Deakin student Eva Cotsell took on a work-integrated learning unit, also known as an internship or work placement, hoping to build her experience in research. The opportunity led to so much more.

When Eva decided to take up a research opportunity in her second year of a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws degree, she could not imagine it would lead to paid work and a valuable mentor who would champion her through university and beyond.

That’s exactly how things panned out for the 22-year-old Ballarat local who’s just completed a double degree at Deakin.

Eva, who completed her studies online and also works as a paralegal in Ballarat, says she enrolled in the work-integrated learning unit because she was keen to better understand how academics work.

‘I think it’s important to have knowledge of how different types of lawyers work, separate to the different areas of law,’ she says.

‘Obviously, there are private practice solicitors and barristers, but there are also academics, government lawyers and in-house counsel.’

Deakin’s work-integrated learning program

Deakin’s work-integrated learning program ensures students can graduate with work experience by using an elective unit for an internship or placement.

‘What I like about Deakin is that they put such an emphasis on practical learning, including the Deakin Law Clinic and the work-integrated learning program.’

‘I felt I already had experience working with clients through my job, and my mum was a barrister, so I know how court works and how being briefed by a solicitor works. What I didn’t know was how an academic works.’

‘That was only the second year of my degree, and I was in the mindset of wanting to try everything because you can’t rule anything out until you try it.’

I learned a lot from that [internship]. When you’re putting your research into practice, and Vicki was putting my name as a research assistant on articles for the Sydney Law Review, it feels important.

Eva Cotsell

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws

Building valuable legal connections

Through the internship, Eva was paired with Dr Vicki Huang, Associate Professor at Deakin Law School and the University’s 2022 Teacher of the Year. Her placement included researching, editing and proof-reading material for Dr Huang.

Eva says although the internship was relatively brief, the learning curve was steep. The program allowed her to understand what’s worthy of research and gain invaluable knowledge in empirical research and writing articles for law journals.

‘I learned a lot from that [internship]. When you’re putting your research into practice, and Vicki was putting my name as a research assistant on articles for the Sydney Law Review, it feels important,’ says Eva.

After the formal internship ended, the benefits continued.

‘It’s been a great opportunity and Vicki has been very supportive.’

‘That’s another thing that comes out of putting yourself out there and getting practical experience because you also make connections.’

‘Vicki and I kept in touch, it led to paid work for me. Vicki wrote me a great letter of recommendation for Hall & Wilcox and other firms I applied to. When I got my graduate position, she was happy for me.’

‘I’m so grateful because she didn’t have to do any of this.’

A bright future in law

Eva plans to take a gap year in 2024 to live in London, work and travel. The following year, she has already secured a graduate position at Hall & Wilcox where she completed a seasonal clerkship during her studies.

It’s a big change for a young woman from a regional area but Eva says she could not be happier with the way her career is developing.

‘Hall & Wilcox is a national firm, it’s huge, hundreds of lawyers. It’s a tightly run ship, and they have lots of processes. It’s a whole different world for me and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect,’ she says.

‘I assumed it would be quite formal and intimidating, but when I got there I was pleased to find it’s a comfortable and flexible environment.'

‘They do a lot of pro bono work, and at the same time they’re working on high-level, complex matters for big clients and in areas I’ve never been exposed to.’

‘I’m just so excited to have that experience and exposure to these mind-blowing things.’

Want to gain two versatile degrees and enhanced career prospects? Learn more about Deakin's Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws