Law Clerk in the Legal Development Program at the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
In the 10 years since Ashley dropped out of her undergraduate law degree she's lived overseas, worked as an actor and earned a Bachelor of Social Work, which saw her work at RPA Hospital for seven years.
As a practising social worker seeking systemic change, Ashley was challenged by her sister: ‘Why don’t you get that law degree?’, and so her journey to the Juris Doctor at a law school in Sydney began.
While she has immense respect for social work, she's aware of its limitations. "I could see the law has power to implement change on a macro level and could be a more effective vehicle for redressing systemic issues," says Ashley.
In 2017 she was awarded the Judicial Conference of Australia Scholarship. "The scholarship provided a symbolic recognition of my unpaid ‘roles’ as an intern and mentor with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, roles that gave me the opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself," recalls Ashley.
Her advice to JD students: "Your grades don’t define you and there is always more than one way to get where you want to go. I studied law when I left school but found it too hard and dropped out. After working as a social worker, I discovered that I wanted to practise law. By that time, I had a better idea of what I wanted and that helped me get through it."
Australian Government agency lawyer
Before studying the JD, Rhys worked in corporate finance (mergers and acquisitions) in Perth advising corporations and private equity clients on executing transactions, primarily in the mining sector. Rhys enjoyed the adrenaline rush that accompanied the closure of a deal but found it difficult to find meaning in the work. He found the prospect of helping people in circumstances where individual rights, dignity, and justice may be threatened highly appealing and saw in law the opportunity of a more rewarding and engaging career.
In 2011, Rhys moved to Sydney to start his Juris Doctor degree. Recalling the decisions, Rhys says; "I found it challenging to give up a full-time salary and felt I was falling behind my peers in relative career progression. There were times when I questioned whether I had made the right move. It was not until I completed my first legal case, an experience I found to be night and day compared to finance in terms of job satisfaction, that I knew it was all worth it."
His advice to JD students: "Think outside the box. A law degree opens up so many career opportunities far beyond any other degree and working for a law firm only scratches the surface of possibilities. The critical thinking and communication skills to be gained from studying law are looked upon favourably universally by employers which allows you to apply your new craft in many different fields."
Law Graduate at Corrs Chambers Westgarth
During her arts degree, Elizabeth did her honours thesis in Political Economy, where she examined the operation and regulation of financial markets. Intrigued by the legal aspects of her research she realised she could leverage her existing skills and interests with a career in law.
As a postgraduate student, Elizabeth recalls how focused she was in her goals. "I walked into law school knowing that I wanted to be a corporate lawyer. It guided the work experience I pursued and the subjects I chose."
Elizabeth undertook a series of work placements to gain industry experience, explaining the benefits of this, she says: “I was lucky enough to get my foot in the door by securing a job as a legal assistant for a barrister in the summer before starting law. This experience was invaluable once clerkship season rolled around, as I was able to say I had a year and a half of legal experience in commercial litigation.”
Elizabeth was a recipient of the Wigram Allen JD Scholarship. “The scholarship took an enormous amount of financial pressure off. During busy exam and clerkship periods, I was able to reduce my work load and not have to stress about expenses,” she says.
Her advice to JD students: “Some words of wisdom from my Senior Associate: 'Your career is a marathon, not a sprint'. If you set the foundation for sustainable habits and self-care during your degree, I believe those skills can ensure you enjoy a long and enjoyable career in the law."
Tax Director at KPMG Law
Joel considered the JD degree after eight years working in corporate tax. "Many of my colleagues were lawyers and I could see the benefits of their training. I’d always been curious about the rules that govern society and how those rules develop over time," says Joel.
Joel explains how the JD has given him new skills while enhancing his existing qualifications: “Learning about the rules of evidence has been invaluable, as much of my job includes assessing the likely strength of a taxpayer’s position, should a dispute result in litigation. I regularly draw on the knowledge I gained of contract law, equity, administrative law, and so on.”
During his JD degree, Joel attended Harvard Law School as part of a student exchange and in 2017 was part of Sydney Law School's mooting team that won the the world’s most prestigious mooting competition, the Jessup Moot in Washington DC. Joel was named best speaker, and the team won Best Overall Written Memorials and Best Applicant Memorial.
His advice to JD students: "First, think about why you want to study law. It may sound obvious, but the practice of law is very different from what a TV show might suggest. Consider reading an introductory law book, if you haven’t already. Second, try to ensure that you appreciate the level of commitment required — a law degree can be a hard slog. If this hasn’t put you off, go for it! I found my time studying for the Juris Doctor hugely rewarding, and I can wholeheartedly recommend Sydney Law School."
Applications are now open to study the Juris Doctor in 2020. Apply by 10 January 2020.