A Tale of Transition: From Regional Public School to First Year Law

“So, what school did you go to?”

It’s an innocent question and you hear it quite a lot during those awkward first year icebreakers, especially among Victorian students. When I explain I went to a public school in Geelong, reactions vary from blank to surprised. I suppose people have a vague sense of Geelong as a small town somewhere ‘out in the sticks’, a world away from trendy, hipster Melbourne. They’ve never heard of my school, only the private school on the other side of town where Prince Charles was educated for a year.  My actual hometown, about half an hour out of Geelong, is pretty unknown.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met lots of nice people who went to elite Melbourne private schools and none of them have ever made me feel bad about my so-called humble origins. They are not the entitled snobs that people from my high school might imagine them to be. However, it was inevitably jarring moving from an underprivileged school to an elite university course full of driven, intelligent people, some of whom come from legal families.

I always knew I wanted to move away for university. It’s not that I didn’t like where I used to live, I just couldn’t picture myself staying there forever. I quite liked the idea of being closer to the city and I felt the Arts/Law course at Monash was much more suited to my interests than any course I could have taken closer to home.

The first challenge I faced moving to the city was not knowing anyone. This is a common first year experience but it’s exacerbated by the fact that most people from my school can’t afford to move out of home and Monash is too far to commute. As the only student in my graduating class who came to Monash, I always knew I wouldn’t see any familiar faces in my first tutorials. Some students, on the other hand, seem to have half their school here and don’t need to desperately seek out new friends.

Meanwhile my high school friends are all moving on with their lives in a different way. They’re living at home, working retail jobs and saving up money for travel or uni next year. They still catch up at weekends and have impromptu sleepovers. I love them a lot and I’m keeping in touch, but sometimes I worry we’ll grow apart living such different experiences.

At high school, I was always ‘the academic kid’, the person everyone predicted would get dux at the end of year 12. It wasn’t hard at a school where most people didn’t have high educational aspirations. Law school, however, is full of people like me. Everyone’s studious and well-informed about a range of subjects. A lot of people are good public speakers. I thought I’d be unique as a French speaking Law student but there are a surprising number of us. While this is all very enriching, it’s sometimes hard to accept I might not be the most talented person in the room – something people from bigger, more academic schools are more used to. I am gradually learning not to hold myself to the same ridiculously high academic standard though, it’s not good for my mental health when I expect to be the best at everything.

Although I’ve got no idea what it’s like to go to a private school, I get the feeling my university peers have had a lot more opportunities than I have had up until now. Even though I did French up to year 12, I’ve never been on exchange there. At my school, activities like high school debating, model UN and big budget theatre productions were virtually unheard of. I’ve had a fantastic start to the year with Monash Association of Debaters and I can probably get a travel grant if I want to do a French exchange but sometimes I get a bit of FOMO when I imagine all the things I never got to do in high school. I also know I’ll have to rely on financial aid for pretty much every future educational opportunity.

Still, when I tell you I went to a public school in Geelong, don’t assume I hated it. I am saying those words with pride. Academia aside, every student at my school was accepted for who they were and I can’t overstate the importance of inclusivity. I had some amazing teachers who helped me achieve my potential even when the rest of my class were pretty unmotivated. If I could turn back time and magically give my parents enough money to send me to a private school, I wouldn’t even consider it. I’m lucky to have met some very privileged people, some very underprivileged people and everyone in between. After all, a justice system where only the privileged can become lawyers is unlikely to be truly just. Maybe I’m an idealist, but ultimately, I’m studying law because I want to ensure justice is done for people from all walks of life – no matter where they went to school.

Written by Brynnie Rafe

A Case for Good Breaks

Have you ever been studying, cramming or grinding away at a task and you hit a wall? A seemingly insurmountable wall that you just can’t overcome? You check your phone, you distract your roommates or you go snack on some food, finding any excuse to procrastinate whatever it was you were doing. Yeah, we’ve all been there. We waste hours putting off tasks we know we should be doing, but the task is always there – at the back of our minds, gnawing away at our guilt. We can’t procrastinate in peace either, because we know we need to get back to it. A good break is a fundamental solution to side-stepping that wall, and to coming out the other side with guns firing.

There’s certainly no single method to have a good break, and everyone has their own process. At its core, a good break is a period of time you’ve allocated to yourself and given yourself permission to let go of your worries and relax. You could read a book, play some music or even go for a nice stroll. The key is to detach yourself from your stress during the break. As a result, you’ll come back to your task energised, with renewed ideas and hopefully in a much better mood!

1. Doing Nothing

Sometimes, a good break can just be to… do nothing. The concept of doing nothing is a way of thought the Dutch have termed ‘niksen.’ Practicing niksen involves taking conscious, considered time to perform activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. In an age where everyone is glued to one electronic device or another, we forget that the best ideas often come from idle daydreams. If you don’t believe me, how many lightbulb moments have you had while in the shower? Research has shown that daydreaming makes us more creative, better at problem-solving and destresses the mind.If you’ve got an assignment due and you’ve hit that creative wall, perhaps some idle niksen in a comfy corner of your room is really what you need.

