University lifestyle is outwardly and undeniably demanding. There is a requirement for rigorous diligence, the ability to absorb a wealth of content and detail, opportunities for international study, life-long friendships and fantastic career prospects. But beyond this, students must come to terms with several harsh, brutal truths; some of which are far more prevalent and concerning for undergrads. I believe my familiarity with various personal challenges may elucidate some of these realities.
Perhaps the most prevalent psychological encounter for students is adjusting to the life of a university student. Even for those who appear to smoothly transition, several difficult obstacles must be addressed. Indeed, there is an essential need to balance – students can often be suddenly confronted with endless time, and little plan for what to do with such time. For me, this incited a hollowness to my daily routine.
Simultaneously, fitting in also becomes an immediate preoccupation. You can assume a new identity, entertain new experiences, excel, fail; there is potential for each of these possibilities at university. It’s something that people may or may not have mastered in high school, or even from early primary school.
But it’s so materially different at university.
I lived at Mannix College for my first academic year, in 2017. I – subject to my perception of my circumstances at the time – struggled, daily and significantly. At college, you are indeed, to quote William Henley, the master of your fate and you are awarded full autonomy in all your duties. I loved my time at Mannix College and I hold fond memories and friendships that were founded in those halls. But, for those who have never spent a night in a boarding house, the college routine can be very overwhelming. Sure, I maintained a 4.0 GPA; sure, I received awards for my grades; sure, I stood out in my classes. But did I focus on building relationships? Was I content with my social outreach? Were “heck yeah!” or “sure!” my usual responses to social invites? No. I lived in a textbook and I – therefore – became one.
Having reflected upon that, where do we go from here? My open and immediate advice is to talk to people. Many shy away from communication and transparency, due to fear of appearing weak, spineless or soft.
“For males particularly, there is a familiar historical convention to leave personal psychological matters unsaid, to, rather, bury these issues deep down away. I urge nobody to do this, unless you are prepared for a life of internal anxiety that can envelope your later life.”
Talk to someone. Call your parents. Meet with a friend. Write it down. Tangibly project your emotions out into the world with no fear of inviting social labels and intention to be heard. Because more than we realise and often contrary to our perception, somebody is usually listening and willing help.
Every student faces different circumstances; everyone is perceptually separate, even only slightly. And if there was a universal remedy to these issues, it would be identified by now. Take time to understand yourself and don’t be afraid to go slowly. Perhaps, even only for a few, it’s a matter of private perspective.
Look within – be patient – remember that there are greater forces behind you in this life.
Patrick Stratmann (Guest Contribution)
Patrick Stratmann is a 2nd year Bachelor of Law’s (Hons)/Bachelor of Arts student, presently working as a paralegal at Youthlaw. He is currently developing a freelance documentary, ‘Exploits of a Freshman’, that explores the mental health challenges of first year students directly transitioning from Year 12. Find him on Instagram @patstrat30
In this instalment of our interview series we had the pleasure of interviewing Emma Heuston, Practice Leader (Partner equivalent) at LegalVision and Australian pioneer of the flexible worker movement. Or, as it is fondly nicknamed, the Tracksuit Economy.
‘Flexible work’ can be described as giving employees the choice and freedom to choose how long as well as where and when they can work. As lawyers are nearly four times as likely to be depressed as other professionals, being able to choose the parameters of your working life can be a liberating and life-changing freedom. As well as raising a family and smashing the glass ceiling, Emma is also the published author of “The Tracksuit Economy”, where she discusses her passion for re-framing the way we work and why she believes flexible work is the way of the future.
In this interview Christian asks Emma about her thoughts on the way technology is impacting employment and wellbeing in the legal sector, social justice and gender diversity, and what she thinks law students should strive for if they want a happy, healthy and fulfilling career in the law.
Hi Emma, thanks for agreeing to this interview! Could you share a little bit about your journey through law school? Do you think that law school prepares us adequately for the trials and tribulations of a legal career?
I went to law school from 1996 – 1999 (as part of my combined Bachelor of Arts/ Bachelor of Laws degree at University of New England, Armidale). At the time I went to law school it was very theory based, with very little practical application, aside from the odd moot court and my regular volunteering at the Local Community Legal Service towards the end of my degree.
Given this was 20 years ago, I understand things have changed somewhat, as my marking of subjects like “Legal Drafting” at UNE in recent years have shown. In all honesty I felt law school taught me the skills to look up legal questions I didn’t know. However, it did not teach me how to deal with difficult clients, how to deal with information from family law or crime cases or to manage the priorities of day to day legal practice. While my Professional Legal Practice course at College of Law NSW went some way to bridging these gaps, most of my learning was “on the job” in the first couple of years of practice, which I spent in the small town of Scone in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley.
