Finding passion in the law
For Danielle Lamborn, a law degree was always going to be a natural fit. While she’s determined and prepared to think like a lawyer, her advice is having a little humour, and remaining human, is always the best way to practice.
“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was a little girl,” said Danielle. “Admittedly, I had no clue about what it would really be like, but luckily now that I know, I’m still passionate about pursuing it.”
A law degree at ACU was a natural complement to Danielle’s career goals.
“ACU promotes ethical legal practice and ensures every graduate gains meaningful legal experience before graduating. I didn’t want to just learn the law as it is, but rather I was determined to use my legal training to help others.
“I think it’s important to remember that the law is not always a dusty old profession that relies on old laws.
"It can be dynamic and thrilling – a case often involves real people with real-life issues, and lawyers can play an integral role in peoples’ lives.”
Giving back, pro bono
Pro bono work is a requirement for all ACU law students, which was always a highlight for Danielle.
“I think pro bono work is the most important service that any law firm or legal professional can offer.
"In many circumstances, people cannot afford quality legal assistance – does this mean that they don't deserve it?”
For her pro bono placement, Danielle spent time working for the Refugee Law Project (RLP), which assists asylum seekers in the Federal Circuit Court who are seeking judicial review of their asylum claim.
“Judicial review is a notoriously difficult process,” Danielle explained, “and without legal assistance, an applicant has an incredibly small chance of success.”
While Danielle didn’t have a ‘win’ at the RLP, “I was still able to provide my client with the best level of service that I possibly could. Every single person deserves quality legal assistance and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to serve some of the least advantaged people in our society.”
The real deal
Danielle admits pro bono work isn’t always easy and she did have some confronting moments during her time with the RLP.
“Prior to this experience, I’d watch documentaries or read newspapers and genuinely feel sorry for people who are stuck in situations that appear to have no desirable solution.
"But there is nothing is like sitting with a client who cannot have their claim heard because their application was filed late.
"This law may have desirable outcomes, like efficiency in the court, but on the other hand, it can completely change the fate of the individual.
"This is the confronting reality of the law. Becoming an effective legal professional means managing expectations for both the client and myself.”
A new plan
Danielle is currently taking a break from the North Sydney Campus to study at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, with help from a New Colombo Plan scholarship.
Being awarded this prestigious scholarship, which is part of an Australian government initiative that seeks to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific region, was a total gamechanger for Danielle.
“It completely redirected my life and study. Like most students, I have had to work to support myself through university. But with this scholarship, I have been able to embrace studying in a different country while being financially supported.
"Here in the Philippines, I’m sharing ideas, expanding my knowledge and mapping out potential areas of collaboration with some of the best minds in the international legal community. It is without a doubt the most incredible academic opportunity that I could have possibly received.”
While her future career plans aren’t set just yet, currently Danielle is enjoying studying agrarian reform as part of her degree.
“In the Philippines, this involves providing landless farmers agricultural land ownership, which is a pretty amazing objective that naturally intrigues me. I’ve always had an interest in environmental and administrative law.
“But my only plan for when I come home is to remain open and optimistic.
"When I started my degree at ACU, I had a fixed idea of what my career would look like. Once I let go of that expectation, great things happened.”
Advice for the next generation
For students thinking about studying law, Danielle’s advice is to view a law degree for what it really is – “a generalist degree which is more about changing the way you think than anything else."
For students who are interested in programs like the RLP or the New Colombo Plan, Danielle said,
“Your attitude and work ethic will speak for itself and either open or close doors.
"The legal community seems vast and daunting but it is actually not so vast and only sometimes daunting.
“Your reputation is everything and it begins the moment you walk into university. Every lecturer you interact with, student you form a friendship with and program you participate in can contribute to your professional reputation.
"You will find inspiring and tenacious people in your university community – hold onto these people and don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. Ensure that you grab hold of every single opportunity for experience and development.
“And finally, don’t take yourself so seriously! You don't have to let your personality die to be professional. A little bit of humour can go a long way.
"When you are halfway through an equity lecture and the professor cracks a joke or you're seven hours into legal research and you read a humorous remark in a judgment, it brings a little joy into your day.
“You bear a great responsibility when you become a law student and ultimately a lawyer. Human qualities like humour, understanding and kindness help to ease that responsibility – so don't forget to be human.”
Discover more about studying law at ACU.