2. Nap Breaks

Let’s be honest, many law students stay up late. Whether it’s out of habit, or last-minute panic for an assignment due the next day, we’re pretty nocturnal creatures. I can’t speak for everyone, but my productivity levels drop to rock bottom levels by the 2am mark. The day after a late night up tends also to be tiring and less productive. Instead of changing our sleep patterns as we’ve all been told countless times (and won’t do), I’ve found that power naps work well to combat productivity issues throughout the course of the day.

Power naps usually last between 10-30 minutes, and offer boosts of alertness, memory retention and cognitive ability. An hour or two after lunch is a natural time to nap since your blood sugar and energy levels drop. If you’re feeling drowsy, take a good break with a power nap to recharge!

What if you just don’t have time for a good break?

As law students, we often lead very hectic lifestyles, and this can result in schedules which have no room for hobbies. A potential solution is to schedule in weekly commitments, to act almost as compulsory breaks.Personally, I’ve found team sports to be a great way to break the hustle and bustle of the high-stress law student lifestyle. A weekly team sport session has myriad benefits:

  • Exercise improves cognitive function. Decision-making and problem solving are enhanced after a solid workout. We all know the feeling of coming back from a walk with a ‘clear mind.’
  • Exercise releases mood-improving endorphins.
  • You can maintain a ‘healthy body, healthy mind.’

As a twice-weekly indoor soccer player, team sports have been a significant part of my life for many years now. From short-term benefits – feeling more alert once I get home and ready to tackle whatever work I have; to long-term benefits – keeping in touch with high school friends and making sure I’m staying in shape.

Personally, I’ve really benefited from participating in team sports. I recall a time last year during the semester 1 exam period when I was working 3 days a week, taking 4 units and had active extra-curricular commitments. The work was really piling up, with burn-out right around the corner. However, for 80 minutes each week, I would forget about all my concerns and lose myself in the sport. Afterward, I would inevitably feel better, resulting in greater productivity and a more stable mental state. Being able to switch off during a break is not the same as ‘wasting time,’ and for me, has been extremely helpful.

Of course, team sports are not the only way to schedule in good breaks throughout the week, rather any commitment to a hobby ensures a dedicated timeslot each week or fortnight where it’s just you-time.

Some useful resources to get you started

The hardest step is getting started. That’s why we’ve listed below a number of valuable resources students can access to get on track to having some good breaks and stopping the monotony of the #lawgrind.

Monash Sport

For students at Clayton Campus: +61 3 9905 4102
For students at Caulfield Campus: +61 3 9903 2358

Book a sporting break! Sports and Fitness Groups around Melbourne

https://www.meetup.com/cities/au/melbourne/sports-fitness/ https://www.eventbrite.com.au/d/australia–melbourne/free–sports-and-fitness–events/

Napping Benefits

https://medium.com/thrive-global/the-biggest-brain-benefits-of-taking-a-daily-nap-c82d1b0f15a0 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping

Monash Counselling

Monash also provides free and confidential counselling and psychological services. Call 9905 3020 or 53020 from a Monash phone to make appointments and plan a weekly routine.

Monash Student Association

For students at Clayton campus Phone: 9905 3118 or 9905 3126

Monash Postgraduate Association

For graduate students on all campuses Phone: 9905 3197 or 9903 1880

Written by Kevin Ren

The Great Balancing Act: Law School & a Part-Time Job

We all know that life’s not easy. There are always going to be times when we are busier than usual, where we feel like there isn’t even time to sit back and watch the latest episode of MAFS or make it to a family dinner. There have been countless periods where I have felt like a hamster running on one of those wheels, constantly moving and pushing myself but never really getting anywhere.

It is very easy to lapse into these feelings when you are trying to balance a highly demanding law degree as well as 20+ hours of part time work a week. For most university students a part-time job is not a choice, rather it is a necessary means of gaining financial independence and being able to support yourself (beyond buying a totally unnecessary amount of Grafali’s coffee every week).

Over the past two and a half years of my law degree I have been one of those students who is never at uni and watches every lecture at home after an exhausting day at work. Albeit this is probably not the most conventional way of doing law school but for me it is necessary and after all this time it hasn’t been until recently that I have found my ‘perfect balance’.

Luckily for you, my struggling through the last two and a half years has led me to develop some ‘tips’ for finding the perfect balance between work, uni and life. By no means should my tips be taken as gospel because I am far from perfect and am yet to master any aspect of my life, but they are just some small hints that I wish I had been given before embarking on my journey. So here they are:

1. Time management is key

This is my first tip because I believe it to be the most important. It is almost essential to have good time management skills – this applies to most things in life, not just balancing uni and work. I am the first to admit that when I first started working during university that my time management skills were not up to scratch. It takes a while to develop these skills, but trust me, after a bit of hard work and a little less procrastination you will get there. This is not to say that you can’t enjoy some down time (as you will see in in my 5th tip) but it is just important to know when it is time to work, time to study and time to relax. In order to avoid falling into the trap of procrastination (which I am well known for) I would suggest writing up your own personal timetable every day that specifically states what you are doing that day and what times you are doing it.

2. Its ok to say no

There are often times where covering somebody’s shift at work seems like a far better idea that sitting at home and studying – you get paid and you don’t have to study, what a great plan! I soon learnt that this is actually not the best idea and that if you say yes to covering shifts too often you can be taken advantage of and almost expected to cover shifts in the future. Here I really just want to let you know that its ok to say no and not take on more shifts than you have committed to. Life is busy enough with doing your own shifts and uni, there is no need to stretch yourself even further.