What general advice could you give university students who are excited by the prospect of ‘NewLaw’ and interested in working in trailblazing firms such as LegalVision?
Context: LegalVision is often cited as an Australian pioneer of the ‘NewLaw’ disruption happening in the legal sector. Considering that quality legal experience is increasingly harder to obtain, it appears that “soft skills” such as emotional intelligence (EQ) and tech skills are now becoming important for employability.
Competition is fierce for spots at LegalVision (and for graduate jobs in general). Candidates need to stand out from the crowd and show they not only have the legal skills but are not afraid to deal with clients or find solutions for problems. For example, many of our employees started as part time content writers or paralegals during their final years of study who have showed promise and been promoted into graduate roles.
All LegalVision graduate candidates enter the firm through our “client care” team and help clients who call in or contact us online. They are the first point of call many of the LegalVision clients have with the firm and must be personable, empathetic and willing and able to solve problems.
Do you think that ‘NewLaw’ changes to the legal sector, such as flexible working and anti-hierarchical organisational structures, could go some way to solving some of the social justice problems we face in our profession?
Context: A national report by the Law Council in 2016 found that almost one in four female lawyers have been subjected to sexual harassment in Australia. The traditional hierarchical structure of law firms has been cited as an enabler of this behaviour. Namely, senior lawyers and partners can take advantage of the power disparity that exists between themselves and junior lawyers to engage in inappropriate sexual behaviour.
New law and advents such as working remotely do help flatten out the hierarchical power structure of traditional law firms. For example, our use of tech at LegalVision means there are no secretaries employed. The firm culture also ensures we treat the CEO as we would firm juniors. That being said, while this certainly assists the disruption of the traditional old school law firm mentality, only deep seated cultural change and education in schools and universities will make a big difference. For example, while ever scandals such as hazing and sexual abuse continue in university colleges, the fact that the students responsible for that discrimination at university enter the workforce will mean the legacy continues into the workforce
Do you think that the mainstream implementation of flexible working procedures and conditions could help talented female lawyers and professionals to stay in their careers?
Context: In your book, you mention how flexible working conditions were incredibly important for you while you juggled the demands of a law career and a young family. You cited that you often struggled with the unfair demands of the legal institutions you worked in. For example, you mention how opposing parties would purposefully schedule important hearings and meeting on days they knew you had put aside for your family. It has often been argued that certain parts of the legal institutions we work in are not designed for women who want to raise a family whilst progressing in their career.
I firmly believe making the entire legal system (and the entire corporate system) more flexible would assist everyone. Not just talented women, but talented men who would like to be more part of their day to day family life. The NSW Land and Environment court is taking steps to achieve this by offering paperless trials. It is my hope other courts will catch on. Additionally, education of the legal profession is important. It is crucial that it is understood just because someone has young children or wants to work part time for any other lifestyle or health reason that it does not make them weak or a “bad lawyer”
In 2017 the Law Society found that only 23% of women in the legal industry become equity partners. Do you think that flexible work could be important to increasing representation of women in senior positions in the legal industry?
I certainly think it will help. However, it is not the ONLY reason. The law industry is largely still a “boys club” and women are over represented in areas considered “soft areas” like family law and under-represented in IP law or corporate law. The other issue to grapple with in this regard is the question of whether being an equity partner is a reflection of a traditional law firm attitude.
Perhaps women want different things and part of that flexibility is to pursue other interests alongside law. For example, in my instance although I am partner equivalent level at a law firm I work 3 days a week and use the other 2 days to pursue my own interests as an author and pushing the flexible work agenda.
How soon do you think university students can begin to ask for flexible working conditions? If it is something that must wait until we have obtained experience in a workplace, what else can we do to ensure that we are balancing our work commitments with a consideration for our wellbeing?
Context: In your book you discuss the importance of letting employers know when we want flexible working conditions. However, as law students we are already desperate for any work experience we can get and will happily settle for unpaid research projects and internships.
My view is that graduates and university students must be realistic. As a graduate it would benefit you to work in the office with a lawyer supervising you in person. However, the good thing is that more firms are offering flexibility, for example Corrs Chambers Westgarth have removed billable hours recently and added an extra week on their annual leave entitlements for employees while McCabe Curwood have removed the restrictions for lawyers to wear business attire – yet neither of these things mean graduates can work part time or from home.
