More than a dozen alumnae from The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law have been named as finalists in the 2020 Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards. Among the outstanding women being recognised for their work in the legal profession is Melany Toombs (BIntR/LLB (Hons) ‘19), a finalist in the Law Student of the Year category.
Melany is currently working as a Legal Associate at the Federal Court of Australia and co-writing a book chapter with Honorary Professor Kim Rubenstein FAAL, FASSA. In 2018, Melany was named winner in the Law category of the Global Undergraduate Awards for her research on Moorish architecture and law in Spain. In 2019, she won the ANU Gender Institute Honours Thesis Award for her Supervised Research Paper on Moroccan witchcraft, feminist theory and colonial law.
Melany shares her thoughts on what her award nomination means personally, and previews the book chapter she is working on with Professor Rubenstein.
What does it mean for you to be shortlisted as a finalist in the 2020 Women in Law Awards?
I am absolutely delighted to be shortlisted as a finalist. Law, as a discipline and profession, has long been a male-dominated field. The more women are recognised through awards like this, the more it will encourage other women to participate.
This shortlisting also feels like a vindication of the sometimes less mainstream path I have chosen in my studies and career, as well as my desire to honour God and love others through the ways I spend my time and energy. I am excited to connect with the other finalists who have excelled in a range of legal fields and employed creativity, determination and innovation in their work.
What advice would you give female law students entering the legal profession?
I would encourage female law students to be courageous and take the road less travelled if they want to do so. While these paths are often unknown and sometimes intimidating, they have the potential to take you to exciting places and fuel lifelong passions.
I would also encourage them to think about how they can weave their most niche interests into essays or explore diverse employment. Awards like this reinforce that you do not need to conform to traditional expectations about the study and practice of law to be recognised for your work. Additionally, this is a time of disruption where many professions will evolve. It is a great time to capitalise on your own agility and say yes to opportunities.
And finally, can you share more about the book chapter you’re working on with Prof Rubenstein and what inspired this project?
We are currently putting together a chapter for the Cambridge Companion to Gender & Law that will likely be published in 2021. The chapter examines the connections between gender, race and law in the context of citizenship. We are keen to contribute to scholarship on the ways that these areas affect the lived experiences of people domestically and internationally.
I feel honoured to have enjoyed a very encouraging working relationship with Professor Rubenstein that began with a pro-bono citizenship matter during my studies at ANU. If you have lecturers that inspire you, don't be afraid to reach out and express your interest in collaborating with them!.
The Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards recognise women who are shaping and influencing the legal profession, acknowledging executives, barristers, academics, pro-bono, students, and other legal professionals in large and boutique firms. Melany is one of 14 ANU Law alumnae shortlisted in this year’s awards.
Update: We are thrilled to announce Melany won the Law Student of the Year award.
"It was incredibly exciting to be announced as a winner at the Women in Law Awards night. I would like to thank Lawyers Weekly for putting on this stellar event and ANU for providing me with such a high quality and interdisciplinary legal education," she said.
"As I start my career, I am grateful for the wonderful women who have brought me under their wings, and for our good God who gives us skills, opportunities and ways to make sense of the work we do."
Melany Toombs (left) with her Law Student of the Year Award at the 2020 Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards.
Also winning on the night was Elizabeth Carroll (BA (Hons) '96, GDLP/LLB (Hons) '99), who was named General Counsel of the Year.
“I am thrilled to be named General Counsel of the Year in the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards 2020. I began this year waking up on the floor of a bushfire evacuation centre, so this is a huge turnaround," she said.
"I am incredibly grateful to work with a fantastic team at IP Australia supporting Australian innovation every day.”