60-second interview with Jennifer Sheean
What does your firm or employer do?
I’m self-employed, as a barrister in private practice in Queensland, Australia.
What has STEP done for you, individually, or as an organisation?
STEP has given me the opportunity to be involved in making submissions on policy to the Queensland state government, to learn from outstanding speakers, and to keep the Queensland members (in particular) up to date via my position on the Qld STEP newsletter sub-committee. I’m looking forward to my role this year as Deputy Chair of STEP Qld and the challenges it will bring.
What is the most important thing STEP does, in your opinion?
I think education and policy are the most important things that STEP does. Its work in keeping members current within the area of trusts and estates, and having a voice where change is needed, is vital. The social aspect is great too.
What made you decide to volunteer at STEP?
I’ve been interested in trusts and estates from my student days. I became associate to the late Mr Justice R P Meagher which gave me the wonderful opportunity to assist in the updates to Equity Doctrines and Remedies. Naturally, this heightened my interest in equity and trust law. I also found estate law a fascinating intersection of law and people’s personalities. With that background, and having enjoyed the STEP events that I had been to, I wanted to become involved so I could contribute to the great work it does.
What would you say to other members considering volunteering?
I would encourage all members to consider volunteering in any way that they are able. If they can’t see their way clear to becoming a committee member, then contribute to the newsletters for their state, or for STEP Australia, or to provide a presentation on an area of interest.
Your branch has run some online events recently. How did they go, and do you have any recommendations to share?
STEP Qld already offered the option to participate in a number of its educational sessions online, but the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that all sessions needed to be purely online. The feedback has generally been positive, although people do miss the social aspect that comes with personal attendance. In my view, online events are a positive step. It enables members from anywhere to attend any event that is of interest to them.
Do you have any upcoming events to look out for?
STEP Qld has a lunchtime seminar coming up, ‘2020 Year in Review’ presented by Robert Whiteford TEP on 1 March. The committee has a full programme scheduled with the return of the regular lunchtime seminars and NextGen talks. Best of all, the Annual Conference is back in October.
What do you most like about your job, and what do you feel is most worthwhile?
It is trite to say that I like helping people, but it’s a fact. I like to help people with their legal problems. I like to try to frame the problems in ways that they can understand. And I like to help resolve their problems. It is that aspect of my job that I feel is most worthwhile.
What would you say to a young person thinking of a career in this industry?
The legal profession is changing and there are many opportunities for young people, but jobs can be difficult to find. Many people are taking their practice in law in different directions. Some are looking at being mostly online, or helping other lawyers to make the most of their practice, either in a business or personal sense. Others are looking at ways of differentiating themselves by building social media recognition. If a young person is interested in law, I would encourage them, but they should be open to the various ways they can utilise their skills.
What do you feel are the main challenges facing your organisation/practitioners at the moment, and how will you deal with them?
Currently, population mobility is extremely limited, which is proving a challenge. A mobile population often means assets being held in multiple jurisdictions. That can lead to issues of private international law but, closer to home, constitutional issues, if there are disputes between residents of different Australian states. The best way to deal with these issues is to be aware of them, and know where to seek help, if needed. I gained a distinction in the STEP Advanced Certificate in Cross-Border Estates course, which gave me a solid understanding of the issues, particularly in the UK and Europe.
Which social media channels do you use and why?
I am on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, but I’m not very active! I’m hoping to make more use of these media this year because it gives me a chance to connect with people everywhere, even though I can’t travel very far. My Twitter handle is @jensheean.