LegalVision offers flexibility in terms of projects that lawyers work on – for example it is possible to work on marketing and law or tech and law or project management for a large corporation utilising document automation via the LegalVision tech team. Further, LegalVision offer yoga classes and training/ fitness classes plus things such as Growth leave to pursue other non-legal or personal interests. In my view ALL of these things constitute flexibility, even though they may not necessarily be part time or remote work. It is about re-framing what graduates want to view as flexibility.
What general words of encouragement can you give our readers who have or are going through their own ‘trigger events’ now?
Context: You have talked about how a ‘trigger event’ is often what gets people to break the unhealthy patterns of their lives and make things better for themselves. Law students are increasingly suffering from debilitating mental illnesses while we prepare a competitive job market. You have clearly demonstrated that personal commitments can be balanced with career aspirations.
Remember that there is an easier way and while you may be able to do everything, you don’t have to do everything. To that end, prioritise what is important and let the rest fall away. Though you may receive a few rejections in the search for a legal role, it may be a blessing in disguise and you will find your way eventually. The important thing is to stay curious and true to your core values. Also, be respectful and work hard, it will earn you a lot of respect in your chosen career.
If you have enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Emma and other Australian pioneers of flexible working, you can find her book “The Tracksuit Economy” here!
Interview conducted by Christian Lane (Co-founder)
Co-founders Yan and Priya have had the privilege of interviewing Reiko Okazaki. Reiko is an incredible example of an international student succeeding in a new country. She is a barrister at the Victorian Bar, a Lecturer and Teaching Associate at Monash University for Property Law, Equity and Australian Legal Reasoning and Methods, and a Director of Football Federation Victoria.
While Reiko was born and raised in Japan, her journey of learning the law and building a career in an unfamiliar place and can teach us much about integration and living away from home. She has also provided some career and studying advice for how to get the most out of your law degree.
Hey Reiko, could you give us a brief introduction of yourself and how you came to be a lecturer at Monash?
I was born and raised in Japan, but I have also lived in California and Guangzhou when I was younger. Going back to Japan after living abroad, I had a hard time fitting in the Japanese culture and society because children especially girls would get in trouble for asking too many questions. I went back to US to be enrolled in a boarding school in the east coast when I was 15. Afterwards, I went back to Japan for my undergraduate law degree and finished a master degree in law in UCLA. I sat the bar exam in New York and practiced there for a very short while because I realised it would be easier to obtain permanent residency independently in Melbourne. In America, even though I spent half of my life there, there was no way to migrate without being tied to an employer. I converted my qualifications, got admitted and went straight to the bar as I was drawn to the independence, autonomy and flexibility of being a barrister.
What made you want to study law?
That’s a good question. It is partly because growing up in US, lawyers are a big part of culture as it is a litigious society. I was also living in L.A during the OJ Simpson and Rodney King riot. Here’s this funny story. When I was in a prep school, there was one kid who pushed another kid and then the kid said “my daddy is going to sue you” and I went home to ask my parents what that meant. In the third grade I was an argumentative child, a teacher also poked fun that I should be a lawyer. Although I had never met a real lawyer, it was a profession that a lot of people talked about. When I was in high school I took advanced US history which was a university level course and it was taught very creatively. We had the chance to pretend to be the founders of the US and write the constitution which I really enjoyed. That kind of got me to think about doing law. So when I was thinking of what to major in, I chose law partly because I was interested in it for all those reasons but also because it is a degree that qualifies you for something like sitting the bar. Also, I used to work in journalism which I found was something that you could teach yourself and learn by practice. But law was something that you need professional guidance as it was a different way of thinking and very specific. Hence, I thought that law was a worthwhile degree in that sense.
Have you ever had any doubts or regrets at any point of time in your career?
Not really in terms of big regrets but there is pressure inherently coming from the profession of being a barrister. Your job is dealing with litigations and your client will never truly be happy even if you try your best. In the first place they are already facing problems which is why they came to you. In some sense, you are helping them because they are better off, it’s just that, and that is the problem with wellbeing in the legal practice, it is that there are no winners really. Ultimately our job is to help our client make the best decision, but we also have to assist the court. These all have ultimately contributed to the lack of happiness and joy in the workplace.
Basically, I like what I’m doing at the moment and I don’t have many doubts nor regrets. I am really grateful for this opportunity to teach because there is much better energy. Inherently there is a lot of pessimism and perfectionist state which is detrimental, and you can easily be jaded because the cases are about people who only look out for themselves and backstab others, but we need to look at the bigger picture and know that in other places where there is no rule of law and it is even much worse.
Why do you choose to teach equity?
In US, equity is not separate, it is incorporated in the other fields. The more orthodox the court is, the more creative argument has to be. It is the area I enjoy and it could get both very theoretical and commercially relevant.
