By Rachel Hewitt
A desire to make a difference in people’s lives has seen Lindy Morgan spend nearly three decades working in family law, from Gippsland to Darwin.
It was as a 14-year-old high school student in Victoria’s Western District that MLS alumna Lindy Morgan (LLB 1989) decided she wanted to become a barrister.
“I was at the library and there was a book about different careers,” she says. “I came across ‘lawyer’ and I read it and thought ‘Gee, that sounds interesting. Helping people – that’s what I’ll do’.”
After 28 years working as a family law solicitor, mostly in Queensland and Darwin, Morgan realised her long-held dream of being called to the Bar in March, joining Darwin’s William Forster Chambers.
“Being a barrister is a different ballgame, it’s in a different league, and I felt it was now or never,” she says.
I wanted new challenges and to do new things and learn new things. The way that I prepare now, even for appearing in court, is so different to what I did as a solicitor advocate.
Morgan’s extensive family law career began when she was admitted to practice in 1990. Following stints in Geelong and Gippsland, she spent 14 years with Queensland Legal Aid where she worked in a number of areas including the child support and domestic violence teams and managed the women’s legal aid team. Morgan returned to private practice after moving to Darwin in 2006, first at Northern Territory firm Maleys, then national firm Hunt & Hunt.
Reflecting on the differences of working in family law in Darwin, which has included a period with NT Legal Aid, Morgan estimates that domestic violence is a factor in “99 per cent of cases”.
“It’s really terribly prevalent, which is really sad.”
The other major difference, she observes, is the greater frequency of recovery orders – for the return of a child to a parent or person who has parental responsibility – because of Darwin’s transient population of FIFO (fly-in fly-out) workers, contract workers and military personnel.
The appeal of family law for Morgan has always been the assistance she can provide her clients.
Anything to do with people… where you sit down and have a chat and people cry and you make them a cup of tea or give them a tissue – that’s why I do domestic violence work and child protection too – it’s helping people at their most vulnerable.
A former president of the NT Women Lawyers’ Association, Morgan also lectured in family law and succession at Charles Darwin University from 2011–12. Her passion for legal issues and history meant she found teaching “refreshing and exciting”.
Morgan is a mentor in Melbourne Law School’s JD program and she advises today’s law students to immerse themselves in their studies: to sit in court, ask questions of their teachers and absorb the experience.
“[With a law degree] you can do so many things – whether you go into politics or become a lawyer or a teacher or whatever – it’s about helping other people,” she says.
“And your assistance or advice might only help one person, but that doesn’t matter. If you only help one person then that’s a good thing to have done in your life.”
This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 20, November 2018