"A law degree is a very valuable asset, regardless of your career path."
Most of us would agree that choosing a career path at the age of 17 or 18 can be somewhat of a gamble.
For many, that (early) choice can lead to a career trajectory with fulfilling milestones. For others it’s a path that can meander and deviate, before finally reaching a vocational destination.
Andrew Cusumano – who began his career as a lawyer in 2015 – says that while it was difficult to decide on a vocation from the boundaries of high school, he took a punt on a commerce/law degree, because it offered versatility and options.
‘I figured that even if I decided not to specifically work in legal practice, a law degree would still be a very valuable asset to have regardless of my career path,’ he recalls.
As a passionate sport fan, Andrew also majored his commerce degree in sport management before deciding – about half-way through his studies – that he’d focus on a career as a lawyer.
‘I took that major because, with the increasing commercialisation and surging growth of the sport industry, I figured that there would be more opportunities for lawyers and business people in that field than ever before. It actually complemented my law studies really well and has now allowed me to keep the door open on using my law degree in a sport industry context.’
During his five and a half years of study, Andrew found that Deakin’s online studies and trimester system delivered the flexibility he needed to work at his own pace.
‘If I wanted to work ahead in a particular unit, I would often find that the course materials were already uploaded and I could push on. If I missed a lecture, I knew that a recording and required readings would be online and I wouldn’t miss a beat,’ he says.
This flexibility also enabled him to combine his studies with an internship with the ANZ’s Corporate Legal Group, three seasonal clerkships, on-going work experience at a law firm and his regular part-time job.
With the most common pathway to a commercial law firm career coming via the clerkship process – essentially a three to four week stint at a law firm – Andrew completed one of his clerkships with MinterEllison’s Human Resources and Industrial Relations group. He also had the opportunity to undertake clerkships in the dispute resolution groups of two other (similar sized) firms.
At the conclusion of his clerkships, Andrew accepted an offer to work at MinterEllison and commenced at the firm in February 2015. He is now a lawyer in MinterEllison's Media Group, which acts for a wide range of traditional, international and emerging media companies.
‘It also represents national and multinational organisations, government bodies and high-profile individuals in matters where reputational and/or corporate risk exists,’ he explains.
With its broad focus, the Media Group’s work encompasses defamation, privacy, freedom of information and general dispute resolution. It also has a strong sport law practice and advises a variety of sporting organisations, assisting them in protecting the integrity, interests, welfare and reputation of their respective sporting code or club.
Working closely with the Media Group’s partners and senior lawyers, Andrew's responsibilities generally include drafting correspondence, advice letters and court documents, liaising with barristers, appearing at mention and direction hearings and undertaking research.
He says that one of the highlights of working in media law is its diversity – and unpredictability.
‘One day you could be responding to an allegation that a client has published a defamatory article that has resulted in a high-profile person threatening to sue. Another day you could be representing an individual who is furious about a social media post, while on other occasions, you could be meeting with counsel to determine the next strategic step to take in a legal proceeding.’
Andrew adds that it’s this variety – with its public spotlight potential – that makes media law an exciting area to work in.
Earlier this year for example, he provided advice to Fairfax Media as to whether it could publish identifying photographs of asylum seekers under the age of 18. A few days later, his name and advice was featured in an article published by The Age.
‘It was just one of those things - the asylum seeker issue had attracted significant media attention in that specific week and a lot of articles were being written about the topic. It wasn’t something I expected so soon into my career but it was nice to get a small mention!’ he says.
Although still in the early stages of his profession, Andrew recognises that by choosing law he has also chosen a commitment to on-going learning.
‘The law is subject to constant change. Even if you think you know an area particularly well, all it takes is for a new decision to be handed down by the High Court or for Parliament to enact a new piece of legislation and the game could change,’ he says.
But it’s a career choice that he’s grateful to have made.
‘These skills – such as the analysis and evaluation of complex material and how to write and communicate in a certain manner – are not only essential to a career in the law, but a career in any industry. My advice for anyone contemplating a law career is to embrace the challenges that law school throws at you. It’s these challenges that force you to develop these integral skills which will, undoubtedly, serve you well in almost any career.’