How to balance between pressure from work and study
There is a lot of work to stay on top of and readings etc. In terms of the results, I have never had the best grades and that is ok. I understand that you guys need great average score to secure clerkship positions. You may not get the job you want initially and it’s not the end of the world. Law school does not completely mirror the real life. There are still a lot of opportunities to make it up. For example, A lot of people told me that I had to work as a solicitor first for a couple of years so that I could build up connections etc. However, I did not listen those advice and I chose to believe in myself because I know myself the best. Being perfect in school doesn’t really guarantee long term success. That being said, you will definitely work hard in law school and never expect to achieve success by cramming before the exams.
If I had bad exam result, instead of forgetting about it, I would find out why I did bad. There are many reasons that lead to an unsatisfactory result. For example, wrong exam strategies are a common mistake that a lot of people make. Ask for assistance. eg. Lib teaches research etc. It’s never too late to take advantage of these resources and brush up on these skills.
“When it comes to mental health and well-being, the hardest thing to practice is to be authentic. Some people might think they should always conform to and excel in the ways that they are always told. You shouldn’t steer away from what you really are and your distinct styles. Sometimes you really need to ask yourself ‘is this really what you want?’ Think about what you want and how you want to be perceived. Although it sounds a bit idealistic, you will feel motivated for the long run and never feel jaded.”
Is there anything you wish you did in law school
I don’t have many regrets. Law school is a very different way of reading and thinking etc. I was a journalist while studying. I also did minor in media studies. Hence she did non-law sub and writing. During masters I studied electives as well such as critical racial theory. Good to have other things going on other than law.
Tips for international students
Even though everyone is different, background of international students has more stigma. You need a lot of civic freedom to do all these work. In US, it’s culturally acceptable to see a therapist etc. In Japan you can’t even say you’re seeing a mental health profession. Sometimes it is hard for international students because they are not raised to talk about these things. They are usually far from family and they don’t have a great network to seek help from.
I remember since I was little I had been dreaming about becoming an International lawyer, travelling between different countries, freeing refugees.
However, the reality of pursuing law at university and a legal career are completely different. First if you want to enter into law as an undergraduate, you need a 95 or 99 plus ATAR, plus many universities do not offer only Bachelor in law anymore, you need to combine it with an Art or Science degree for instance. At University of Melbourne, which is one of most prestigious universities, they do not offer an LLB degree anymore, instead they offer a Juris Doctor (JD), a master level law degree after you have completed an undergraduate, in any discipline with a decent grade. Also, I need to mention that in order to be considered a place at Melbourne Law School, you will need to sit LSAT unless you are exempted, for most of us we would have to sit LSAT.
Unfortunate for me, I did not have an ultra high ATAR score which prevented me from getting into group-of-eight law school after year 12. Being a kid from traditional Asian family, my parents would not allow me to go into a less well-known uni to do law so my only option was to do something else. I ended up doing a Bachelor of business (marketing) and then a master in Banking and Finance at Monash University, I worked very hard during those years and managed to finish my master half a year early with top grades in the class, while being offered a PhD in finance. Nevertheless, my dream in becoming a lawyer never dies and I made a tough decision, to do law after my master in business.
Like mentioned before, choosing to do law is not as easy as it seems to be. I applied for Melbourne Law School’s JD course and sat LSAT twice, still could not attain the marks they needed. This test is widely used in North America where they have tutors and classes to teach students how to do the test, whereas here in Australia little help is available and we had to study on our own. I also disagree with testing students before them even having studied any legal knowledge, therefore I also applied to Monash JD program. To my surprise, they offered me a place soon and of course I accepted it immediately with pleasure.
After you began studying law you will find it’s entirely different from any other disciplines, the amount of reading and studying is no joke, perhaps if you have studied Arts or Humanities you will find it an easier transition, but for me as a business student and an international, it’s extremely hard. I remember my lecturer in Public law had warned us about this, saying international students would often need to work harder. This became the story of my life. I literally had to spend twice the amount of time studying the same thing as local students and had to study harder, just to get the same marks as others.
I don’t know if it’s because all those years of constant studying or grief from losing my grandpa, but anxiety and depression finally caught up with me when I went home on holiday in China. I had an anxiety attack and thought I was going to die. My parents were so worried for me and had to admit me to mental hospital the next day. I was diagnosed and prescribed anti-depressants. Since then I have been taking them for a year or so. After the two episodes I have had, it made me prioritise my health before anything, especially my mental health.