3. Try your best not to let it slip

I am still working on trying not to ‘let is slip’. By this I mean try not to get too far behind on your lectures/notes that it becomes almost impossible to recover. I know first hand how easy it is to miss a lecture and then to tell yourself you’ll watch it next week, but little do you know you have even less time next week than you did this week so you never end up watching it. My advice is to write a to-do list and then tick each item off when you have completed it. It not only feels good when you do tick things off but it also helps you keep track of what you have done and what you haven’t and therefore stops you from getting that feeling of panic and anxiety when you sit down to study but don’t know where to start – now you just have to look at the list!

4. Its ok to ask for help

Although university is not very lenient or forgiving of students who work, there are other areas of your life that can be adjusted during busy times to allow you to spend more time on more important things (cough exams cough). One thing that I do that I find helps me a lot is to limit the number of hours I do at work in the lead up to exams. In my experience, if you are open and upfront with your employer and tell them that you have university exams coming up and need more time to study, they will be understanding of these commitments and will allow you to do fewer hours in the lead up.

5. Allow time for you

Last but definitely not least, make sure you allow a bit of time every day to relax and do something you want to do. Whether it be watching an episode of your favourite TV show, going for a run or catching up with friends for coffee, I believe is extremely important to take time out to do something you really enjoy. I have found that when I don’t take time off, I get very burnt out and not taking a break actually turns out to be counter-productive as working or studying too hard without an end in sight can be extremely demotivating. Although there is no strict time frame that should be allocated to this, I would say that at least one hour of down time each day is necessary.

With any luck after reading this you have got something to take away and apply to your own life. Most importantly, just remember that the whole work/uni thing is not easy an its totally normal to struggle with the heaviness of your law degree as well as your part time job. Throughout it all try your best to remain calm just keep chipping away at your to-do list- you will get there eventually! If I can do it, so can you!

By Claudie Opie

Time for an Awakening: Overcoming the Adversity of Culture and Stigma

CW: suicide, dist. thoughts

In March 2016, international student Zhikai Liu committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of his 21st floor apartment. Travelling more than 9000 kilometres from China to study in Melbourne, Liu found himself in an extremely challenging situation. He was unable to keep up with his study load, had difficulty socialising with local students, and became more and more distant from his long-distance girlfriend. As a result, Liu started to experience serious insomnia and depression, occasionally expressing suicidal thoughts when he was alone in the apartment. Unfortunately, he refused to seek any medical assistance, and insisted he was fine.

On 5 March 2016, Liu expressed his desire to focus on improving his English, rather than spend time at university. He was then told by his father to give the decision some thought. The next day, after a conversation about Liu’s academic and life predicament, Liu’s sister heard him walking towards the kitchen and muttering to himself, “Why is life so difficult? Why do we always have to make difficult decisions?”.

Then the tragedy happened.

In investigating Liu’s suicide, Coroner Audrey Jamieson instructed the Coroners Prevention Unit (CPU) to analyse suicides of other international students in Victoria. To find out what might be distinctive about the deaths, the CPU studied the circumstances of the 27 international student suicides and a cohort of suicides among Australian-born students. The findings by the CPU include the following:

  • A lower prevalence of diagnosed mental illness among the international student suicides (14.8%) than in the Australian-born student suicide cohort (66.7%)
  • Only 22.2% of the international student suicide cohort attended a health service for a mental health related issue within six weeks of death. By contrast, 57.1% of the Australian-born student suicide cohort had such an attendance within six weeks of death.

Studies have also found that international students in Australia are less likely than domestic students to seek assistance for mental health issues because of cultural, financial, linguistic and other hurdles. In a paper published by Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett and Dr Anne-Maree Sawyer, three factors are identified to heighten the stress experienced by international students:

  1. The experience of new and often unfamiliar academic practices;
  2. The broad range of knowledge and practical skills needed to manage day-to-day living in Australia;
  3. The tendency to delay professional help-seeking for mental health problems.

What we can learn from Liu’s story

When I first came across the news about Liu’s suicide, I blanched and pondered deeply over his last words. Reflecting on the very beginning of my time in this country, I experienced a similar type of anxious feeling. Why is life so hard? Why are there so many choices? Why are there so many decisions that need to be made?

Famous existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard described this anxious feeling as the dizziness of freedom, that of crippling possibility, of the boundlessness of one’s existence. Reading the existentialist philosophy was an enlightening process for me. I view this as a precious opportunity to fully grasp my own choices, responsibility, freedom and true being. Anyway, this is slightly off our topic. What is more important here is the cultural stigma international students are facing.

Liu’s suicide shows how international students are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues. There are way more students out there sitting in their own room desperately in need of help. They either don’t know how they can seek assistance, or they simply to refuse to talk to anyone about their issues. Writing from my experience as a native Chinese, the problem for students coming from Asian cultural background, I believe, lies in our inherent conservative cultural values regarding mental health.

