Carter Newell is one of the firms playing a vital part in the Queensland Law Society (QLS) LawLink program.
The program was established in 2003 to bring together Indigenous law students and the legal profession.
Carter Newell offers a work experience program which provides a hands-on experience of a day in the life of working at a law firm.
The program enables the students to see first-hand the diverse roles at Carter Newell by exposing students to a range of areas including legal practices, administration, marketing and people and culture.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of LawLink. Over the past two decades, LawLink has been dedicated to providing support, engagement and resources to increase the number of First Nations legal students and solicitors.
Carter Newell took time with Proctor to reflect on its involvement in LawLink and why is it so valuable.
Paul Hopkins congratulates Billy Neale on completing his work experience.
How did your involvement in LawLink come about and when did it start?
During 2021, Carter Newell was invited by the Queensland Law Society to assist in their LawLink Program. Representatives from the firm joined the QLS team at Mabel Park State High School to understand more about the school and challenges faced by their first nations students. The group participated in a yarning circle with year 11 and 12 students and an uncle, with each participant sharing a little story about themselves.
As a result of this first meeting, Carter Newell has continued to work with Mabel Park State High School and is now welcoming work experience students to the firm on a regular basis.
The work experience program allows students to shadow staff in various settings including court and client meetings. Students have the opportunity to learn about the administrative aspects of the firm, attend workshops and training sessions, and engage in discussions with both legal and support staff to understand more about their journeys into their roles.
Why Mabel Park State High School?
Mabel Park put a strong emphasis on embracing diversity and providing valuable and ‘real world’ opportunities for their students. The school has 72 cultures represented in their cohort and are very proud of the fact that 14 per cent of students are from an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background. Carter Newell is so grateful to work with a school with values aligned to our own, bridging the gap between first nations students and career pathways both in the legal profession and broader corporate/business positions.
Who is currently involved in the program?
Staff from across the whole firm, across our three eastern seaboard offices, are involved in our work experience program.
In addition, we are now working directly with other schools in Queensland, NSW and Victoria to provide funding and work experience opportunities. We have also introduced this opportunity to our clients and are working with local universities to see how we can continue to broaden this offering.
What do you hope the students get out of the experience? What are the mutual benefits?
Our aim is for students to gain insight into the legal profession as well as our support roles. Students have the opportunity to acquire invaluable insights into potential career paths, directly connecting classroom learning with real-world applications. The students working with us have developed self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment during their time with the firm. Overall, the program equips students with practical skills, confidence, and insights that lay a strong foundation for their future success.
Carter Newell remains in contact with the students that participate in our program, and where possible offer subsequent employment with the firm post-high school graduation. The firm will also financially support those looking to undertake a law degree in the future.
Former student Ehla Little was an office assistant.
Here is some feedback from the school.
“The most enjoyable part of the work experience was learning about law, the nitty gritty, especially attending the conferences.”
“I found it really valuable talking to people about their job in law, and sitting in on Court proceedings and conferences.”
“I met with a range of people from all different teams at Carter Newell, which was really eye opening because I didn’t realise there was so many different areas to work in at a law firm. I enjoyed having conversations with the staff about how they got to where they are.”
“Working in this environment has definitely grown my communication and people skills which I value a lot and am very thankful for.”
“This opportunity was amazing and the only recommendation I have for Carter Newell would be to expand the program so more students have this opportunity!”
“Our team is very hopeful that we can continue to extend on these opportunities for our First Nations students. The impact on Kayla last year was incredible. She not only enjoyed her time greatly but explained to us that the experience allowed her to see possibilities for her own future. She was able to evaluate her own readiness and although other parts of her life need sorting first, she can see a future for herself that she could not see before.
“This positive experience, the wonderful staff relationships and the self-belief Kayla now has are truly remarkable. It seems so strange to think that one-week work experience could have such a huge impact on a young person but the reality is that for the first time in a long time, Kayla felt very successful at something.
“The financial barriers like transport and finding appropriate clothing were removed. Kayla literally got to see herself successful, dressed for taking on the corporate world. She felt like this was a reward for all her hard work to finish school despite all the hardships. She was terrified at first and then so awfully proud of herself for conquering those fears.”