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The University of Notre Dame Australia

  • 2% international / 98% domestic

Caitlin Gallagher-Hill

The law is alive in both your personal life and your professional life.

What did you study at undergraduate level and when did you graduate? What are you studying now? Are you studying and working at the same time?

At an undergraduate level, I studied a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Commerce. I graduated in 2015. At a postgraduate level, I studied a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice in 2016. During my postgraduate course, I worked two jobs. I also worked all throughout my undergraduate courses in various part-time/casual jobs.

What have been the most important stages of your life?

I enjoyed school and in particular, my senior years at high school where I was College Vice-Captain and won the All-Rounder Award at Graduation. During year 12, I went on a school trip to Germany and Italy which was amazing and firmly planted the travel bug in me. I went on to study law and commerce at UNDA and loved my time there. I learned a lot and made great friends. I have happy memories of attending Eastern and Australian University Games. On my university holidays I went on several overseas trips for leisure - Europe, the US, New Zealand. I always had at least one part-time/casual job during university; most of the time I had two.

I worked in a wonderful boutique law firm in Sydney's CBD juggled with work in retail. During my final year of university I undertook an internship at a prominent retailer to explore my future career paths.

How did you get to your current (or most recent) job position and how long have you been working there?

I applied for and was granted an internship in my final year of undergraduate study. During that internship I completed and presented a project to key business stakeholders. The Directors were pleased with my project and offered me a position in their Area Manager Graduate Program. I have been there since 2016!

What made you decide to progress with further study?

After studying a Bachelor of Laws, I wanted to complete the picture with a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice so that I could be admitted as a solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW. Though I studied a double degree, I wanted to keep all my options open. The great experience I had working in a boutique law firm encouraged me to complete the postgraduate course.

How did you choose your particular further study course (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any alternative degrees or career pathways before choosing this qualification?

I was not weighing up any other courses at this time, though since my career path has certainly taken a business/commerce direction, I have explored the possibility of studying an MBA. I chose to study at GDLP because this was mandatory in order to be admitted as a solicitor in NSW.

What was the process to get accepted into your course? What were the prerequisites?

The application process was easy! I completed the application online for the distance education course, as the university was in the ACT and I reside in NSW. I had to get some documents certified by a JP and posted them to the Admissions Office in the ACT. The prerequisite for this course is a Bachelor of Laws or a JD.

What does your study involve? Can you describe a typical day? (if it’s difficult to describe a typical day, tell us about the last thing you worked on?)

The study was largely online which meant I could easily balance the study load with part-time work. The course commenced with a few days of face-to-face classroom learning, where I met my fellow students and we formed groups that we would remain in for the course. Thereafter, study involved weekly classes online and a set of activities or assignments. After work each day, I would chat with my fellow students about the next assignment we were working on.

Will this course be beneficial in your career? Where could you or others in your position go from here? Please explain your answer.

Absolutely! Legal skills are transferable in any career and while I don't currently practise law, I am very glad I studied my GDLP. In every career, there are legal implications for certain actions or decisions. Having an understanding of those implications and what can eventuate is invaluable. You will find most courses include a law component. The same goes for my commerce degree. I chose to major in management and again, in every career, especially if you move up within an organisation, involves some component of management. A good understanding of how to manage people is also invaluable.

What do you love the most about your course? 

I loved the transferable value of the knowledge and skills I learned. Both law and commerce are areas that resonate with every job and career. A good understanding of the law and commerce allow you to make sound decisions - both in your personal and professional life.

The law is alive in both your personal life (from family matters through to buying a house) and your professional life (from knowing your rights as an employee through to negotiating fair terms on a supply contract). With commerce and management knowledge, you have the ability to motivate people,(whether friends or colleagues) and the skills to make informed financial decisions (whether that be budgeting your grocery spend or budgeting a research project).

What are the limitations of your course?

The course was perhaps limited in its teaching of practical skills. However, there were components of both of my courses that were intended to develop those skills. With regard to law, a GDLP is required for admission to the Supreme Court of NSW, and it is in that course where most practical skills are taught. In commerce, students were required to undertake a unit named "Business Internship" where we had to gain professional experience in a business then analyse and reflect on that experience.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current undergraduate student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your studies, or even to one’s professional life.

  1. Do your best. You will never regret doing your best!
  2. Enjoy your time at university - here, you will meet like-minded people.
  3. Take a holiday, even if it's a weekend near the beach, to rest your mind.