Mental health has always been regarded as a taboo in many cultures. Particularly in the Chinese culture, the focus is always on physical health rather than the health of our mind. Emotional or psychological symptoms associated with mental health issues are rarely the topic of conversation. This probably has to do with the “keeping face” culture in Asia, where people fear that talking about their mental health would be a sign of weakness, and could bring shame on themselves and their families.

What’s even more disappointing to me is how some people still express their resistance to the ‘western’ way of treating mental health. They believe it wouldn’t do anything to solve ‘eastern’ problems. This stigma would further undermine one’s confidence of his or her ability to overcome their mental illness. It will lead to people to define themselves by their illness rather than who they are as an individual.

Based on that, here are some of the ways I’ve learnt to deal with the stigma:

  • Get the medical assistance you need as soon as possible. The effects of mental illness, if not dealt with in reasonable time, would lead to further harms to your physical health.
  • Do not let mental illness define who you are. Rather than saying ‘I’m depressed’, say ‘I have depression”. In order to find your true self, you should view yourself as a confident and capable individual.
  • Don’t pay attention to the negative and stigmatising comments. Mental illness is not a sign of weakness and is rarely something you can deal with on your own. Talking about your mental health issues with healthcare professionals will help you further along on your road to recovery or management. Remember that other people’s judgements often come from a lack of understanding rather than anything else. These judgments are typically made before they get to know you, so don’t believe that their views have anything to do with you personally.
  • Connect with others. Joining a mental health support group can help you deal with feelings of isolation and make you realise that you’re not alone in your feelings and experiences. You can also talk to your close friends, relatives and families about your issues.

Written by Dave Yan Sima

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News Flash: We aren’t having the correct discussion about mental health

Every now and then it is important to acknowledge how far we have come. Mental illness is now seen as a genuine grievance worthy of compassion and empathy. All major political parties in Australia have mental health funding as a primary policy objective. Men can open up about their struggle with depression or anxiety without it been seen as an affront to their masculinity. This was only made possible through millions of people choosing to have a more honest discussion of the reality of mental illness.

In the spirit of this gratitude, I want to talk about the danger of people who choose to over-simplify and cheapen the issue of mental health. The particular example I have in mind is the rise of ‘shortcuts to mental health’. The content is usually banal and self-explanatory, with advice such as ‘get enough sleep’, ‘meditate every morning’ and ‘learn to be happy.’ There is nothing inherently wrong with this sort of advice, but …

The problem is that they imply a simplicity to your mental health that just isn’t true. They enforce the illusion that your mental health is some kind of sickness that you fix by treating the symptoms.

I’m sorry folks, but that just ain’t how it works. Whether it is out of ignorance, or a deliberate choice to get clicks by piggy backing off a hot topic, this hurts those of us who still or will struggle with mental illness.

I decided to write about this after I was asked to speak at the 2019 Wellness for Law forum. At the panel, I was asked “What have you found to be the most effective strategy for maintaining your psychological well-being?”

The question bothered me because of how it painted the issue of mental health. It assumed that it was some kind of easy problem that could be fixed with just a few words of advice. Now, I’ll admit that I’m not an expert in mental health. But I can speak from my own experiences, and the hundreds of people who I have talked to about their mental health, to know there is some element of truth to what I’m about to say.

A mental health ‘strategy’ implies that if you execute the following steps correctly, everything will work out. It pushes forward this idea that so long as you’re eating right, and sleeping right, then you will feel better all the time. Even though each of these things are vitally important, we have to think about our well-being holistically. It’s about developing a consideration of our mental well-being as something that is one of, if not the most important aspect of our life.

One of the major themes of the Wellness for Law forum was resilience.

Namely, how can we develop resilience within ourselves so that we can deal with the trials and tribulations of life. Life is just going to get tougher after university, and that is the truth. Anyone that has gone through any kind of hardship knows that you can’t learn resilience. You experience something difficult, you suffer, and resilience manifests itself within you.  It’s not a reward that you get after you complete something. It’s a state of mind that develops once you begin to think in a different way.

Bertrand Russel once said that “if something can be said in a nutshell, that’s where it belongs”. Unfortunately, happiness doesn’t lie at the end of reading a well-being article or at the bottom of a to do list (don’t worry, the irony of me proclaiming this on a website about well-being isn’t lost on me). The solution is much deeper and far more complex than that, and depends on your own willingness to question the structure that have governed your life up until now. I am not saying there is no worth to Buzzfeed listing tips & tricks on wellbeing, but we need to keep the search within ourselves to find real meaning from life. This meaning is what will lead to resilience, and this resilience is what is crucial keeping mental illness at bay.

Written by Christian Lane


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First Year Blues: A Short Story on Choosing Your Friends & Your Clothes

First year of law school.

Not easy.

But definitely not as intimidating as you may think.

For me, what worried me most wasn’t just law school being intimidating and hard. It was saying goodbye to my comfortable high school routines, saying goodbye to wearing a uniform, and most unfortunately, saying goodbye to my two best friends who, both coincidentally, moved across the globe for uni. Yeah. I know. To me at the time, it was definitely the worst thing that could possibly happen going into Uni.

I was always someone who enjoyed the convenience of uniform. Summer – put on summer dress, white socks, brown shoes, and if I remembered, a ribbon in my hair.

Winter – a little more complicated… put on my white shirt, my tie, my stockings and my skirt. If it was cold, my jumper and blazer too. Six years of wearing the same uniform allowed me to never have to stress about outfits in the morning.