Fortunate for me, my school has offered me tremendous help in counselling, providing extra academic help etc. I am able to cope with my workload and mental conditions.
“To all the people coping with mental conditions and studying law, do know that you are not alone and there are people out there who care. When I went to see my GP and psychologist they told me about beyond blue and mental heath service help line, these are numbers to call when you are not feeling right.”
Currently I am in my second year of law school and have been managing mental condition for a year and half, the way I see it is this, all the exams and assignments and panic attacks are trying to teach me something, resilience. It’s what’s needed once you become lawyer and facing the real world, because more than likely you are not going to “win” every case, negotiation or mooting. You need resilience to tackle these challenges and becoming a real strong lawyer. For now, me and my psychologist are working on ‘mindfulness’, it’s a strategy that helps with daily challenges we are all facing today, redirecting random thoughts back to present, focusing on the beautiful present.
I want to say that I appreciate all the obstacles I had to overcome, they made me grow stronger and smarter, into the person I am today.
Hanwen Liu (Contributor)
Hanwen Liu is a second year JD student studying at Monash University and a part-time beauty consultant for Shiseido. He has been living and studying in Australia for more than ten years and hold a Bachelor of business (Marketing) from RMIT, Master in Banking and Finance finishing half year early from Monash, besides his current law degree. He also has an interest in languages, he speaks English and Mandarin fluently and has studied French, Japanese and Spanish.
Do you ever feel disheartened whenever you hear people talk about their internship or job at a law firm? I think as law students, we have an inherently competitive nature and even more so for international students as there is more at stake. Although international students may be disadvantaged by the limited working hours and firms that do hire international law students, you do offer unique insights such as intercultural competence, an international education and eclectic experiences that sets you apart from local applicants. Understanding what makes you stand out and highlighting these skills is a key way to get your foot through the door.
Important things to note
Your student visa enables you to work up to 40 hours per fortnight during semester and unlimited hours during semester break
Not all firms accept international students, so it is good to do some research. The Social Justice & Equity Guide, which can be found outside the LSS office, offers a snapshot of some firms which do accept international students.
Here are some top insight tips from recruiters and international students who have secured internships and grad jobs.
1. Have a holistic degree
As international students, it is understandable to place a strong emphasis on your grades and prioritise studies since your aim of studying abroad is to get a degree. However, this is not only unhealthy for your mental health, it also fails to show your ability to multi-task and manage your time. Simply excelling at academic endeavours is insufficient to succeed in Australia’s dynamic environment. It is equally important to have a colourful extracurricular to demonstrate your leadership, time management, ability to work collaboratively and various other skills. Joining clubs, competitions and volunteering are some ways that indicate this. However, do not go crazy signing up for everything and overworking yourself. Pick 1-2 things that you are genuinely interested in and stick with that. This highlights your interest beyond studying law and also gives you an opportunity to destress and pursue something you like. It is also a great way to make new friends. So why not kill two birds with one stone – you get to impress recruiters and improve your mental wellbeing by taking time off studies.
2. Any experience is valuable
You do not need to intern at the Big 4 firms every summer to impress recruiters. What really stands out to them are the skills you have acquired or demonstrated, and your willingness to learn. Sure, stating you’ve done a summer internship at Allens may be impressive but sometimes smaller firms can be equally beneficial as you are more likely to get hands on experience. If you plan on interning in your home country, try not to focus too much on local top tier firms but rather pick a firm which specialises in a field you are interested in or an international firm such as Clifford Chance or Ashurst. This is because Australian firms may not be aware of the brand name of firms in your home country, however, they do recognise the experience. It is important to emphasise skills you acquired or demonstrated that is universal across law firms eg. Legal research.
If you are unable to secure an internship, fret not. Volunteering is another great way to learn and gain exposure in the legal scene. There are plenty of legal aid centres which provide amazing legal opportunities for students. Some suggestions include MOLs (obviously), asylum seeker centre and the Springvale Monash legal Service. The Victorian Bar also provides barrister shadowing or mentor opportunities for any law student, which are also great ways to gain exposure in the legal field. It is also offers valuable networking opportunities and insight.
