Thi Mai Huong Nong
Huong Nong is a Junior Counsel at The World Bank’s Vietnam Country Office. She completed her LLM at the University of Sydney Law School in 2011.
What made you decide to study law, and why did you choose Sydney Law School?
My mum is a judge, and a long time ago when I asked why she chose law as her profession, she said ‘because studying law helps me to do everything within the most acceptable framework, therefore I become confident’. I was impressed by what she told me, and after years pursuing legal study, I am happy that I chose this path.
In 2010 I was granted an AusAid scholarship to take a legal master degree in any Australian university that I wanted. To an international student like me, the time spent in Australia should not only be for academic studying, but also an opportunity to explore the beautiful features of this developed country. Upon searching on the internet and consulting with some friends and relatives, I decided to choose Sydney Law School. First of all, it is an educational education bearing the name of a dynamic city which has the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge and attracts the attention of the whole world for its fireworks event on every New Year’s Eve. In addition, the school is reputable for having excellent research facilities, curriculum and professors. Now I realise that these expectations were merely a part of what I got – my successful study must also have counted on the kind support of all school staff, lecturers and the student community.
Where has the study of law taken you in your career and/or life in general?
I completed my LLB in Vietnam, and during the first three years after graduation I was working for the US-based law firm Baker & McKenzie in their local offices. It was an exciting experience serving clients as corporations or individuals, however I have always wished to do something for community development in a broader scope.
As part of the LLM degree at Sydney Law School, I was lucky enough to attend a unit of study named ‘Law and Economic Development’ conducted by an ADB senior lawyer. The very practical knowledge about typical activities of development banks (eg. project cycle, lending instruments, or how those lending supports developing countries like Vietnam in realising their national targets) helped me to recall what my greatest dream was, and I started thinking about a new job in one of those institutions. My lecturer also gave me invaluable encouragement that I could do well in that field.
These inspirations made me feel really excited about applying for a legal position in a development bank upon completing my LLM degree in August 2011. On the other hand, I was a little bit worried that the global economic crisis would cause difficulties for such a job shift. However, right after coming back to Vietnam, I noticed that the World Bank’s country office had opened a job post for a Junior Counsel. Thinking that this was such a great opportunity to realise my dream, I applied, and went through all competitive tests and interviews. And I succeeded! I still feel so happy and proud to be the first local lawyer in the history of the World Bank’s country office.
Looking back at the path I have followed and what I have presented in the recruitment tests and interviews, I trust that the unique knowledge and skills learnt from the Sydney Law School have helped me to get my dream job. In fact, these knowledge and skills have also formed a good basis for me to have been doing well in this position.
What is your fondest memory of your time at Sydney Law School?
I loved discussing endlessly with classmates and lecturers on my favourite legal topics, making friends with a lot of folks from all around the globe (and we recently saw each other again in Vietnam during the past few months!) and feeling proud when wearing the graduation gown and walking through the timeless corridors of our beautiful Main Quad.
What one piece of advice would you give to law students today?
For those who are thinking about studying a legal master course, it is better if you have some work experience after the first law degree and prior to commencing the next one. Once you have practiced in real life, you can determine more clearly what you really like amongst various legal topics, and that should be a nice basis on which to choose your units for the master degree and to contribute better to class seminars and discussions. Law firms are among the best places for this first-stage experience, since their tough working environment will train you extensively and intensively. This is what the fresh bachelor graduates really need, in my view.