Uni just wasn’t the same. I remember waking up Monday morning for my first ever Crim lecture. 9am. Yeah…that was already 30 minutes later than high school starting. Should be easy right? NO. Picking an outfit for my first day at uni was actually a chore! I broke a sweat trying on the five jumpers and four (very much the same) pairs of leggings. Thank goodness I had my favourite pair of shoes at the time, otherwise the shoe choosing process could have left me missing my first lecture.

Three years down the track, I can definitely see how I was making a massive deal over a first world problem. But everything feels like a big deal in First Year.

So to anyone starting their first year, I just want to say it’s normal to panic and stress over things you have never worried about before, and it’s normal to not always be on top of everything. Just remember, first year is the best year to learn how uni life differs from high school and to start some new routines. Clearly, I could have laid the outfit out the night before, but being the last minute person I am- I didn’t.


A lot of the time, our uni experience is very much dependent on the friends we have and the people we meet. Going into uni while my two best friends across the world, definitely made me feel like I “had no friends”. Each time I spoke to someone in a lecture and they told me “I’m hanging with my high friends friends tonight, we’re going out for a few drinks!” I couldn’t help but wonder how much easier and better life would be if I had my best friends. I would message them and tell them how much I missed them, and consequently start missing high school and my comfort circle. As the year went on, I realised, the only thing stopping me from meeting new people was my constant wish for my best friends to be here by my side. I learnt the importance of taking myself out of my own shell and stepping out into a new world where new people and opportunities are not as daunting as my mind makes it out to be. I realised there were people in similar positions as me and I wasn’t alone in feeling lonely and awkward.

There is always someone out there that will be your best friend, someone you will connect with, and someone you will go through uni with.

I just needed to find them, just like I had to find my best friends back in high school.

Written by Dian Liu (Co-founder)

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The Importance of Individualism: A Conversation with Demetrio Zema from Law Squared

If you are looking down the barrel of another 3 – 4 years of law school, it can be difficult to digest the seemingly long road ahead and to question how anyone gets through it.

The institutions which educate us are designed to create an elite group of students, the best of the best for them to gain traction and recognition as a leading alumni or a certain institution. This inevitably breeds competitiveness amongst students.

The subject matter we deal with is philosophically complex and morally obtuse. From the get go, its hard to know where you stand in your education and career development and this can lead to substantial self doubt. Are you tracking well? Are your grades good enough? Are they better than the person’s next to you? Are you even good enough to be here?

If you are planning on coming out the other end happy and intact, you need to come into university every year in the proper frame of mind. In this article, I write about a conversation Ashley and I had with Demetrio Zema, the founder of Law Squared. As the young founder of a law firm built on more humanistic principles of empathy and individual freedom, Demetrio certainly did not tread the beaten path. In this conversation, Demetrio revealed several of his thoughts about university education and his own self-doubt and ways to combat same.

I hope that fleshing out some of these ideas can help each of us re-frame the way we think about our university lives and the “road to our degree”. We want you to view this journey as a positive and influential step toward bigger goals.

Focus on your own lane

Demetrio did not start out wanting to be a lawyer. During university, he wanted to be a diplomat. By not wanting to go down the traditional lawyer path, this actually freed him from a lot of the competitive stress that bind law students such as applying for clerkships, internships and even articles (or now known as traineeships). He built himself up as the type of person he wanted to be, not what he thought would make him more qualified than everyone else. He focused on developing his own skill-set and this is what set him apart from those around him.

The importance of this lies in the simple fact that there are many different paths that lead to the same destination, and one is not better than the other simply because everyone else is doing it. Focus on your own lane and you will discover that you avoid the traffic in the other ones.

Just because you can do everything, that doesn’t mean you should

The connected nature of our social lives can be a powerful tool if used consciously and intelligently, however it can also be a huge source of achievement-anxiety. We are constantly exposed to other people’s achievements, breakthroughs, eureka-moments and award ceremonies. I know from my own experiences that, if I am not careful, using LinkedIn can just lead me to comparing myself to everyone around me and feeling awful because everyone seems to be doing something better with their life. It’s the Instagram of the professional world, showcasing the best of your life and leaving off anything that might not showcase “the best” (we’ve all taken 100 photos of the same object or view “for the gram” to capture our viewers attention). We all know our social media feeds are anything but the reality that sits behind most peoples lives.

What follows this feeling is the itch to take on more responsibilities and to “better” yourself and to “one up” what someone else has done or is doing. I know a number of students who feel as though taking on that extra roll, or that extra job, or that extra internship, will subside the feeling of mediocrity. Demetrio points out that this feeling can follow you into your working life and can persistently nag you unless you consciously do something about it. As an insurance lawyer, he worked extraneous hours and took on more and more stress because he felt like that’s what he “had to do”. If you spend your university life constantly trying to constantly “do better” and “achieve more” to climb the ladder, than this can carry through to your working life habits.

