Two Griffith University law graduates passionate about social justice are reshaping the profession.
Minnie Hannaford and Maddy Harrington were recently elected to the Queensland Law Society‘s (QLS) Future Leaders Committee.
The new committee will put issues like mental health and diversity at the top of the agenda, providing a platform to help young lawyers change the culture of their profession.
One of Australia’s first openly transgender lawyers, Maddy is hoping to make the legal profession more inclusive.
“You can’t be what you don’t see, and so I use my visibility as an openly transgender woman to show that being in the law is not off limits to people of transgender experience,” she said.
“I’m comfortable, open and out, but I’ve had friends who’ve had very different experience in the legal profession.
“Times are changing, but there is still a lot of work to be done – these kinds of cultural changes don’t happen overnight.”
Fellow Griffith Law School graduate Minnie Hannaford graduated in 2014, and has spent the past five years juggling a high-flying career as a litigator with pro bono work at community legal centres, helping refugees and asylum seekers navigate the legal process.
She is now an associate at a large national commercial law firm, Holding Redlich, and is keen to advocate for young lawyers across Queensland.
“Almost half of the members of the Queensland Law Society are 35 years and younger – this committee provides an opportunity for their voices and concerns to be heard,” she said.
“We have a great chance to make an impact on the profession at large.”
Minnie said her experience as a young woman of colour had made her determined to make the profession more open and inclusive of people from all backgrounds.
“The most obvious gains have been in gender diversity and I’ve noticed real change taking place, but the conversation can’t stop at gender,” she said.
“It can seem overwhelming, but that is no reason to stop having these discussions.
“This profession can be slow to change, but we’ve made giant leaps already and I’m excited to see how we can improve the experience of being a lawyer in Queensland.”
Born in Ethiopia and adopted by Australian parents at the age of three, Minnie said she was driven by a passion for social justice and equal opportunity.
“I’ve always been an advocate – I grew up knowing the value that comes from including people with different experiences and stories,” she said.
“The opportunity to study at Griffith shaped me in more ways than I realised. It fired my passion for social justice and a focus on ensuring that quality education is accessible to people from all backgrounds.
“I got into the legal profession to make the biggest impact I could – the law is something that affects all of us, it binds us together and touches every human.
“The experience I had at Griffith made me unafraid to be myself and make my presence known.”