Written by Julia Day

Sometimes you meet a kindred spirit- someone who shares your interests and passions in life.

I recently experienced this when talking to Monicka Baird who is a #UNELaw alumnus. I was expecting to talk to Monicka about her new law firm and how she has incorporated her love of technology into her business. Of course we did talk about this- more on that later- but arguably more importantly, we quickly realised we both loved gardening and growing our own food. I was admittedly jealous when Monicka told me her husband had set up a growing house for her to relish in her passions!!

Like many of us, Monicka’s love of gardening was piqued in her childhood. Her dad was a keen gardener and the family always had a vegie garden in the backyard.  Monicka’s passion for nature was one of the main reasons she chose to study at UNE. When she was a child she used to travel through Armidale- she was always fascinated by the poplars which introduced her to the academic city- especially during the autumn months! When she was choosing a university, UNE was front of mind.

From the age of 10, Monicka has aspired to be a lawyer. She used to watch Perry Mason with her dad and she loved the processes of the law. She started studying law a couple of times, but life kept getting in the way. When Monicka was in her 40s, she decided ‘enough was enough’ and it was time to finally complete her law degree. Unsurprisingly, Monicka chose to couple her law degree with a science degree.

Whilst studying as an on campus student for a year, Monicka became well known for riding her electric scooter to UNE.  She always parked outside the Law School’s entrance.  After taking off her distinctive yellow helmet with black stripes, Monicka either ventured into the law school or walked across the road to the Botany department where she would often be met by botanists Jeremy Bruhl and David Backhouse. Whilst studying on campus Monicka described herself as ‘the ultimate nerd- I always sat at the front of the class so I could soak up the material.’ 

Her favourite subject during her law degree was Intellectual Property Law with Professor Mark Perry. She even topped the unit!! She also has fond memories of visiting Beijing University for a mooting competition with Professor Lillian Corbin. She was excited to win the competition’s Oralist Award.

After she graduated with her double degree, she completed her practical legal training and then a Masters in Law through the College of Law. After completing other professional accreditations, Monicka found a job in Grafton doing rural property law. She fell in love with this area of law and later chose to work for a community legal centre where she specialised in elder abuse.

Just before the pandemic hit Australia in early March, Monicka set up her own legal practice at the tender age of 62. Within her practice, she specialises in elder abuse as well as property, conveyancing and wills and estates. Since working in legal practice, she has actively implemented more cost effective and environmentally friendly digital processes. Monicka notes ‘you can now do transactions such as electronic conveyancing and document transfers and witnessing of wills electronically. It is now just a matter of waiting for the legislation to catch up with the technology. One silver lining of the Covid 19 situation may be that this new technology will be implemented more quickly than it otherwise would have been.’

Monicka attributes a lot of her success to her supportive husband. In fact she still cites her wedding day as one of the best days of her life so far. A close second was her admission ceremony. When she was admitted, Monicka notes ‘I couldn’t stop crying. This was a problem as I was wearing makeup and a white jacket.’  After the ceremony she wrote a heartfelt letter to Judge Bathurst who is the Chief Judge of the NSW Supreme Court. She was thrilled when he wrote back a beautiful letter wishing her well in her legal journey.

Just like Gwyneth Paltrow’s journey in the iconic movie ‘Sliding Doors,’ Monicka often wonders what her life would have been like if she completed her law degree earlier in life. She is thrilled though that #UNELaw gave her the opportunity to fulfil her lifelong dream of studying law when the time was right for her!

Thank you for sharing your story Monicka!