Demetrio revealed that ultimately, his personal and mental health was jeopardised and therefore when an opportunity arose, he decided to step outside the traditional law career path. Demetrio is a big believer in creating your own journey based on your own values and your own aspirations. Start with introspection. What do you value? What gives you real satisfaction and causes you to feel good about what you are doing? It shouldn’t be what your friends are doing, or what values/expectations your family have set. It shouldn’t be charity work simply because someone you admire did it, and it shouldn’t be learning to code because that’s what LawyersWeekly said to do. Once you have an idea of what you value, you can begin to visualise where you want to go. Demetrio pointed out that there will always be opportunities outside of the traditional law pathway, if you have the resolve to trust and back yourself.

Stay grounded

If you identified that a law degree is a necessary step toward a bigger goal, but are struggling with the idea of forcing yourself through law school, Demetrio has some words for you.

“You can see law school as a means to an end, or you can see it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, learn more about the profession and to use the time to decide whether pursuing a legal career (either traditional or non-traditional law) is for you”

At the end of the day, your degree is just the start of your career journey. Yes law is a stressful degree, however working as a lawyer is equally if not more stressful and therefore as future lawyers, we need to learn to manage stress and expectations. Law School gives you the foundations for your career, it might not give you all of the tools nor does it give you a blue print on how to be a lawyer, but it does provide the foundational knowledge of an industry plagued with disruption and exciting opportunities.

Getting through law school isn’t about the shiny certificate you get given at the end, it’s about providing you with the foundational skills, to become a lawyer. Remember, you are more than a law student, you are a friend, a son, a daughter and countless other, more important things. Focus on what makes you happy and gives you purpose right now, and trust that the rest will inevitably follow.

By Christian Lane; co-edited with Demetrio Zema 

Demetrio Zema is the Founder and Director of
Law Squared a specialised commercial law and litigation firm focussed on working with high growth businesses and ASX listed companies.

Named “Australia’s most innovative law firm”, Law Squared takes an entrepreneurial approach to the provision of legal services, by offering a model of partnering with its clients as risk advisers to protect them against future risk and to partner with them to advance their business.

In 2018, Demetrio was nominated as Law Firm Leader of the Year (<200 employees) in the Australasian Law Awards and named the winner of the Lawyers Weekly 30 under 30 in Commercial Law, and the Law Institute of Victoria Rising Star. Demetrio and Law Squared have also been listed on the Lexis Nexus Legal Innovation Index.

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How Clerkship Rejections Were The Best Thing That Happened To Me

Last year, I faced a series of rejections that I never expected would affect me the way it did.

I had good grades and a nicely ornamented resumé I was proud of. Then the rejection emails came. Relentlessly. One after the other. It got to the point where I only had to read the opening line, ‘Due to the high calibre of applicants this year…’ where my heart would drop and I knew what would follow. After a tiring couple of months, I wounded up empty handed and broken hearted.

While many of my brilliant friends had their summers filled with clerkships, my summer was scarily vacant with three empty months before my exchange in Prato, Italy. As someone who itched to be busy and needed an eventful summer, I decided that I would apply for a short one-month intensive unit in January 2018 in Jerusalem, Israel. I was accepted into that program and had two free months before I flew off to Italy.

As I sat at my desk, planning out the spare time that I had because I didn’t have clerkships, I reached into my backpack and discovered an old crumpled pamphlet. I remembered speaking to a random lady at an airport about my dreams and aspirations six months ago. We bonded over having the same name. ‘Oh, you’re interested in human rights? Have you heard of Calev Myers? He’s a human rights lawyer in Israel,’ she said as she handed me a pamphlet with the large words ‘Jerusalem Institute of Justice’ on its cover. I remembered taking it, smiling, and shoving it in my backpack. I forgot about it for the next six months, until that day.

After a brief Google of this mysterious Calev Myers, I decided to spontaneously email him because why the hell not. My email went along the lines of something like this: ‘Hello Calev, I’ll be in Israel studying for a month. I love your work. If you’d like, I’d love to have a catch up when I’m in town. Thanks!’ I cannot emphasise how informal and shabby it was.

Two days later, he responded with a ‘Thank you for reaching out to me, Carol. You seem like the perfect candidate for an internship in the Jerusalem Institute of Justice! I’ve just forwarded your email to the CEO and COO of the organisation. They’ll be in touch with you.’

This literally went straight from zero to a hundred. I immediately looked up this non-for-profit organisation and found that there was a formal application process for an internship, which I had skipped entirely. Just like that, through a late night sleepily-drafted email, I had landed myself an internship in a reputable human rights organisation in the Middle East.

I ended up living in Jerusalem for three months from January to March. I visited some of the most beautiful and culturally rich places on earth, ate incredible food, picked up conversational Hebrew, educated myself on politics, formed opinions on issues I was once absolutely clueless on, gained deeper insight into my faith, and found lifelong friends. And when I say ‘lifelong friends’, I mean kindred spirits that celebrate with you, cry with you, and do life with you.

My three months in Jerusalem easily became one of the best three months of my life.

Often when we’ve planned for something that doesn’t happen, we’re left we a daunting amount of spare time lingering in the place of our unfulfilled wishes. Embrace it. Reach out into your backpack and pull out that crumpled, untouched pamphlet. Contact that person you met months, or years, ago with the job of your dreams. Draft an email, or emails, to the person that inspires you the most. It doesn’t even have to be career-related. Those empty months are waiting to be transformed into spontaneous adventures, new skills and experiential knowledge.



