One of the aspects that Charrie Mata enjoys most about studying law is that it offers her intellectual rigour and self-discipline.
She says that while some perceive law to be tedious, she’s found her studies to be both challenging and inspiring.
‘To borrow an expression from Oliver Wendell Holmes, the law can be seen as “the skin of a living thought” that may be interpreted according to societal needs,’ she says.
Charrie sees the law as a fascinating field that ‘demands mental exertion in examining minute details and the ability to probe and move from a reasonable person’s standpoint to more intricate set of principles’ and chose to study at Deakin because of its commercial law focus.
But with an ongoing interest in international affairs and an ‘insatiable desire for reading’, it also offered Charrie the flexibility of a degree which blends both arts and law and she’s incorporated a dual arts’ major by studying International Relations, and Social and Political Thought.
‘Most importantly, the intersection of history, financial and global affairs and politics in the study of arts and law – infused with the Socratic method of teaching – has taught me the importance of having an inquisitive mind,’ she explains.
Charrie says she sees the law as an important vehicle for societal change and also a pivot from which a functioning society can operate. Significantly, it also impacts lives and that’s the attribute which holds strong appeal for her.
‘I chose law because I wanted to be a part of a profession that is elemental in shaping people’s lives. During high school I read accounts of legal disputes fought in and observed how these outcomes make their way into the future in the form of precedents,’ she says.
Charrie also believes that knowing how to ask the right questions and draw solutions to address a range of problems are critically important skills for the 21st century environment of emerging technologies, diverse careers and an increasingly globalised market.
‘This course has equipped me with problem solving skills, legal knowledge and other tools that are easily transferrable to other disciplines,’ she says.
Charrie’s law degree learning has also been utilised on the international stage. During her third year, she was selected by United Nations (UN) Youth Australia to participate in Harvard University’s Model UN in Boston, USA – an opportunity which allowed her to gain valuable global experience and skills.
‘I was allocated to a committee that had a specific focus on health sciences, and I found the analytical and advocacy skills I learned to be invaluable in presenting coherent arguments under pressure,’ she says.
She adds that the practical commercial legal experience that’s embedded into Deakin’s law program has helped her transfer classroom learning into real-world law practice.
‘Working for a boutique accounting firm and as an assistant to two Queen’s Counsels and a Deakin law professor gave me the opportunity to learn from their wealth of experience and the luxury of being exposed to a breadth of legal affairs while studying. It helped me reconcile the gulf between the attributes needed to do well in classes and in practice.’
Currently undertaking Deakin’s New Venture Law Clinic program, Charrie is also gaining hands-on experience by providing a specialised pro-bono legal service to start-up ventures and entrepreneurs.
‘It’s an opportunity to acquire practical skills by working on a range of legal matters, under the supervision of legal specialists, and having real client contact. I particularly enjoy the exposure to the life cycle of a start-up venture and knowing that I am contributing something in our thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem,’ she says.
As a long-term volunteer for various organisations – including a position in a human rights-based student society – Charrie says the knowledge she’s gained from study of law has given her deeper insight, understanding and appreciation into the practice of law.
‘As a legal assistant for a community legal centre since first year of law, I learned to quickly develop rapport with clients from various backgrounds and translate legal jargon into plain language. I also found this particularly useful in my two-year role with Deakin’s Faculty of Business and Law Mentoring program – a role that called for teamwork, interpersonal skills and leadership.’