Devonport lawyer takes inaugural TLA Staff Award
When Legal Aid Criminal lawyer Kirsten Abercromby heard she had won the inaugural Tasmania Legal Aid Staff Award it was a unique experience.
“I think it was the first time in my life I had been speechless,” she said. “I was baffled and perplexed and very flattered.”
The award was presented to Kirsten during a ceremony at Government House in Hobart on 4 May by Governor Kate Warner. There were few colleagues shocked to hear the Devonport-based solicitor had taken the gong. Many said Kirsten was a worthy and obvious choice.
“It was flattering to be recognised. I love my job and like most people expect no recognition whatsoever because it's a wonderful job, and it's nice to work for Legal Aid and it never occurred to me that it would result in any kind of award.”
Kirsten said the “human side” of her work keeps her going, relating to clients at their level, asking lots of questions and making sure everything is covered. “I like the ability to make people feel more at ease.”
“I suppose after 10 years, it becomes a knack of being able to communicate well with people in the end and talk to them on their level and make them feel like their level is my level,” she said.
“Sometimes you need to be a bit more careful in what you're telling someone and how you're giving it to them. But it's important not to make them feel like they're being treated differently to other people.
“I'm acutely aware of the fact that when we deal with people, they are at their lowest point. Often they're coming to you in circumstances that are the worst that they could have been [for them].
“It's often the most awful, awful thing that's happened to them.”
Carrying all that weight takes its toll, so Kirsten maintains strict parameters around her work-life balance that help her go the distance.
“I think having and enforcing rules upon yourself I think is important, enforcing a work life balance is important,” she said.
“My rule is, I will come in early but I will not stay late. I will come in on the weekend if I need to, but I try not to stay at the end of the day when I'm tired, I'm hungry and I have people at home waiting. That's really important to me.”
Kirsten said she rarely brings her own work home, although she often reads through the judgements, court transcripts and inquests from other cases out of pure interest. At other times she will listen to true crime podcasts or leaf through a whodunit.
But when she really needs a break from the law, Kirsten seeks out trivia competitions. A self-confessed trivia nut, Kirsten admits that while she is “not built for sports” she is very competitive.
“So, ergo I channel all my competitiveness into either work or trivia,” she said.