• neeharika5

My journey as a law student finalist in 2019

Updated: Feb 27


Tell us about yourself & your law journey. How did you get here?

Born overseas, I was able to recognise the privileges we Australians have in our day-to-day life. Not taking these for granted, I aspired to pursue a career that would be intellectually challenging, allow me to assist society’s most vulnerable. Studying law would best empower me to do this. I studied a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) / Law at UNSW. All through law school, I lived by the idea that your comfort zone is just a muscle. To realise its full potential, you must exercise it, and you’ll be surprised by all that you can do.To me, this looked like taking part in a variety of extra-curricular activities, competitions, internships and forging life-long friendships along the way.


At university, I was the President of UNSW Law Society in 2018, the largest student-led University group in Australia. I had the opportunity to review the strategic direction of the society, negotiate sponsorship agreements with prominent law firms and advocate on behalf of 2,500+ students to external stakeholders, including the Australian Law Student Association and the Law Society of NSW. Most fundamentally, I was able to facilitate events for my fellow students and promote collegiality within law school. Before this, I had the opportunity to Coordinate the Student Legal Education Group, a program promoting legal education and access to justice in low socio-economic high schools by holding workshops focusing on legal rights and issues. 

These opportunities have been fundamental to my personal and professional development. I was able to form invaluable friendships and learnt to take pride in my work, to be held accountable, address complaints and voice my opinions.


I also relished the opportunity to participate in the IBA-VIAC CDRC Vienna Negotiation and Mediation competition, where my team and I were runners up. Additionally, I am fortunate to have an opportunity to develop these soft skills as I will be competing in the 2020 ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition held in Paris, coached by Dr Rosemary Howell. Such competitions have sharpened my persuasion and advocacy skills. 


Looking back, I am most grateful to UNSW for the range of mentoring opportunities it provides. These opportunities exposed me to people from different backgrounds and experiences. Mentoring played a significant role for me. My mentors dedicated their time and energy to coach me through various issues and provide me with invaluable advice. I owe a great deal to these transformative mentoring experiences, the lessons of which I will carry into my career. Reverse mentoring was equally important, as I learnt a lot from my talented, kind and enthusiastic mentees. 

Were there some things that happened during your Law career that you never saw coming? 

Much like life, law school can be unpredictable. I found that these unpredictable experiences are the most important as they teach invaluable life skills. In my role as the UNSW Law Society President, I dealt with several unforeseen issues which taught me that our reaction to a situation literally has the power to change the situation itself.


Law is very diverse and interesting, which parts of the law interest you the most and why?

Mediation is an area of law I am particularly interested in and enjoy. As law students, we often hear, read and inevitably think of litigation as the only method of resolving a dispute. Mediation presents a tempting alternative to resolve disputes by creating value for all the parties. My interest in mediation developed through participating in several national and international competitions and undertaking an ADR elective as a part of my course work.


Further, mediation has far-reaching applications from your home to navigating an international crisis, which also intrigues me. I am also interested in commercial law. It presents me with an opportunity to apply learnings from my Commerce degree as commercial awareness is becoming increasingly important for lawyers as legal advice should be both legally and commercially sensible.

To survive law, what skills do you think lawyers should invest their time in? Any words of wisdom? 

Being a lawyer is a team sport - learn to be supportive and create an inclusive environment for your team mates to be able to excel in! This involves having difficult conversations and communicating any concerns early. It also involves learning how to act in any given situation, as opposed to react. Finally, it means to find your limits, prioritising your wellbeing and that of others.

You have been chosen as a finalist for 'Law student of the year', what does that mean to you? Does it carry a responsibility to continue your legacy? 

Going into university, I wanted to ensure I got involved in the vibrant student community at UNSW. My goal was to graduate with a law degree, as a well-rounded individual, with a vast array of experiences, friends from different walks of life and more importantly contribute to the improvement of student life at UNSW. 

For me, being listed as the Finalist symbolised that I had achieved this goal. This honour allowed me to take a moment to reflect upon my university experience and be thankful that I had the privilege to contribute to the UNSW student community. I was pleased to be able to celebrate the award function evening with my mother, who has been my role model throughout my life, emphasising that it’s not about where you go, but how you get there.


How do you know if you've 'made it?'


I firmly believe that there is no definitive set of characteristics used to identify someone who has ‘made it’. The world would be a very dull place if we had one! ‘Making it’, to me means that I am content and confident with where I am in life, have learnt from past mistakes and look at the future with a positive mindset to be the best I can.


It is also about understanding your definition of success and how you measure it. 

What's next for you?

I will commence MinterEllison’s Graduate Program while completing my Practical Legal Training (PLT). I hope to be involved in the firm’s pro bono programs and promote the culture of ‘giving back’ to the community. Alongside this, I intend to continue mentoring students at UNSW Law to aid their growth.

In addition to this, I will continue to work with and expand a newly formed organisation, Diverse Women in Law (DWL). This year, I assisted in coordinating its inaugural mentoring program aimed at connecting diverse female-identifying students in later years of their law degree with mentors within the legal community. 

In the future, I hope to promote collegiality within the industry by creating a community of diverse women, resulting in higher representation industry wide and promote equal opportunity for students from all walks of life. Further, I envision to work with organisations such as DWL to partner with Law Schools to promote a career in law at low socio-economic high schools, by creating monetary and/or non-monetary scholarships.