3. Polish up your CV
Your CV is a reflection of you as a professional is a way you convey who you are and your capabilities to a potential firm before they meet you. This is why having an updated, neat and well-written resume and cover letter is always a selling point, as it helps win half the battle of any application. It is also important to ensure your CV is tailored to the specific job that you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to be a paralegal, they may be less interested in your amazing customer service skills compared to a waitressing job. Monash also offers lots of tips and services to help ensure your CV is well-written. Careers connect usually has resume writing sessions and even appointments for someone to review your CV and cover letter, as well as mock interviews. This is also a good time to create a linkedin if you don’t have one
4. Be authentic
Although it may be too early to pick a specialty, try to identify some possibilities and pursue firms specialising in areas that genuinely interest you. Firms enjoy seeing students who are authentic and have passion as opposed to chasing another title to add to their CV. Try to highlight why the firm/area of law interests you, your plans in the future and how that firm fits into that plan. I’ve had friends email firms specialising their area of interest to ask for short unpaid work experience and managed to secure an internship. This evinces their desire for the experience as opposed to the position itself. It is also important not to be discouraged if you are rejected. Everyone experiences rejection, even the best of students. This is why pursuing your passion is key to staying motivated.
Networking is not only a great way to spot opportunities and build professional relationships, but it also helps you boost your self-confidence and social skills. More importantly, you can better understand a firm’s culture and what they are looking for. This gives you an insight on how you can position your cover letter as well as allow people within the firm to form a good image of you. Furthermore, it allows you to reconsider if the culture and work environment is suited to what you are looking for. Business matters aside, networking allows you to widen your social circle and meet people beyond your usual social demographic. You are able to build interpersonal skills and learn how to engage with people from diverse backgrounds which is also a quality that recruiters look out for. Many of these people can also provide insight that expands your knowledge and inform you of opportunities that you may not have discovered.
Ultimately, there is no magic formula for finding an internship. However, it is important to put yourself out there, try new opportunities that come out and attend events. Regardless of whether the events are social or professional, they offer you a chance to network and learn from people around you.
If you feel like you are being unfairly discriminated against in the work place, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman here.
Have you ever had questions you wanted to ask but were too scared to post on the Monash Law page or ask literally anyone out of fear of looking like another JAFFY? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here are a list of 5 questions and answers we have accumulated from our own experiences in first year law.
Are 8am lectures a good idea?
Unless you already are a morning person, my short answer is no. At the beginning of a semester, it’s very easy to say, “This is the semester! I’m going to motivate myself to wake up earlier by setting myself these 8am lectures and get all HD’s.” While admirable, this mindset and motivation tends to drop throughout the semester, and physically making it to these lectures can become draining and a real hardship. It is very important to pace yourself and know when your own optimal learning times are.
Where is the best place to buy textbooks?
As we all know, textbooks are VERY expensive. Why not save when we can. The Monash Law facebook page is the place to go. At the end of a semester, people are often trying to sell their textbooks, and sometimes you can find multiple textbooks sold together for a bundle price. StudentVIP is another place to look. All you need to do is type in the textbook you need and VOILA, many sellers will appear and you can use the money you save to buy (yet another) coffee.
Should I do the moot/ negotiations/ client interview?
YES! Why not?! These competitions are all in a safe space, and they’re actually really fun! Well… besides the moot. BUT if your goal is to become a barrister, the moot is the place to start. The first year moot, as the name indicates, is only for first years so it’s the best opportunity to go up against teams that are equally confused and unsure as you are. Negotiations and the client interview need very limited preparation, so that’s chill!
What do I do if I fail?
Don’t worry, if it was only a borderline fail, you will have the chance to resit the exam, however the maximum score you can achieve is a P. (still better than an N!) At the same time, you can appeal for the exam to be remarked. If for reasons you still do not end up passing, you will need to repeat the whole unit. At the time, it may feel like the end of the world, but if you think about it, it’s just another obstacle we experience in life. Every obstacle you experience will one day be part of your success story.
How do we address lecturers?
Coming out of high school, we are used to calling our teachers Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms. Uni is different! You can address lecturers by their first names, whether it is in emails or in person. That’s not to say some lecturers still prefer to be addressed with their title, so do still double check with your lecturer. It’s not a strange question to ask!
I spent all of High School knowing I was going to Law School. That’s right. I was that really extra kid on Career Day who knew exactly what grown-up job I wanted and how to get there. But once the excitement of actually getting in and going to endless social events wore off, then the dread began to take over.
I’m pretty sure I’ve had an existential crisis every semester about whether or not I belonged in Law. I would begin the semester motivated to attend every class and do all the readings, but with every lecture that flew over my head and for every mediocre grade, fear and anxiety would start to kick in.
“Fear would taunt me into believing that the very thing I’ve spent my life working towards was the wrong path, or that others would think I wasn’t smart enough to hack it. I dreaded the idea that I’d racked up thousands of dollars in student loans for no reason and would have no job to pay it off.”
What made it worse was that everyone else seemed to be coping really well, getting better grades, and being selected for legal jobs while I was constantly questioning if I was even cut out to be a lawyer or if I should just cut my losses and switch degrees.