After a total of 7 months in Israel and Italy, I finally settled back in Melbourne and returned to life as I knew it. I started applying for grad jobs in commercial firms. (For those who didn’t get clerkships – grad applications are your second window!)

After a gruelling process of interviews and psychometric tests, a familiar wave of rejections swept over me. Except this time, it felt much gentler and kinder. After the first wave of clerkship rejections, I’ve somehow built a resistance against ‘no’. Barely dismayed, I dusted them off. I was having coffee with a friend when she said to me, ‘I don’t see it as rejection, but redirection.’ Sure, it’s a catchy phrase. But I was soon about to find out how right she was.

One day, another friend suggested that I mind-mapped my aspirations to have a clearer idea of my future. Initially, I thought it sounded silly. I’m not in kindergarten. I am a fully-grown adult who pays for her own Netflix account. But I decided to give it a shot anyway. I spread out a large, blank sheet of paper across my desk, and formed three broad categories: Passion, Talent and Lifestyle.

Passion. My passion is people. I love hearing their stories, unpacking their hearts, and allowing them to feel seen and valued. I also love law. I love the problem-solving and intellectually-stimulating aspects of it. Of course, I have other ancillary passions, such as music and politics. I scribbled those down too.

Talent. The first thing that came to my mind was my way with words. I love using my words to empower others and to convey ideas. The second thing that popped in my head was my people skills. I love building relationships. This was tightly linked to my other talent of words. It’s my way with words that enables me to connect easily with people, and my easy connection with people that highlights my way with words.

Finally, lifestyle. This was a surprising one. It was only when I thought about how much I enjoyed my alone time, church time, gym time, time making music, and time with people I love, when I realised how I did not desire the lifestyle of a lawyer in a traditional commercial law firm. I deeply admire and respect the people who enjoy long hours and flourish in highly demanding work spaces. But it’s just not the lifestyle I desire for myself.

After reflecting on the bigger picture, I found that my dream job would be working as a lawyer with vulnerable or broken clients. This fulfills my passion and talent, while also providing me with a satisfactory lifestyle.

Something that I hear many people say is, ‘Well, I don’t know if it’s not for me if I haven’t even tried it yet. I don’t know if commercial law is not for me because I haven’t clerked yet.’ You make a fair point. However, there are many boutique to mid-tier commercial firms out there that are happy to take in paralegals or short-term interns to give you a good flavour. I’ve certainly done a few stints myself and, looking back, I didn’t enjoy the work. Or, you could reach out to lawyers in that line of work and ask them for their honest feedback. Or, you could take my advice and mind-map your passions, talents and desired lifestyle. You never know- your answers may surprise you.

Last year, the clerkship process broke my heart but I went on to live my best life in a foreign country.

This year, I applied again and grad rejections didn’t crush me. I went on to discover my true passion and dream. And this is how clerkship rejections were the best thing that happened to me.

Carol Shi (Contributor)

Carol Shi is a fresh graduate from Monash Law. In her spare time, she enjoys a meaningful conversation over coffee, jamming to a good Hilary Duff banger in her car, and colouring her bible. She will be starting her Practical Legal Training in January 2019. Albeit less active on social media, you can discover her one song on Spotify

We Asked How Law Students Deal With Stress. Here’s What They Said.

As a 4th year, I’ve had about eight semesters to figure out how to handle stress during exam time. Yet, for some reason I still make the same mistake of leaving all my revision to the last minute, and then flip-flop between nonchalance and angsty crying.

If you’re not feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of content you have to get through in such a short week, then you’re a much better student than I am. But for the rest of us who may need some ideas on how to deal with all the low-key panicking, we asked a bunch of law students how they cope during the exam period.


“I like to break down the work I have to do, make to do lists and set achievable goals every day so I don’t feel too overwhelmed” – Elsie, 4th Year

“I deal with exam stress by having a detailed revision plan. By doing that, all of the workload can be visualised in the schedule and it stops me from overestimating or underestimating the pressure I could potentially be facing when preparing for the exams.”- Dave, 3rd year 

“I write down all the tasks I have to do, (using the important and urgent way of categorising if easier) and then schedule out my day/week. It helps me realise my tasks aren’t as insurmountable as it seems. I also schedule in a good amount of exercise and recreation to get my mind working creatively in a non study way”- Aashritha, 4th Year

“I make a daily study timetable to make sure I keep on top of my exam revision. I also think its important to maintain the balance between study and still doing the things you enjoy from day to day. “- Georgia, 4th Year

“I make sure my working environment, whether it’s my room or my study, is clean and tidy. There is so much research about having a clean working environment and how it can declutter your mind and make you feel so much better and more relaxed.”- Sam, 4th Year

“I try to have a study plan and stick to it. Do past year papers with friends and review the content together as it is makes studying less burdensome. It is also important to get sufficient sleep”- Priya, 3rd Year 

“I do what I find easiest first – for example, the easiest questions first – and get into the rhythm of doing work which encourages me to get into study” –Sarah, 2nd Year


“I make sure I prioritise exercise and getting outdoors! Going for a run or a walk after a big day of study is the best remedy for me!”- Liz, 4th Year 

“Even during the stressful exam period, it is important to always remember balance. Sometimes exercising or going out with friends can lead me to study better and have better concentration”- Dian, 2nd Year 

