Issue 131: November 2018
75 year-old Hunter CLC Volunteer, Lynn Flanagan, proves it’s never too late for a career change
One of our CLC volunteers started studying law in her 60s, did her PLT with us before continuing to volunteer 2 days a week – assisting to run an outreach service that might otherwise have to be scaled back! She is a dynamo at 75. ~ Kim Richardson, Senior Solicitor, Hunter CLC
- How long have you been with Hunter CLC and what does your volunteer role involve?
I joined Hunter CLC almost 4 years ago for PLT training, and was admitted in February 2015. I volunteer two days a week and play golf the other days of the week – that’s my balance! On Tuesdays I meet with clients to prepare for hearings, and prepare statements. Thursdays are outreach court days, mostly AVOs, lower level violence, use of carriage service, and writing letters. I’m pleased to help however I can.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
I taught for 35 years, both as a primary teacher and then at tertiary level in teacher education. I fell into becoming a teacher after very direct encouragement from a father who was unable to finish his education and who wanted me to have the opportunities denied to him. Luckily, it was a career that suited me very well and even now I cannot resist an opportunity to return to this role. At the Hunter Community Legal Centre I have been able to apply these skills in designing and presenting Community Legal Education for older people (specifically regarding Powers of Attorney, Guardianship and Wills).
- What was your life like pre-law, and why did you decide to study law later in life?
After retiring I threw myself into all types of voluntary work but always ended up dissatisfied with the lack of organisation and focus. I was even “sacked” from one group (no longer in existence) that advised pensioners because I was pressing too hard for change re how the place was run. To keep myself amused I did a personal training course and trained over-50s in the gym and in a group class called Backs, Bums and Bellies. I also founded the Hunter Dragon Boat Club and was Womens Captain and then President at Merewether Golf Club.
I did, however, miss the lack of intellectual stimulation and when a friend told me she was studying law with the Legal Professional Admission Board I decided to do the same. I thought studying law would be both interesting and also turn me into a more disciplined thinker (having done psychology before, which I saw as a little more free-wheeling). I had no ambitions to actually practice law but when I eventually finished I thought I might give it a go. I was actually very lucky to have a contact at the Hunter Community Legal Centre and they were prepared to take me on for my PLT despite my advanced years!
I found it very interesting, stimulating and it turned out, after I was admitted, to be the voluntary work I had been searching for: well-organised, well supported and able to help the disadvantaged members of our society. I am very happy to work pro-bono for them, legal centres run on the smell of an oily rag and I encourage any retired or even freshly minted “mature” solicitors to do the same.
- What was the worst thing about being a law student? The best?
The worst thing was that the marks are dependent on a single exam – 100% to 80%! The best thing was the mixed crowd, though the young ones didn’t last as long. My cohort dropped down from 200 students to 45-50 students, mostly 30 years plus.
- Tell me about the team there.
The team here is very supportive of each other. We have 3 family lawyers, 2 generalists, an office manager, and 2 assistants, all of whom are generous and funny people.
- Can you tell me about a particularly memorable case or client?
All matters are memorable in their own way, especially to the people involved. Most of my work is centred on our Outreach Domestic Violence work at the local court. Our clients, usually defendants, are often anxious and confused about how they have ended up in court. I sometimes see this as an opportunity for our clients to understand that their behaviour is intimidating and that there may be better options for managing conflict in their family or neighbourhood situations. I hope that their court experience may lead to better outcomes for their families and neighbours in the long run.
- Do you have a legal hero?
Kirby! He cares about people, and he’s a man of the people. He’s so articulate and has the most wonderful memory. He’s so principled. It’s such a delight to read his judgments and hear him speak.
- In what ways do you think your unique experience positions you well to do the work that you do?
It’s extremely handy. I’m able to manage people who are emotional and calm them down. I have the life experience to manage and relate to people.
- What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?
I’m helping people who need help. I get a lot of personal reward at my age to be mixing with clever, tolerant, interesting people – it is just a joy!
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