Julann Tiernan: Juggling family and law and the importance of taking the pressure off
Julann is a Family Lawyer and has her own digital law firm called Tiernan Family Law. Julann started her law degree when she was 30 and with a newborn baby. While studying law, Julann worked as a Police Officer and also began raising her family of five children — amazing right!? Julann is living proof that it is never too late to start a law degree if it is where your passion lies and that it is possible to juggle work, family and law if you have the right mindset!
Julann commenced her law degree a little later than some people, having already started two other degrees and while working as a Police Officer. Julann also had a newborn while studying law and remembers having to juggle babysitting duty at University with her previous Husband who was also studying at the time. Julann, like many of us, started her law degree with an interest in Criminal Law, but following a paralegal opportunity after Julann had finished her degree and PLT, Julann found herself in Family Law. Julann’s personal life experience of a marriage break down and raising children were also factors which impacted on her decision to work in family law, having a personal understanding of what client’s may go through. Following Julann’s first job as a paralegal in a law firm, Julann worked as a Family Lawyer for a couple of different firms and gained experience.When Julann had 4.5 years PAE (post admission experience) she completed her Specialist Accreditation and then decided that it was time to start her own firm. Julann’s firm, Tiernan Family Law, is a virtual law firm meaning that there is no physical office and that Julann utilities modern technology to run her firm. Julann decided from her experience working in law that she wanted to do things in a different way and so Tiernan Family Law was born.
Juggling a large family
Julann has five children and my question was — how did you do it all!? Julann’s answer was that she really doesn’t know! Julann explains that she never mapped out having a large family and her career in law and how that all would fit together, she just worked it out as she went. Julann explains that while we are often perfectionists and like to have all of our ducks in a row, when you are juggling so many things — that just often isn’t possible. Julann focused on each task in the moment — focusing on study when she had her study hat on and then on her children when she had her Mum hat on. Julann says that it is important to be able to let the little things go that aren’t as important so that you don’t go crazy. Julann says that she does face Mum guilt when she has to say no to her children because she can’t manage a Birthday party, but that you can’t do it all and you need to cut yourself a break when you have a lot on your plate.
Planning is important
Although Julann doesn’t consider herself overly organised, she sits down each Sunday and maps out all of the activities that her and her family have on that week and then puts it on the fridge so that everyone can see what the week looks like. Julann also utilises her calendar and bookings in her phone so that she can ensure that she is alerted when events are coming up and so that she can have a look in the morning and know what the day ahead looks like.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Julann says a skill that she has definitely become better at over the years is taking the pressure off herself and accepting that she can’t do it all. Julann says that you do what you can and fit in what you can, but also acknowledge your limits — like having to pick the children up at 3:00pm — and understand that the world will still keep turning if you don’t do it all. Julann says that she has improved this skill by doing it and as she has gained life experience she has had to accept that she is only human and sometimes you need to cut yourself a break. Julann explains that if you put too much pressure on yourself, and you fall in a heap as a result, then you are no good to anyone anyway. Julann explains that taking the pressure off is very important, particularly when you have a family or are just starting a family while studying, and to accept that it might take you longer than you want. If you need to take some time away, to defer or to drop a subject or two, that isn’t the end of the world and that if you persist, you will get in the end.
Make time for self care
Julann says that one thing that she has learnt over the years, especially as she has gotten busier, is to make sure she takes the time to down tools and recharge. Julann says she found this particularly difficult when she first started Tiernan Family Law because she felt that she needed to be available to clients on the weekend. Julann says that she tries to do as little as possible now on the weekends so that she has time to recharge. Julann says that if you don’t take time out to recharge, you run the risk of burning out.
It’s not too late to start
As I mentioned earlier, Julann started her law degree just after turning 30. I have often heard from people thinking of studying law that it’s too late and they are too old, that ship has sailed kind of thing. But Julann, like me, believes that it is never too late to start law. If that is where your passion lies, you still have plenty of time and your age is no barrier to having a successful career in law. Julann says that when you get older, you have gained valuable life experience and you also have had time to put thought into what it is that you actually want to do. Julann believes that studying when you are older, you are more likely to know where you want to end up.
Make connections with people who can help you
Julann’s experience has been that having a mentor and someone who can give you some practical exposure to law is greatly beneficial. Julann doesn’t believe that she had a solid understanding of the practical application of the law during law school, because the degree is so heavily based in theory and learning the black letter law. Julann says that if you know someone who is in the industry and who can give you exposure to Court and communication with clients, that will really assist you later on.
Be open to opportunities
Julann explains that there are a lot of different ways to study and to make the most of all of the options available to you. There is external study, you can drop subjects if you have too much on your plate, and it can be helpful to make the most of these flexible options. Julann, like myself, first got into law thinking she would be a Criminal Lawyer, and we are now both Family Lawyers (how did that happen!?). Julann says that there are so many different options available and not to be too set on a particular area because you may change your mind. It’s okay if you don’t know what area of law that you want to specialise in because it can be helpful to keep your options open as you may be offered an opportunity that can lead you to an area of law that you may not have previously considered. Julann worked as a paralegal in a Family Law firm and that is how she ended up working in family law, despite having been a Police Officer and previously having had an interest in Criminal Law.
Check your expectations
I think it is normal when you finish your law degree to feel a sense of entitlement — you’ve just survived this hard degree, made sacrifices — so you deserve an awesome job right!? I certainly felt like this, and I am lucky enough to have found an amazing job, but it is so important to check your expectations. Julann explains that you can’t expect to have a great salary or job straight out of law school and that you just need to start somewhere and start learning — you’ll get to your end goal eventually. This is hard one (well, I sure found it to be) but I think if you start to understand earlier in your degree that you won’t be on the big money or doing the serious lawyer work straight away, it will be easier to accept when you are at that point. Julann took a paralegal position in order to get her grounding in law and to then move onto her next step. Julann also says it is important to consider both small and large firms as they both have their pros and cons, but to not discount a firm because the pay rate is less because they may offer you better mentorship and support. Julann says it is harder now that we have PLT and not Articles, because we aren’t getting the practical experience that law graduates once were, so we need to factor that in when looking for our first jobs.
Julann’s awesome tips
Be open to opportunities that you may not have thought about!
Be flexible and kind to yourself and give yourself time to finish your degree!
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you are juggling family, work, study and other commitments!
Make time for self care — you will be no good to anyone if you don’t!
It’s not too late to start your law degree and have a successful career in law!
Julann is happy for you to reach out to her on LinkedIn if you have any questions -
Julann’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/julann-tiernan-06220069/