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Sarah Dillon, Deakin School of Law Graduate 2008, talks about her experiences since graduating.
Since completing a Bachelor of Laws (Hons)/Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at Deakin in December 2008, I have been fortunate enough to have been employed in three jobs which have tested my analytical, legal research and writing skills, and given me opportunities to work with some amazing legal (and non-legal) minds on meaningful and interesting work.
Research Associate in the
Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria
In my first job out of university I was employed as one of three Research Associates in the Court of Appeal. The job of a Research Associate is to provide legal research memoranda to the judges on complex points of law arising in appeals being heard by the Court, and to prepare summaries and analysis of all civil applications (such as applications for leave to appeal) filed in the Court. The wide variety of work you get as a Research Associate is part of what makes it so interesting- everything from matters of civil procedure to sexual offences.
Needless to say I was more than a little nervous about stepping straight from university into the highest court in the Victorian hierarchy and having my legal reasoning abilities tested by appellate judges. But the judges were incredibly welcoming and supportive; they encouraged me to be confident about my research and analysis. There was a great sense of satisfaction whenever a judge used the product of your research in a judgment.
Victorian Law Reform Commission
After a year as a Research Associate I was employed by the Victorian Law Reform Commission as one of a team of people who worked on a 6-month inquiry into the processes for determining child protection applications in the Children's Court. My job was to review the history, development and numerous previous reviews of child protection legislation and the Children's Court in Victoria, and compare our system with those in the other Australian jurisdictions. As a team, in consultation with the lawyers, child protection workers and judges who work in the system, we then assessed the problems with the current processes and developed options for reform. After an intense but very fulfilling 6 months' work, the Commission's child protection report was delivered to the Attorney-General on 30 June 2010. It was well received by the then Attorney-General Rob Hulls, but following the subsequent change in government it is unclear whether our recommendations for urgent change to the Court's processes will now be acted upon.
Associate to Justice Redlich
My current job is working as Associate to Justice Redlich, who sits on the Court of Appeal. I assist his Honour with every case that comes before him, the majority of which are criminal appeals against conviction or sentence. The work is very challenging, but also very rewarding. It is a great privilege to work closely with a judge who is as intellectually rigorous but also compassionate as Justice Redlich. I have already learnt a great deal from working with his Honour, such as how to identify and assess inconsistencies in witnesses' evidence, and how a factor such as an offender's mental disorder informs the assessment of what is an appropriate sentence.
When I finish up as an Associate I will travel overseas to undertake an LLM in human rights and international criminal law. Wherever I end up after that, I will count myself lucky to have had the experience of working in the positions and institutions that I have.
Supreme Court of Victoria, where Sarah worked as
a Research Associate.