Q&A with Sarah Lynch

Tiffany P. Monorom

Sarah is an alumnus from the ANU College of Law and is currently thefounder and Editor-in- Chief of BucketOrange Magazine. She recently visited the ANU campus and this is what she has to say about her career.

1. What do you miss most about law school, specifically the ANU School of Law and the ANU campus?
“I’m all about autumn at the ANU. I really miss the time of year when the stretch of Elm trees between the ANU Engineering Building and Hancock Library turn orange and yellow. It has to be one of the best and most magical places on earth. Weirdly, I also miss the smell of books in the law library. I see that students are still periodically posting pictures of desk graffiti on Instagram. The classic question “You may get a law degree … but will you get a life?” and response “Lawyers don’t need lives or personalities” is still accurate and even now makes me giggle.”

2. Why did you decide to study law?
“Good question. I was a sucker for punishment, I guess. Haha!”

3. If you could go back to being a law student, what would you have done differently?
“Well, if we’re being honest, I probably should have studied more regularly rather than leaving everything to a state of blind panic a few days before a 100% exam.”

4. Can you tell us about your career?
“I started out writing album reviews for The Canberra Times’ weekly “Fly” lift out during my uni days. After graduating I cut my teeth as a lawyer in the Federal government and worked my way up to a senior position over a couple of years before deciding to pursue my other passions for writing and music. I landed a paid writing gig (unheard of!) in the music industry at a new music marketing startup where I spent my days in a loud and sunny Sydney office, drinking coffee, listening to Belle & Sebastian, chatting with like-minded creative types and writing guides for musicians. It was a complete contrast to my previous legal role and one of the first times I realised that it was possible to reach out and make a difference in people’s lives through digital publishing.

Some pretty famous Australian artists used to visit the office – and you learn a
lot about yourself in those situations. One day I found myself alone in the bathroom with Suze DeMarchi from the 90s band Baby Animals and even though I consciously told myself to go “easy girl,” my enthusiasm was at about “10” and she needed it to be at around “2”. I ended up fangirling and completely ambushed her about how much I loved her new album. She was gracious and calm but out the door as soon as she had re-applied her signature red lipstick!”

5. How did you come up with the idea for BucketOrange Magazine?
“I think being fortunate enough to work in legal and writing roles, and getting experience in international human rights law while volunteering at a human rights centre in Botswana really helped form the idea for the publication. It crystallised in my mind that finding a way to blend all these passions and experience into an initiative that served the public good was my only logical next step. After I couldn’t find a job in the legal industry that fitted the bill or (surprisingly!) any other publications that were breaking down complex legal issues for a non-legal audience, I realised that it was up to me to start it.

I’ve always felt that having an education is a privilege and that we have a responsibility to use that privilege to help others. A law degree gives you so many insights into how to navigate life and how to protect yourself and your rights. It’s also something that most lawyers take for granted. There’s a pervasive mentality in the legal community that lawyers are the gatekeepers to the law, largely because the practice of law is a business and the industry is unfortunately overly focused on profit. My publication is working towards dispelling that falsehood and improving access to the law for young Australians – because the law affects everyone and should be accessible to everyone. The reality is that if you understand your basic legal rights, you’re much better placed to identify an everyday legal issue early and to either do something to prevent it escalating or understand when to contact a lawyer, and how to explain your problem. It saves lawyers and clients time and money and, most importantly, keeps young Australians out of the court system. To my knowledge, BucketOrange Magazine is the only independent publication with this unique preventative law focus.”

6. What do you find most challenging about starting your own business?
“I think it’s the hardest thing I have ever done, and will ever have to do. This
type of legal publishing is completely unchartered territory which is thrilling but also terrifying because there is no blueprint to follow. Everything is new. I have to constantly innovate to make sure that we stay relevant and interesting to our audience and to stay ahead of cheap imitators. Being able to influence people’s minds and shape community thinking around important social, political and legal issues is also a huge responsibility and not something that I take lightly.

Being a woman in a new leadership role in the legal industry has also attracted its own suite of challenges. Positive steps are being made towards gender equality but unfortunately we’re not there yet.”

7. Do you have any future plans for BucketOrange Magazine?
“Huge plans are brewing for the publication this year and into the future. BucketOrange has always been more than just a magazine; it’s promoting an aspirational lifestyle. We’re really excited to be collaborating with a number of different organisations to launch some very exciting initiatives that will improve the lives of young Australians. Watch this space.”

8. Do you have any advice for law students who wish to pursue alternative careers such as starting their own business?
“If your dream job doesn’t exist, then create it. Get some experience under your belt by working for a few different organisations. Use this time to get a feel for what you are passionate about, what your strengths and weaknesses are, who you are and where you really want to be with your life. This will inform which career path will be a good fit for you.

Then get out of your head. Don’t think so much. Just go for it. My career is the perfect example of why you don’t need to know where you are going, you only need to know what you love doing and the rest will naturally fall into place. Starting a business is not the time to use your lawyer brain because if you over-analyse it and worry about everything that might go wrong, you’ll never do it.

There’s also “more than one way to skin a cat.” Even though there is strong competition to secure a graduate position, if you want to work in a legal role in the private sector my advice is to try not to put so much pressure on yourself or to expect too much too soon. Take the blinkers off and try to adopt a more open-minded approach to your legal career. Landing a job at a top tier firm should not be your only metric for success. Think outside the bucket and see where it takes you.”