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  • Keegan Thomson

A day in the life of... a human rights lawyer

LAWYERS are often seen as these ruthless, courtroom hawks who swoop down and take as much as they can before flying onto another case, but Kingsley Liu is fighting to change that perception.

Operating out of his home in Penrith, Kingsley Liu said the reason he became a human rights lawyer is not for the money or the prestige but instead because he wanted to do better than the rest.

“I met so many dodgy people who were lawyers and I thought, I can do a better job than you, so I decided to become a lawyer,” Mr Liu said.

“I always thought I could do a better job in serving, in client relations, in helping the community and trying to impact the community in a positive way, compared to other lawyers out there.

“A lawyer has the opportunity to engage in the community, if he or she wishes to, but there are quite a lot of lawyers who don’t take up that opportunity,” he said.

Across a week Mr Liu will not just fight for cases which involve human rights disputes, he will also help and service the community in need. He said in the past week he has had a lot of consultation on the phone.

“A certain amount of advice I’ll offer up for free,” he said. “If someone calls me up and it is a simple solution then I’ll tell them what they can do themselves, because that is what people in the community want really, free advice.

“However if it gets to the stage where I’ve got to run around, write letters and go to court, then I’ll work out a deal for someone,” he said. “This means I’m more likely to take on complicated cases because they’re always interesting to me, particularly when you’ve got to go to court.”

One of the most important skills you need to have as a lawyer, according to Mr Liu, is the ability to network with others. “I’ve lived overseas for about 20 years of my life, and through my contacts, my friends and my networks I’ve broadened my horizons,” he said. “Just last week I was in talks, offering advice, to someone in Hong Kong.”

“It is important to retain your connections no matter where you are,” he said.

Besides their hawking style of work, lawyers are also known for their long work hours and uber commitment to their careers, but Mr Liu says what is more important is a balanced work and social life.

“I don’t open up before 9 and I make sure everyone is on their way home around 5 PM because it is important to reflect on your life,” he said.

“If you have time to reflect then you might find some extra meaning in life that isn’t the mundane and the usual meaning of life,” Mr Liu added.

All in all, Mr Liu said the most important part of being a human rights lawyer and a community solicitor is the ability to engage deeply with your community.

“It is really important to be involved deeply in the community because as a community lawyer you’re not just feasting on the back, you’re actually involved in building the community”

One piece of advice Mr Liu gave for up-coming law students is the ability to maintain relationships is key.

“The most important thing about law is whilst the theory is about truth, justice and to some people they think it is a career, but don’t forget it is all about managing relationships,” Mr Liu said. “The art of relations is very key.”

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