Thinking outside the circle

Méabh Loughnane has spent the last three years balancing her studies in the JD with her role as Co-founder and CEO of Chalk Circle | The Gender Literacy Foundation. Her work in the primary prevention of domestic violence across Australia has informed her newfound passion in law: family law and child protection.

“Whilst I never had any regrets, I did spend the first two years of my JD study worrying that I hadn’t found an area I wanted to practice in,” Meabh says.

“I had made so many friends and loved the JD experience, but was beginning to feel a bit daunted by the prospect that maybe I didn’t want to practice law.”

It wasn’t until Meabh missed out on a first-preference elective in her fourth year that she enrolled in Family Law.

She reflects that she probably should have known this area of practice would spark her interest, given her experience working in the closely-related area of primary prevention.

In 2013, Meabh had gained funding under a Hillary Clinton Female Empowerment in the Asia Pacific scheme to establish a gender literacy foundation with the mission to create conversations around gender literacy to empower the next generation.

“My mentor, Michelle Noon, and I set up this organisation to engage the community with credible, relatable and empowering information regarding gender literacy,” Méabh says.

Our aim was to empower the next generation through educational programs about the effects of rigid gender roles and their relationship with gender inequality, discrimination, oppression and violence.”

Through her work in setting up an incorporated association, Meabh found herself getting incidental legal experience.

“I ended up doing a large part of the legal research and we also organised pro-bono legal services provided by Allens in the area of tax law and trademarking.”

Once she found her way to the family law elective at MLS, Meabh was instantly captivated by her teacher, Belinda Fehlberg.

“From day one of class I was so engaged,” she says.

“Belinda is an amazing teacher, she was so welcoming and encouraging of further participation, and is always up for great chats after class about policy issues and practice opportunities in this area.”

So while Méabh has discovered a new area she wishes to pursue, it has also meant saying goodbye to an old one.

“Studying and being heavily involved in a start-up has been a huge juggling exercise for the last three years. At the start of this year I decided that I really wanted to focus on the last year of my legal studies,” she says.

“It was time to step down from the massive responsibility and pressure that comes with being the CEO of a start-up organisation and enjoy the last year of my study.”

Find out more about the Melbourne JD