School of Law Mentoring Program is a winner

First year Law student, Emily Stone, from The University of Notre Dame Australia.
Fourth year Law student, Daniel Carney with Maithri Panagoda a partner at Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers who has taken part in the Notre Dame mentoring program.

4 November 2015

The practical aspects of law are brought home to students from The University of Notre Dame Australia’s School of Law, Sydney, thanks to the University’s unique mentoring program, which complements the learning environment.

Now in its third year, the program pairs students with experienced barristers, solicitors, judges and increasingly politicians and others who have completed a law degree but gone on to work in other areas, giving students access to invaluable advice and support.

It was this unique program that attracted student Emily Stone, currently in her first year of a Graduate Law Degree, to Notre Dame.

“I had heard about the University’s strong mentoring program and enrolled here specifically to gain that understanding of the realities of the legal profession and to develop connections and networks I wouldn’t get otherwise,” Emily said.

Fourth year Law student, Daniel Carney has been with the program since it began, pairing up with five mentors to date, including a Supreme Court Justice.

“The mentoring program significantly sets Notre Dame apart from other universities. All my mentors have been senior and distinguished members of the law fraternity,” Daniel said.

“It has given me unparalleled insight into the practice of the law in a profession at the centre of the complex economic and social changes affecting Australia in the early 21st Century. Outstanding professional practice is about more than simply knowing the law, it’s about understanding your client’s needs and crafting real world solutions.”

The Dean of the School of Law, Professor Michael Quinlan, said the program aimed to bridge the gap between law students and the legal profession by enabling students to become familiar with the everyday workings of the legal profession, building their confidence and ability in preparation for entering the workforce themselves.

“Obviously a law degree is a necessary step for anyone who wants to ultimately practice as a solicitor or barrister, but we really want to help our students think about their future throughout their degree,” Professor Quinlan said.

“There are a huge range of different types of lawyers – city, suburban, rural, corporate, commercial, criminal, family law, immigration law, insurance, insolvency and many other specialisations. There are lawyers working in law firms or with government or with corporations, charities and not for profit or religious organisations. There is also a huge range of different work that graduates can move into outside of the direct practice of law. The law also opens many doors and we do our best to help our students get through at least one of those doors.”

With two sessions a year the program is open to all undergraduate students towards the end of their first year and all postgraduate students giving them access to up to five or nine mentors, depending on their course, during their time at Notre Dame.

Emily was paired with Maithri Panagoda a partner at Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers. “I am so grateful for having the opportunity to learn from such an experienced and knowledgeable mentor,” Emily said. “His support and assistance has been of significant benefit to my learning, particularly in the area of tort law.”

Emily said visiting Mr Panagoda's workplace was an eye-opening experience which helped her understand the realities of the legal profession. “It is an extraordinary opportunity and I am very grateful for Mr Panagoda's participation as well as the University's involvement.”

Mr Panagoda said it had been both a pleasure and a privilege to be involved in Notre Dame’s mentoring program. “It provided an opportunity for me to reflect upon my own pathway and then to think about what advice I could give that may help my student in her professional life and in her decision making going forward,” he said.

“Having the opportunity to talk to my student on a one to one basis and to keep in touch throughout the year was beneficial. I loved having the opportunity to give something back, to help others and to be involved with the University.”

Barristers, solicitors, judges, politicians and others partake in the program on a voluntary basis and often as a result of the School’s close working relationship with Sydney-based lawyers and the St Thomas More Society. Professor Quinlan noted how grateful the School was to all of the mentors who had joined the programs run over the years.

“Whilst people sometimes talk about the law being a business, we really find that lawyers still consider themselves to be part of a profession in the main,” Professor Quinlan said. “I’ve never had a potential mentor knock back an invitation to mentor a student and our mentors seem to get at least as much out of the program as the students. Helping students join the profession and succeed in life is very rewarding.”

For more information about Notre Dame’s School of Law contact the School on 02 8204 4300 or visit notredame.edu.au. As Notre Dame is a direct entry university, applications are still open for 2016.

MEDIA CONTACT
Theresa Kyne: Tel (02) 8204 4141; Mob: 0407 408 177; theresa.kyne@nd.edu.au