Interview with Tegun Middleton
2022 Australian Young Lawyer Award Winner
What does it mean to you to be awarded the 2022 Australian Young Lawyer Award?
It is a real privilege to be recognised for my achievements in this way and join the cohort of inspiring young lawyers who have received this award before me.
Throughout my career, I have had the privilege to work with some incredible young lawyers and law students who have dedicated themselves to making a genuine positive impact on the communities in which we operate and making our profession one that fosters and prioritises healthy minds. This award is in recognition of those contributions, all of which have been made together with others or encouraged and facilitated by my workplace and my mentors.
Over the course of your career so far, what are some of the key highlights you are most proud of?
Co-Founding The Legal Forecast as a graduate with a few like-minded and passionate young professionals who recognised that you don’t have to be a senior and experienced practitioner to make moves to shape the future of our profession. The Legal Forecast is a charitable organisation established and run by early career professionals who are passionate about disruptive thinking, access to justice and mental well-being in the legal profession. In what started as an idea between a couple of friends written on a napkin in a cafe in the West End of Brisbane, has in a few short years developed into a national brand operating in all capital cities with over 55 volunteer committee members.
This would have to be the stand out experience - I have learnt so much about leadership, advocacy, mental health awareness and resilience, corporate governance and managing a not-for-profit organisation, how to establish and develop meaningful connections across all corners of the profession; all while building life-long friendships in the process.
Other key highlights include:
- Working with the Board of the Lovewell Foundation (a charity supporting vulnerable women) for the past 15 months and assisting them navigate the struggles of the not-for-profit sector and operation of social enterprises;
- Recent work for the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service to assist families with their offshore humanitarian visa applications; and
- Providing pro bono advice to the Climate Foundation to assist them to establish marine permaculture arrays in Queensland and Tasmania that act as a carbon sink and are working to restore coral reefs and associated marine ecosystems.
What’s next? What do you aspire to do in 2023 and beyond?
Involvement in leadership roles in the not for profit sector is something I will always carry on throughout my career. I’m excited for the next phase in the journey for the Lovewell Foundation and seeing what 2023 has in store for the charity and the women we support.
From your perspective, what are some of the key legal issues and challenges the legal profession needs to focus on, particularly for young lawyers?
I feel there won’t be any surprises in my response here given the focus of my own contributions in this space. These are two important matters that, as a profession, we have been focusing on for a number of years but the problem seems to be growing at a faster rate than the effort we are injecting into working on them:
- Mental health and well-being in the profession - still a long way to go here.
- Declining availability of funding for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and an increasing workload for those centres – it is becoming more and more important for firms and legal practitioners to think of innovative ways to support CLCs and offer pro bono services and other volunteer support where we can. Domestic violence, homelessness, and global conflict are all dramatically increasing, placing pressure on our already stretched pro bono legal services industry.