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Launching a law career

Global experience and practical work placements play a key role in career success.

With six years of study behind her, Stephanie Peta Brown is now thriving in her new role as a law graduate with top-tier law firm MinterEllison.

From a young age, Stephanie always wanted to study law because of her desire to advocate for the welfare of others.

‘I was always fascinated by law and policy so I wanted to study how its application feeds into human and animal rights. I strongly believe that the privilege of studying and practising law carries a constant obligation to assist the vulnerable,’ she says.

Recently graduating with a combined Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts degree (majoring in International Relations and Middle East Studies), Stephanie says she chose to study at Deakin because of its flexible learning options.

‘Deakin’s trimester system gave me the opportunity to shuffle my course around as I needed. The online learning was particularly useful when I started working as a paralegal and undertaking internships – I didn’t feel I needed to sacrifice my grades or my work experience.’

Deakin's flexible study options also meant that Stephanie was able to participate in three study abroad programs taking her to the USA, UK and Middle East. 

‘These programs provided me with unparalleled experiences, including taking a private tour of the Pentagon in Washington DC, visiting a refugee campsite in Jordan and meeting the Australian Ambassador to Qatar. Above all, it demonstrated to me that the impact of global events cannot be divorced from the Australian legal system – and that Deakin truly fosters a “worldly” learning experience,’ she says.

One of the highlights of Stephanie’s study-abroad experience was being accepted into the London School of Economics (LSE) summer law program where she studied international law.

‘This was an intensive study program at LSE that counted as academic credit. It not only enabled me to learn from world-class professors in a leading British university but I was able to make friends and connections with like-minded students from around the world,’ she says.

On her return to Australia, Stephanie added to her legal experience by volunteering at the Fitzroy Legal Service and the Australian Centre for Moving Image which eventually led her to a placement with Deloitte Legal.

She then spent 18 months as a paralegal with Holman Fenwick Willan in Melbourne while continuing her Deakin studies.

‘These opportunities enabled me to build professional relationships, receive mentorship, develop my business acumen and gain firsthand experience in large scale litigation. These capabilities ultimately helped me obtain seasonal clerkships at Herbert Smith Freehills, Baker McKenzie and MinterEllison in 2016 and 2017,’ she explains.

In-between completing her studies and commencing her graduate position, Stephanie further boosted her real-world skills by working as a paralegal with Clayton Utz’s Forensic and Technology Services team for five months.

‘The Forensic and Technology Services team is the first integrated forensic and legal service offering in Australia, which enabled me to work alongside accountants and analysts within a legal sphere. This unique role allowed me to gain exposure to the current Banking Royal Commission,’ she says.

Acknowledging that law can be an intense work environment, Stephanie says a solid foundation of legal skills – that includes drafting, research and critical thinking – is vital. 

‘Developing these skills and gaining experience outside the classroom certainly strengthened my resume and was highly beneficial when I began applying for clerkships in my penultimate year,’ she explains.

Stephanie adds that practical experience also improved her study techniques and enabled her to become more efficient at analysing cases and legislation.

‘Crucially, undertaking internships allowed me to convert my academic knowledge into industry skills. In turn, my studying experience improved as I was able to understand the practical application of the law and write in a more succinct and efficient manner. Ultimately, undertaking work experience whilst at Deakin confirmed to me that legal practice was the right path,’ she says.

Now in the first of her three rotations at MinterEllison, Stephanie is looking forward to life as a junior lawyer within a large corporate law firm.

'I am excited about learning from a range of highly-reputable senior associates and partners within MinterEllison and gaining further exposure to complex and challenging work, both commercial and pro bono,’ she says.

‘Over the next 18 months I’m keen to develop my legal capabilities and commercial awareness as I improve the quality of my work and can provide value to our clients. I look forward to the day when I will be able to lead a team in large matters.’

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