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Sitting at your office desk during a few quiet minutes in your day, you fall into a silent reverie. Your mind travels back to your final high school years, and you wonder what other paths you could have taken, and where else you might have been right now.
It’s never too late to alter the course of your career, or to change direction completely. However, if it’s an interest in law you want to chase, you’ve likely conjured a few reasons you can’t do it.
The study hours can be long and challenging, and juggling that with work and family might seem an impossible task. On top of that, you might also be wondering what you would actually do with a law degree once you had it.
It’s a question which Emma Morgan spent a lot of time pondering over when she first began her Juris Doctor (JD) at Deakin University.
‘I had been looking at the JD on and off for the last few years. I didn’t have a real idea of where to go with it, but it was something that had always interested me, and something that I wanted to do,’ she recalls.
Having spent almost 20 years in medical research, Emma craved something new, but had resigned herself to the fact she might only use the JD to go into a policy field or a government role. ‘I didn’t think I’d use it to become a lawyer,’ she says.
‘Even though I knew lawyers do a lot of different things, it wasn’t until I got into the program that I realised how diverse your options are when you have a law degree behind you.’
Having a new sense of the possibilities offered by the JD, Emma says her mindset of not being able to practice law went out the window.
‘I think what tipped me over was doing the commercial and civil law clinic,’ she explains. ‘From doing that, I finally got the confidence to say, “Actually, practicing law is not completely out of the question for me. Being able to help clients is something I really enjoy, but also, this is something that suits me and I have the potential to do this down the track.”’
Having pre-conceived ideas of what you can and can’t do, and what you might or might not like, isn’t unusual. But if you’ve been putting off chasing a passion for law because you think you can’t, that mindset can quickly change to can with learning and practice.
‘If it’s something you’re really keen on, I would definitely give it a go,’ Emma says. ‘I think anyone who takes on the JD will be pleasantly surprised in what they learn.’
'Even though I knew lawyers do a lot of different things, it wasn’t until I got into the program that I realised how diverse your options are when you have a law degree behind you.'
Student, Deakin University
Law is entwined in each day of our lives, which is what Emma says makes it such a fascinating degree.
‘Just to know your rights is incredible, and to know how to find out things. Even having the confidence to say, “Hey, I don’t think that’s right,”’ she says.
‘Every time I do a different subject in this degree, the things I’ve learnt are amazing and I just think, “Why doesn’t everyone know this stuff? These are things everyone should learn.”
If your interest in and passion for law is strong, the knowledge imparted in a JD degree can greatly enrich every aspect of your life.
‘Even if you don’t end up practicing, it has so many useful applications in other jobs and in life generally,’ Emma says.
‘But obviously, if that’s something you want to do, be prepared. It is a lot of work, and you do need to dedicate a portion of your week to it. But it’s definitely worthwhile.’
A challenging but rewarding path
If you’re someone already juggling a lot in life, Emma says adding study into the mix becomes a key challenge. ‘I think it’s just trying to get all the study done, do my job, be a parent and try to have some resemblance of a life as well,’ she laughs.
However it’s not something you necessarily need to do alone. Family and friends play a huge role in creating a support system to help you through.
‘Not even necessarily in terms of helping,’ Emma says. ‘But just encouraging me to keep going when I go, “I’ve had enough this week.”
‘You can forge through, that’s fine. But I think when you’re juggling a lot of things – particularly people with high demand jobs and the demands of family – if you don’t have the support I can imagine [study] could be a bit soul-destroying at times.’
But even if the going does get tough, and you feel your motivation slipping, Emma says there’s no shortage of rewards at the end of the tunnel.
As well as gaining a strong knowledge-base and understanding of our legal systems and your rights as an individual which she describes as ‘incredibly valuable’, Emma says, ‘It’s that feeling of being able to make a difference in someone’s life and being able to see that through which is a really huge reward for me.
‘And now to be able to take those skills I’ve learned and apply them in the community legal setting through volunteering has been another huge reward.’
If you’re ready to open yourself to the opportunities offered in a JD degree, you have no idea how far you can go.
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