"Law is the only thing I seriously considered as a career."
For some students, making the decision about what – and where – to study can be surprisingly swift.
Luke McGowan always knew he wanted to be a lawyer and when it came time to choose a university he was equally sure about where to enrol.
‘I was sold on Deakin from the very first Open Day I attended,’ he says. ‘It came across as a very grounded university with an emphasis on excellence but with a small enough cohort to make lifelong friends.’
Luke graduated with a double degree in law and international studies in 2015 and is now enjoying the early stage of his law career with Melbourne-based property law firm.
He says that undertaking some of his internationally-focused degree overseas was one of the many highlights of his Deakin experience.
‘I did four credit points across three overseas trips spanning India, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. We would be at the Taj Mahal or swimming in the Turkish baths in Budapest and we’d look at each other and say “we’re getting credit for this”!’ he smiles.
On campus in Geelong, Luke was an enthusiastic leader within the Deakin Law Students’ Society and the Deakin Commerce Students’ Society. He says that joining the law society as a student representative almost certainly transformed his university experience.
‘I have no idea who I would be without that. It changed me from being the guy who was too nervous to ask to be part of a group to suddenly being thrust into the thick of things,’ he recalls. “If my university experience had just been “go to class, go home and study” I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much, but spending my time planning events for my fellow students gave a whole extra dimension to university life.’
In addition to serving on the student societies, Luke founded the Student Mentor Program in Geelong (which is now entering its sixth year) and also worked at seven Deakin Open Days where he delivered presentations about student life.
Dux of four subjects, he took out two back-to-back witness examination competitions and also became the first Geelong-based student to win Deakin’s Student Leadership and Community Engagement Award.
Luke’s commitment to enhancing the student experience at Deakin did not go unrecognised and at the completion of his degree he was awarded the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Medal for Outstanding Contribution to University Life.
‘I’ll never forget when they told me I was the winner out of the thousands of students graduating that year. I was on placement at ANZ at the time, and [my reaction caused] the lawyers to look at me a little strangely but was such a big deal to be recognised by my university in this way,’ he says.
While Luke would like to try his skills in the litigation or criminal law arenas in the future – and is also passionate about the issues of domestic violence and child protection – he knows his current role is providing him with a solid foundation of real-world law skills.
‘I work for an incredibly fast growing property law firm and while I always thought property this was the one area I didn’t want to work in, when I actually tried it I ended up enjoying it!’
He says his company, First Class Legal, is a fast-growing, innovative firm that’s leading the nation in electronic conveyancing.
‘It brings back memories of starting initiatives at Deakin … it was that feeling of familiarity that convinced me it was such a good [employment] fit,’ he says.
With sole responsibility for more than 100 clients – all who hold deep emotional connections to their purchases and sales – Luke thrives on the high-speed setting of a busy law firm.
‘You have to be on your toes all the time, and prioritise like your life depends on it! I turn over my entire client load once every 60 days,’ he says. ‘But I also know that if I have a nightmare problem, I know it will soon be sorted and tomorrow will be a whole new day. And that’s really important to me.’