Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

Eggshell Skull: a well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them.’ If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skull, that victim’s weakness can not mitigate the seriousness of the crime.

This is an incredible memoir! It is well-written, articulate, but also so raw and candid. It is a rare opportunity to view the Australian justice system from two perspectives – that of working as a judge’s associate and that of a complainant in a sexual offence trial.

We follow Bri’s journey starting as a judge’s associate in the Queensland District Court and in itself this is a refreshing glimpse into a unique part of the profession. So much of what it means to work in the court system is a smoke-and-mirrors experience for members of the general community, and this memoir does a terrific job of showing what any given day as an associate can entail. Bri traveled the Queensland regional circuits with her judge, and their cases involved mostly criminal and sexual offence matters. We learn quite early into the memoir that Bri is grappling with an experience in her childhood that is forcing its way to the front of her mind, driven by what she is seeing each day at work. We then come full circle as Bri makes her own complaint and embarks upon a two-year journey for her own justice.

What I think is most effective about this memoir is how honest Bri is about her experience reporting the crimes against her. As a law graduate, former associate and later a lawyer, Bri is armed with a familiarity with black letter law, procedural knowledge, and had some insight into what she could expect from the process itself. Certainly more so than the average complainant in the Australian legal system. Given this, we still see what a harrowing, unrelenting and protracted process this is for complainants. The barriers complainants face, particularly for sexual offences, make it seem an almost insurmountable exercise in addition to the trauma of the experiences complained of. Bri writes about particular complainants she observed as an associate, and their positive outcomes in the system that gave her strength at every stage of her own journey. I found this so moving and I hope there are individuals out there that pick this book up and are similarly encouraged in their own way.

One thing that I often find lacking in the legal professional generally is discussions about mental health – it simply does not get talked about enough. Bri does not shy away from sharing her own struggles, and for this reason I particularly recommend this book to law students and young professionals. I’d also suggest picking up Jerome Doraisamy’s book ‘The Wellness Doctrines’ which is another excellent resource for young lawyers. There is much to be written of about these experiences in the profession and memoirs by individuals like Bri and Jerome go a long way to shining light on an often overlooked aspect of being a young professional. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Special thanks to my friend Matthew Hickey who sent me a copy of the book (all the way to Texas!)

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