want to make it work.’