Global settings such as London, New York, the Middle East and Asia have always been attractive destinations for Australian law graduates who want to take their careers on an international adventure.
But for Deakin law students, an international focus begins well before graduation.
Deakin Law School’s (DLS) Director of International, Associate Professor Cindy Davids, says that recognition of ‘global commercial realities’ drives the push for students to experience the range of legal systems beyond Australia.
‘We actively foster this notion so that our students have opportunities which give them an [employment] edge. We encourage and support students who want to take exchange programs, short term mobility options or study tours in order to examine the way law works elsewhere.’
As well as overseas internships, there is opportunity for students to compete in international mooting competitions and Dr Davids says there are many benefits from building international, personal and institutional relationships.
‘DLS is engaged with a broad understanding of globalisation which include articulation programs and institutional relationships with significant overseas partners. A recent program involved 12 members of the Sri Lankan judiciary … these programs are important because they help embed the idea of internationalisation within the domestic curriculum.’
Organising study programs – as well as internationalisation more broadly within DLS – Dr Davids says global experience provides students with an enriched perspective of diverse legal systems.
One of these global experiences is an upcoming USA Criminal Justice Study Program.
‘Criminal justice in the US is characterised by similar challenges both in legal practice and in “street problems” however the approach is often different to both Australia and the UK,’ explains Dr Davids.
‘Increasingly, reference to developments in the criminal justice system of the US is playing out in both policy and legal judgments in Australia.’
As well as attending lectures at the University of North Carolina, the students will visit Orange County Prison, Raleigh Sherriff’s Office and witness a District Court trial.
‘They then travel to Washington which includes lectures by Department of Justice and a visit to the FBI amongst other unique access opportunities,’ says Dr Davids.
Other DLS opportunities on offer this year include two three-week programs at Oxford (UK), Michigan State University, (USA) Masaryk University (Czech Republic), London School of Economics (UK) and Aarhaus University (Denmark).
Dr Davids says international study experience can pay early dividends in the employment stakes.
‘Not only is it inherently interesting but I know that law employers are impressed with the depth of our overseas study programs and the fact that our law graduates are coming out with these “broadening” international legal experiences.’
While many international law firms offer jobs for Australian-trained lawyers without the need for extra qualifications, Dr Davids says there can be a range of prerequisites.
‘It depends on the jurisdiction. Each country will have different practice requirements and these have to be researched on a country by country basis.’
The good news though, is that there seems to be strong demand for Australian law graduates.
Deakin graduate Anthony Jensen works as a senior legal counsel in the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). With a young family, he says Dubai is a vibrant geographic, cultural and economic hub with much to offer its expat population.
‘What we enjoy most is the “melting pot” atmosphere in Dubai. A vast proportion of residents is from somewhere else and represents all continents. This diversity brings with it different cultures including their food, music and ways of doing business.’
Prue Kenny has also accrued a wealth of global legal experience that began with an internship during her undergraduate studies.
Now working as Legal Counsel for World Vision Australia, Prue has worked with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone along with a clerkship in Moscow.
‘That was an incredible experience to witness firsthand the firm’s cross-border transactions. The opportunity to practise law in another country was very insightful and I learnt a lot from jurisdictions outside Australia,’ she says.
Deakin graduate Shannon Powell has also managed to notch up an impressive international career that’s crossed five continents. Now based in Chile, Shannon is the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner with Austrade.
Through her career, Shannon has had the unique opportunity to meet a broad range of people – from the richest to the poorest – and says her current role is incredibly fulfilling.
‘I love being part of a global team of Australians and locally-engaged staff who together work to showcase and promote Australian expertise across a range of sectors.’
Dr Davids says that international experience fosters ‘transferable competence and inter-cultural sensitivity’ – skills that are equally at home in the law offices of multicultural Melbourne or the legal boardrooms of Hong Kong, Shanghai, London or Washington.
‘My job is to provide the educational environment and opportunities that make it possible to work in a globalised world, to give students a taste of the diversity that is out there. The demand from our law cohort indicates an extraordinary appetite to experience law elsewhere, to understand its many applications whether that be through negotiation and mediation courses in London or a more detailed understanding of the role of law in emerging democracies in Europe.’
Global areas of demand
- UK/London: technology, media and telecommunications law, banking and finance, construction, finance litigation, energy and projects
- Europe: structured finance, banking, securitisation, funds, capital markets, corporate/commercial, dispute resolution
- Singapore and Southeast Asia: corporate, banking, funds, arbitration, project finance, securitisation, capital markets, construction, energy, shipping
- Hong Kong: banking and funds
- Middle East: corporate, commercial, banking and finance, capital markets, projects and construction, energy and resources, dispute resolution
- New York: banking, corporate, finance
- Caribbean/Cayman Islands: corporate finance, funds, banking and finance, commercial litigation, trusts