“Don’t forget to get some daily exercise, it helps with the stress” – Bahe, 2nd year

“I like to meal prep before SWOTVAC! That way I don’t have to worry so much about making lunch or dinner throughout the week”- Jane, 5th Year

“My tip would be to make sure you exercise – it can give you more energy and make you study more efficiently and also definitely don’t do it alone – it is best to share the pain!” – Harry, 5th Year

“When the stress gets really bad, my sisters and I blast some music and have a 5 minute dancing sesh”- Anon 

“Exercising- even if you don’t think you have the time. I always find time to get out and release some endorphins. It allows me to focus so much more when I’m working”- Sam, 4th Year


Meditation is HUGE. I value it so much. Even just 5-10 minutes of mindfulness meditation makes me feel so much more relaxed and focused and stress-free.”- Sam, 4th Year

“If I start to feel anxious, I do breathing exercises” – Jane, 5th year

“I have a creative outlet such as playing guitar and singing “- Carol, 4th Year

“I schedule out (whether it be in a calendar or diary) some down time! Whether it be to do yoga, read a book or go for dinner with friends. Scheduling downtime allows me to look forward to something when I’m studying and helps maintain a healthy balance” –Francesca 4th Year

“I deal with stress by meditating because it helps me to be at ease with my thoughts. Guided meditation apps are really helpful for starting out” –Wayne, 4th Year 

“Whenever I get too stressed, I put everything down, go outside and take a walk. Just soaking up all the things that are going on around me really lends perspective and makes me remember that these exams are only a small part of my life. Whether it’s the wind blowing through the trees or watching a dog run around, it really does wonders for my perspective”- Leo, 4th Year

I remind myself that whatever happens, my grades don’t define my worth. You are so much more than an arbitrary number out of 100. Just do your best and that’ll always be enough”- Christian, 3rd Year


“I make sure to schedule time to catch up with friends over a nice brunch or go shopping and not feel guilty about having a break“- Georgia, 4th Year

“I love blocking out time to spend with friends who keep me grounded and are fun to be around. I always leave in a good mood and energised to tackle my studies”- Ash, 4th Year 


“I just remember that everybody has to go through the same shit “- Tommy, 4th year 


By Ashley Chow (Co-founder)

On the Precipice of Hard Work: Taboo Challenges of University Life

University lifestyle is outwardly and undeniably demanding. There is a requirement for rigorous diligence, the ability to absorb a wealth of content and detail, opportunities for international study, life-long friendships and fantastic career prospects. But beyond this, students must come to terms with several harsh, brutal truths; some of which are far more prevalent and concerning for undergrads. I believe my familiarity with various personal challenges may elucidate some of these realities.

Perhaps the most prevalent psychological encounter for students is adjusting to the life of a university student. Even for those who appear to smoothly transition, several difficult obstacles must be addressed. Indeed, there is an essential need to balance – students can often be suddenly confronted with endless time, and little plan for what to do with such time. For me, this incited a hollowness to my daily routine.

“Many shy away from communication and transparency, due to fear of appearing weak, spineless or soft.”

Simultaneously, fitting in also becomes an immediate preoccupation. You can assume a new identity, entertain new experiences, excel, fail; there is potential for each of these possibilities at university. It’s something that people may or may not have mastered in high school, or even from early primary school.

But it’s so materially different at university.

I lived at Mannix College for my first academic year, in 2017. I – subject to my perception of my circumstances at the time – struggled, daily and significantly. At college, you are indeed, to quote William Henley, the master of your fate and you are awarded full autonomy in all your duties. I loved my time at Mannix College and I hold fond memories and friendships that were founded in those halls. But, for those who have never spent a night in a boarding house, the college routine can be very overwhelming. Sure, I maintained a 4.0 GPA; sure, I received awards for my grades; sure, I stood out in my classes. But did I focus on building relationships? Was I content with my social outreach? Were “heck yeah!” or “sure!” my usual responses to social invites? No. I lived in a textbook and I – therefore – became one.

Having reflected upon that, where do we go from here? My open and immediate advice is to talk to people. Many shy away from communication and transparency, due to fear of appearing weak, spineless or soft.

“For males particularly, there is a familiar historical convention to leave personal psychological matters unsaid, to, rather, bury these issues deep down away. I urge nobody to do this, unless you are prepared for a life of internal anxiety that can envelope your later life.”

Talk to someone. Call your parents. Meet with a friend. Write it down. Tangibly project your emotions out into the world with no fear of inviting social labels and intention to be heard. Because more than we realise and often contrary to our perception, somebody is usually listening and willing help.

Every student faces different circumstances; everyone is perceptually separate, even only slightly. And if there was a universal remedy to these issues, it would be identified by now. Take time to understand yourself and don’t be afraid to go slowly. Perhaps, even only for a few, it’s a matter of private perspective.

Look within – be patient – remember that there are greater forces behind you in this life.

Patrick Stratmann (Guest Contribution)

Patrick Stratmann is a 2nd year Bachelor of Law’s (Hons)/Bachelor of Arts student, presently working as a paralegal at Youthlaw. He is currently developing a freelance documentary, ‘Exploits of a Freshman’, that explores the mental health challenges of first year students directly transitioning from Year 12. Find him on Instagram @patstrat30