But after getting real with many of my close friends, I realised that at least 80% of them have had doubts about whether they chose the right degree. I have friends that are only here because they got the ATAR and didn’t know what else to study. Others spent years trying to transfer into Law only to transfer back out again. Many people experienced the frustration of investing hours into studying, only to still receive average marks. In fact, the very people who I thought were having it easy were the ones freaking out the most.
Here’s the thing: You’re not a failure because you have doubts about studying law. It doesn’t mean you’re not smart enough or qualified enough. It doesn’t mean you’re a cop out. It just means your passion lies elsewhere. You might not know exactly what that is yet but don’t doubt that you have very unique talents and abilities. You have to trust that if you’re here, and you’ve made it this far, it’s for a reason.
Sleep on it.
Don’t make any major life decisions when you’re feeling overly emotional. Assess if these feelings are only coming up because of a bad grade, you don’t know how to do the Corps assignment, or because exams are coming and you haven’t studied properly. If those stressful times or that horrendous unit is over, and you start to feel fulfilled and motivated to become a lawyer again, then the anxiety was probably just tricking you into thinking you’re not capable.
Be honest with good people.
Get real with your friends about how you feel. Chances are they will have also felt the same doubt you do. It’ll make you feel less alone. Seek advice from those who know you best. Some people just have a knack for seeing the best in us and where we thrive. They’ll help you figure out where you’re supposed to go.
Begin to explore your other hobbies.
Figure out what your passions are. Figure out what breaks your heart about this world and how you want to change it. If having a law degree is the thing that will help you achieve your passion, then just hold on to this bigger purpose while you stick it out.
Map it out.
Look at the course map and see how many years you have left. If it’s just a couple more semesters to go, then it may be worth sticking it out. Look ahead and ask yourself: what do I want to be doing in 5 years’ time? Adjust your trajectory as necessary.
Take a break.
Maybe all you need is a breather from the heavy law readings and assignments. Many people have deferred a semester or even a whole year of Law to chill out and assess their options. There is no shame in taking time off to look after yourself and pursue other interests. The break might motivate you to come back stronger than ever or it might be the confirmation you need that law isn’t your thing.
There’s nothing wrong with realising this degree isn’t it for you. I don’t have all the answers and I can’t tell you whether to stay or go. But when anxiety whispers you’ve stuffed up and it’s too late to change, remember that all things work out for good-no matter what decision you make. Your time here is not wasted, and the things you’re going through now will have a purpose.
For anyone on the brink of their existential crisis or for those who are currently in it, welcome to the club. Everyone feels lost sometimes, but take heart- this could just be the launch pad into the life you’re supposed to have.
If you are reading this, you have been accepted into Monash Law; one of the most prestigious and well renowned law courses in the country! Welcome to the beginning of one of the most incredible, wild and exciting periods of your life. So now that you’re in, you’re probably staring down the barrel of a 5-6 year degree wondering what the hell you are doing? Well, the good news is you are not alone!
At some stage in our lives we have all been first years and although it is probably the most daunting year of your university life, it is unarguably the most exciting and rewarding. A lot of choices and decisions you make in first year can in fact shape your future years. So take our advice, the more you put in now, the more you will get out of your degree later down the track. It’s worth it!
In order to help you navigate yourself through your first few weeks at Monash Law, we have developed a dos and don’ts list that we would have liked to read during our first years. In saying this, it is not an exhaustive list, and of course, prioritise what lecturers and tutors say when it comes to work related points! At the end of the day, they are the ones with more experience.
Go to your FOL lectures
Make an effort – go to first year activities
Try to form a study group early
Engage in university life beyond law, find something you are passionate about i.e a sports team or orchestra
Reach out if you are struggling with mental health – we have a section on this website devoted to ways you can do this
Do your notes lecture by lecture – try and form a systematic way of collecting notes and saving them
Law school is hard, accept this and be OK with the fact that your marks may not always be perfect
Contact lecturers and tutors if you need help, although you might not know them like your high school teachers, they will always respond to your emails
Get involved in all that Monash Law has to offer, why not try the moot, client interview, negotiations? First year dinner? hell yeah!
Sit by yourself in lectures- everyone else is new too
Do all the readings 😉 – this is an important one. Some of us may be superman and manage to read and digest every single relevant case to a topic before the lecture, but most us are not! At best, revise some pages of the textbook to get a broad understanding of an issue or point of law. Otherwise, the lecturers will almost always summarise relevant cases for you in lectures
Stress out if your not happy with your marks, first year is about finding what works for you and this may not always be successful
Don’t think you’ll be super motivated and set all your classes at 8am… chances are you will probably end up ditching all of them
Don’t cram… law is a subject that requires practise and thorough understanding
Speaking from experience, we all wish we could go back to our first year, not only to reset our GPA’s but so that we could relive the find and exciting times it provides. So our advice is not to take yourself too seriously and enjoy the journey.
