when the student becomes the mentor

16 november 2020

the university of notre dame’s school of law (sydney) mentoring program has just marked its 15th year with a launch event that celebrated the commencement of the 2020 program.

the program is planned to run online for the first time this year, and will take place over the summer months until the end of semester 1, 2021. dean of the school of law, michael quinlan, said he was pleased to see an influx of new mentors and mentees sign up this year.

“the reason for this program originates in the unique objects of this university, specifically the object of providing an excellent standard of training for the professions,” said professor quinlan. “at notre dame, we want to prepare graduate students who not only excel in their knowledge of the law as an academic discipline, but also develop the skills necessary to be great lawyers and well-rounded, ethical practitioners. the ability to interact with legal practitioners and understand the practice of law is a critical, and often underdeveloped, skill at other law schools.”

this year there are 22 mentors, including 12 notre dame alumni. among our alumni mentors is alana rafter, who graduated in 2017 with a bachelor of laws (honours)/bachelor of arts, and has gone on to become associate to the hon. justice walton in the supreme court of nsw. alana is also the nsw young lawyers representative on the law society of nsw public law committee.

Speaking about what she has been up to since graduating, Alana says she has found fulfilment in volunteer legal work and research. “Within the past two years, I have also presented a research paper on reproductive coercion at a Bioethics Seminar hosted by the Women’s Forum Australia; recorded a presentation on working as an Associate for BenchmarkTV; contributed a chapter to a book concerning the right to freedom of religion, which will be published by Shepherd Street Press; and judged the preliminary rounds of the Administrative Law Moot hosted by the NSW Young Lawyers Public Law & Government Committee,” she adds.

as a student at notre dame, alana participated in the mentor program a number of times as a mentee and was paired with a diverse range of legal practitioners.

“throughout my own journey of professional development within the legal sector, i have come to value and appreciate the role of mentorship. a good mentor provides inspiration, guidance and challenges you to be your best. i remain indebted to each of my mentors for their time, advice and support. with each round of the program i learnt more about where a law degree can take you. it also inspired me to start acquiring practical legal experience, both in the form of volunteer and casual employment alongside my studies,” said alana.

knowing how beneficial the mentor/mentee relationship can be for an aspiring lawyer, and having reached a point in her own career where she felt she should and could give back, alana decided to sign up as a mentor for the first time this year. “i have thoroughly enjoyed working at the court, so i wished to break down some of the mystery and highlight it as an option to law students,” she said.

“quality education must be paired with quality practical experience and mentorship,” alana adds. “this is where the mentorship program offered by the school of law at notre dame gets it right. first, the program recognises the importance of education, with all student participants being required to maintain their regular study and class commitments. secondly, the program emphasises the importance of learning from those with more or a different experience to you. finally, the program makes clear the importance of taking the lead in your own career, the onus is upon the mentee to make the first contact with their mentor. each of these elements put students in good stead to kick start a successful career in law.”

for graduates of the law program at notre dame, alana says getting involved in the legal community, such as nsw young lawyers, is central to success. “the nsw young lawyers is the largest body of young and newly practising lawyers and law students, in australia, with 15 committees each dedicated to a particular area of law,” she explains. “whether you have just settled into a practice area or remain uncertain as to what to specialise in, the nsw young lawyers’ committees will welcome you and provide you with invaluable insight. getting involved with the nsw young lawyers will introduce you to the thriving and passionate legal community; provide you with regular networking opportunities; and keep you updated with changes and developments to law and practice.”

if you’re interested in being a mentor in next year’s school of law mentoring program, please email the office of university relations: sydney.alumni@nd.edu.au

media contact
nancy merlo : +61 2 8204 4044 | nancy.merlo@nd.edu.au