Like many high school students, Katelyn Ewart (BA, LLB (Hons) ’16) was unsure about what she wanted to study at university. Her interests were diverse; she was fascinated by international relations, enjoyed working with people and was drawn to solving complex problems.
It was also fitting that one of her favourite movies, Legally Blonde, inspired her to channel her own inner Elle Woods. The protagonist, played by Reese Witherspoon, overcomes the ‘imposter syndrome’ common at law school by discovering her potential through lessons of empowerment, independence and integrity.
Since graduating from ANU, Katelyn has built a successful career in corporate law with Australian-based law firm HWL Ebsworth.
“I work as a Senior Associate in a busy banking and finance practice where we predominantly act for a range of lenders, including non-bank lenders, who finance everything from relatively new companies to large scale renewable energy projects,” she says.
Working on high-stakes deals as part of her day-to-day work, Katelyn says the intricacies of transactional work both keeps her on her toes and excited as she gets to apply the skills acquired from her ANU studies.
“Corporate law, and particularly my area of structured transactional work, requires you to appreciate the commercial context of your work. It is varied, dynamic, and challenging,” she says.
“There are common structures and risks across deals, but each is slightly different. You need to understand the commercial drivers of the deal and provide clear and timely advice to your clients at each stage.”
While she has found her niche in the legal space, Katelyn also has her eyes on the future and is currently a Master of Sciences in Law and Finance candidate at the University of Oxford. It was a decision influenced not only by her desire to develop her technical legal skills, but also to grow personally by stepping out of her comfort zone and learning and living in a foreign environment.
“Law degrees are no easy feat,” she observes.
“My particular cohort is quite small but diverse; we are 47 students from 22 countries. As a result, I am learning not just from my lecturers but also exceptional students from a range of backgrounds.”
As she embarks on another academic journey, Katelyn looks back fondly at her time at the ANU College of Law and credits some of her teachers for influencing how she has approached her career so far.
“I went to see Dr Kath Hall (now an Honorary Associate Professor) about my essay for Corporations Law in my third year and her advice for my studies and career generally had a lasting impact. I took up a position tutoring for Corporations Law with Kath after graduating, through which I then met Dr Michelle Worthington,” she says.
“I was also fortunate enough to be selected for the ANU-Alabama exchange program in my penultimate year, for which Dr Anne Macduff was our academic leader. Kath, Michelle and Anne encouraged me and provided me with opportunities to further develop my skills, and eventually provided me the three academic referees that were required for me to get accepted into Oxford,” she continues.
Through the positive experiences that she gained at the College, the idea of ‘paying it forward’ has never been lost on Katelyn. Her time as a tutor has been deeply valuable, she says, as it has allowed her to mentor those navigating their own law school journey.
“The ANU College of Law is a great community of people,” she reflects.
“It is a pleasure and privilege to continue to be a part of that community. Alumni like myself can support students by sharing our experiences, offering words of encouragement, and providing real-world examples from the perspective of someone who has been in their position before,” she adds.