IAML Student Internship Report

Posted: 26 Nov 2014

By Rose Naing

This year, Law students studying Family Law at the University of Cambridge were invited to enter the International Academy of Marital Lawyers’ (IAML) Essay Competition. The task was to submit an essay on any area of Family Law and the two winners would be given a chance to do an international internship with a Family Law firm associated with IAML in a country of their choice. This year, I was one of the two students chosen and was fortunate to spend four weeks (rather than two weeks) in Sydney, Australia.

My experience in Sydney was different to the previous studentships in that my internship was split between four competing family law firms: Barkus Doolan, John R Quinn & Co, Watts McCray, and Pearson Emerson. This gave me a broader, more varied insight into the different areas of family law that each firm specialised in and the different approaches adopted by each firm. For example, one week I joined an office that made up a firm of offices all around Australia; another week, I joined an office of only 3 solicitors! The difference that this made to each firm’s dynamic was very apparent and gave me a more detailed view of life as a family solicitor.

During my time in Sydney I experienced a wide variety of work, ranging from assisting with administration in the office, doing research projects, drafting documents, and spending time in the Family Law Courts. I was especially fortunate to have the opportunity to spend days with judges of the Federal Circuit Court, as well as join the solicitors and barristers who presenting their cases before the Court. Seeing the perspectives of the lawyers and the judges gave me a valuable and rare overview of ‘the whole picture’ and how each person’s case fits together to produce the final outcome. This was especially interesting as it allowed me to see many sides of the decision making process- how the solicitors and barristers decide what tactics and strategy they will employ when it comes to litigating the matter and how the judges react.

I am also very grateful to both the firms and the judges of the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court for including me in their own professional development meetings, ranging from lectures on recent and contentious areas of family law and meetings reviewing the procedural system (such as legal aid and pro bono work).

Another highlight included being sent to two different offices of one of the law firms- one in Sydney and the other in Parramatta. This showed me how matters of location and demographics affect the nature of both the family law disputes that arise themselves, and the strategy adopted by each party. Furthermore, in Parramatta I was invited to the sit in on a Federal Circuit Court’s mediation and spend some time with the Family Law helpline service. It also gave me another chance to explore the surrounding area of my chosen location.

I am extremely grateful for having been given this truly unique opportunity. The studentship taught me a wealth of very valuable things and allowed me to travel and experience a side of law which is otherwise difficult to see in such a hands-on manner. My greatest thanks and gratitude go to David Salter, Nicholas McBride, and Paul Doolan for organising this, and to Susan Pearson for sponsoring my accommodation.

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