Our Recommended Activities
First-year activities you should get involved in:
First Year Dinner – this is a night just for you! It’s a great way to get together with all of your Law buddies and make some new ones!
Peer Mentor Program – this is a great way to get free academic support whilst building up a social network (could even lead to the creation of a study group yay)
LSS events – the LSS (Law Student Society) organise a range of activities great for first-years. These activities range from free barbeques to running groups.
Law Ball – when the year is coming to an end Law Ball is a great opportunity to have fun with your friends. Get all dressed up and enjoy the night with friends and make new friends!
Although your priority for moving to Melbourne is to study, there is more to life than holing yourself up in the law library and reading never-ending pages of Kirby’s dissent. Go out and explore. You’re going to be here for the next 4 years minimally, so why not make it your home. Spend a day soaking up the culture or just venture into a new suburb (trust me, most of them are much more fun than clayton). Even if you are a local, why not pretend to be a tourist and enjoy things from a different perspective. Melbourne is constantly ranked as one of the most livable cities and it is not hard to see why. There is always something to do!
Things to Do
Experience Melbourne’s hyped up cafe scene with some friends or go to the National Gallery and soak up some culture. I personally love going to the various festivals and markets that are around. One favorite is the South Melbourne Market which is filled with tons of unique stalls ranging from ethically sourced clothing to crafted kitchen utensils. It also sells, in my opinion, the best croissants from Agathe patisserie.
Another fun, and more unique option is to check out the Old Melbourne Goal. The historical building is a monument of capital punishment, with 133 people being hanged there.
Fun fact: you can experience a modern-day arrest procedure and be on the other side of the law. Another historic place is the Abbotsford Convent , which if you’re feeling sporty enough is an hour bike ride away from the city. The convent was an orphanage and aged care facility in the 1800s. Today, it is a gallery featuring the work of local artist. The garden grounds is also great for a picnic.
Engage in some local sports spirit by attending an AFL match. The Essendon Football Club has a Globall program which introduces international students to the Football culture. It is a perfect way to meet new friends, visit iconic sporting grounds and score some free tickets.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, head on a road trip with some friends or join a tour and make some new friends. Southwest from Geelong is the famous Great Ocean Road. Embark on a scenic drive along the precipice of coastal cliffs and enjoy the sea breeze. Trust me, the views itself will help you forget about all your stress. If you are an animal lover, there are also tons of sanctuaries around Melbourne. Alternatively, you can head to Phillip Island, just 3 hours out of Melbourne. There is also the chance to surf, swim and watch fur seals other than the penguins. Or if you’re a wine lover, head over to Yarra valley.
There are tons of clubs and societies in Monash ranging from academic to political to social welfare. Dedicate some time to something you are passionate about. It is not only a great way to make friends, but will also give you a sense of purpose in life and see that we don’t only have to focus on grades. Even if you don’t join a club, keep an eye out for events! They are constantly organising activities that allow you to catch a breather and have fun.
International students are automatically members of Monash University International Students Service (MUISS). They have free access to the MUISS lounge, located on Level 1 of Campus Centre (21 Chancellors Walk), next to Radio Monash and opposite Sir John’s. Amenities in the lounge include sofas, beanbags, microwaves, a fridge and television. It is a great place to hang out with your friends and socialise with fellow international students, open from morning until evening every weekday
Students living on-campus at Monash enjoy a range of social and academic advantages. However, don’t feel as though you’re missing out because NRC aim to provide the same benefits to students living off-campus. Some of the benefits of an enhanced student engagement and experience include:
social engagement and support
leadership and mentoring from senior students and college support teams
access to a range of programs including social, sporting, academic and cultural.
There are three colleges at Caulfield campus (Pegasus, Phoenix and Auriga), three at Clayton campus (Orion, Centaurus and Ursa) and Aquila College at Peninsula campus. Each college has 250 student members and 20 college advisors (higher-year students acting as mentors) and three members of the academic staff in leadership positions. This is the perfect opportunity to make friends and destress!
And Always Remember
There is more to life than competing in the rat race. Take time to appreciate the things around you and stop to smell the roses (literally). Sometimes, the best thing to do is just to immerse yourself in something non-academic that you enjoy. Stop overthinking and start exploring!