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Australian National University: Producing career-ready law graduates

The Australian National University places an emphasis on experiential learning opportunities, ensuring students have the skills and knowledge they need to become successful professionals. Source: The Australian National University College of Law

Many international students think it is impossible to land a job in Australia after graduating. The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law Careers and Employability Deputy Manager Sok Ho Chong, however, disagrees.

“There’s the idea that international students aren’t able to find jobs here in Canberra,” he shares. “I don’t believe that’s true. If you want a job here, you can get a job. You just have to work hard. So for us, it’s really about giving students as many engagement opportunities as possible.”

It’s an approach that certainly sets students of ANU apart. Founded in 1946, ANU has quickly risen the ranks to become Australia’s number one university and a world-leading center for research, education, and policy engagement. QS World University Rankings 2021 lists it at 17th in the world for law, and the University has a five-star rating for student demand, teaching quality, student-teacher ratios and staff qualifications, as well as for law and legal studies research.

The ANU College of Law offers a suite of postgraduate programs, including a Master of Laws, Master of International Law and Diplomacy, Master of Financial Management and Law and the Juris Doctor. Students can choose to pursue Graduate Certificates in Law and New Technologies Law as well.

These programs are backed by research and the University’s enviable strengths in public, administrative and international law. World-leading legal scholars, including three socio-legal DECRA fellows, as well as barristers and magistrates, lead them.

ANU College of Law

Students can participate in various experiential learning opportunities to broaden their understanding of law. Source: The Australian National University College of Law

Each program is meticulously designed to ensure students gain the skills and exposure necessary to succeed as future lawyers and legal professionals. How? Through providing students with a broad range of experiential learning opportunities, including internships, clinical programs, case studies and mooting competitions.

“As a young person in your early twenties, you’re being asked to make really big decisions about your career with no base of experience,” explains Associate Professor Jonathan Liljeblad, Director of Clinical Courses and Internships at the ANU College of Law. “The idea behind experiential learning is about getting students to understand that what happens in the classroom is not necessarily the same as what happens in an office. As a result, they’ll be able to make much more informed decisions about their careers and the kinds of employers that they want to go for.”

Experiential learning is not compulsory at the ANU College of Law, but is highly encouraged. “There are avenues for students to get internships on their own and then come to us to get academic credit for it,” adds Dr. Liljeblad. “Other than that, students can go through the partnerships the University has established with internship programs with the government, international organisations, domestic not-for-profit organisations, and a few law firms. Students can get academic credit for those too.”

ANU College of Law

Students at Australian National University can choose to pursue experiential learning opportunities domestically as well as internationally. Source: The Australian National University College of Law

Canberra, the country’s capital and political heart, is the ideal location for ambitious law students. Unrivalled access to policymakers, judges, diplomats and other officials brings the study of law to life.

Students can undertake internships in the public service, foreign service, international relations, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned many of these internships virtual — something the ANU College of Law readily facilitates for students.

This has motivated students like Juris Doctor candidate Epi Terbio, who was inspired to enrol in a clinical course when he saw an announcement that it would be conducted with a school from his home country, the Philippines. “It’s a rare opportunity for me to be able to apply my legal education to issues that are happening back home,” he shares.

All the while, students are supported by specialized and tailored workshops, seminars, events, career fairs, employer tracks and meet-ups, and an unparalleled level of personalized guidance from both academics and the ANU Law Department of Careers and Employability — all of which Equip them with the skills and confidence they need to be job-ready.

Chong firmly believes in the value of internships to help students discover what they want out of a working environment. “If a student comes up to me and tells me they did not necessarily enjoy the internship they’d applied for, I see that as successful,” he says. “Because now, I’m able to give them direction and advice. I can tell them, ‘Let’s think about what you want to do next, and what your future looks like now.’”

ANU College of Law

Students at Australian National University can choose to gain academic credit for an internship or work experience. Source: The Australian National University College of Law

This strategy works — 88.8% of ANU College of Law students are employed full-time after graduation. “We’ve had several students who have done internships with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the international law office. They actually ended up writing research papers on behalf of their employers,” shares Dr. Liljeblad. “After graduation, they went ahead and started working for the Foreign Service and have now progressed to getting postings to other countries.”

Perhaps what ensures the success of ANU College of Law graduates, however, is their proactive attitude to sourcing these opportunities out for themselves. For an international student like Terbio, this approach has been invaluable to not only excelling in his education, but to settling down in a new environment as well.

“It’s a matter of finding what support is available to you,” he shares. “It can be a difficult journey trying to move to Australia from your home country, but the support is out there if you need it. There are student governments and academics that are more than willing to help you out. Once you take this step, you’ll appreciate that you stepped out of your comfort zone and become a better person out of it.”

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