Opening the curtains on a new career: theatre producer-turned-solicitor
“I don’t seem like a ‘crazy artist’ but that’s the world I was in before law,” says Genevieve Barry, a long-time volunteer with Marrickville Legal Centre.
“A lot of people think art and law is a strange combination, but art teaches you to empathise with people going through hard times and law is about getting people through difficult times. I think there’s a real connection,” says Genevieve, who completed a Juris Doctor with the University of Sydney Law School and was recently admitted as a solicitor.
Have you always wanted to study law?
As a kid I’d always planned to be a lawyer but when it came time to start a career, art seemed like the most attractive avenue. My Dad was a barrister who worked in Family Law and Mental Health and after he died in 2013 I thought, ‘There’s no time like the present’ and so I applied to do my Juris Doctor.
What attracted you to study law?
The whole world is basically teetering on this artificial basis that we all obey the law. We all somehow collectively agreed that we would follow these laws and I find that really interesting. I’ve always thought of law as being a real public service. I can help people who need help and that’s what interests me.
Where did your career take you before studying law?
I finished my Masters in Arts Administration and Curation and ran Berkelouw Books, with 12 stores, from 2010 to 2013: one of the things we did was start writers’ events and the cafe. Then I worked for a year at Performing Lines, an Australian touring theatre company, and also did some independent curating. Those things were really interesting and enjoyable but it just never felt like enough.
Why did you choose Marrickville Legal Centre to do your Practical Legal Training (supervised training to become a solicitor)?
I saw an ad from MLC and I thought: ‘This is probably going to be the best decision because it’s trial by fire.’ I knew I’d be getting experience in criminal law, family law, civil law and the whole gamut of all sorts of law. I learnt in four months what would have taken me a year to learn elsewhere. You can be exposed to anything and everything if you’re open to it.
What’s great about working in a community legal centre is that you get to follow the matter from meeting the client to taking them to court and representing them and if you get a positive outcome it’s just incredible. I understand the legal process more and I understand how to develop relationships with the client more when I’m working with them from start to finish.
How did you feel when you found out you were to be admitted?
Relieved! It’s such an intense application process with your academic record, character references, Practical Legal Training confirmation, police check and you have to be assessed as a fit and proper person and it’s a culmination of 3 to 4 years of hard work. Now I'm excited about what's going to happen next!
What are people surprised to learn about you?
I don’t seem like a ‘crazy artist’ but that’s the world I was in before law. I like facilitating creative spaces for other people, I’ve even MC’d a few weddings. In fact my Mum, Marcia Barry, and my sister, Anna Barry, and I have a production company called TUELLEing. We’ve produced cabaret shows and charity events. A lot of people think art and law is a strange combination but art teaches you to empathise with people going through hard times and law is about getting people through difficult times. I think there’s a real connection.
Genevieve Barry is photographed (at right) after being admitted as a solicitor with MLC youth solicitor Katie Green.