Five more questions before you graduate: Bernice Chen

Bernice Chen

There’s no one "ideal" law student, and if you’re able to "own" your reasons for studying law, that’ll be a source of motivation in a challenging degree.

Why did you decide to study law?

In Year 9 work experience (way back in 2008!), I shadowed a barrister in Melbourne for a week. Even then I found it fascinating for the same reasons I’ve loved studying law - the direct engagement with complex questions in a real-world, grounded way, and the commitment to using language in a really precise and elegant manner. That said, I went into studying law with an open mind, and I wasn't sure I'd stick with it in the very beginning.

What was the best thing about your time at ANU College of Law?

In third year, on a whim, I applied for and was selected as a Mentor with the CoL’s Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) Program. From 2016-17 I was the PAL Coordinator. I grew so much as a result of my involvement in the program, and it's been such a privilege to work and learn alongside my fellow students. The program is student-led, and takes a really innovative and thoughtful approach to supporting first-year law students.

It was also a great way to personally reflect on my studies in law and to develop professional skills that have stood me in good stead in my other employment.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about studying law?

I'd encourage you to think about and reflect on your own specific motivations for studying law, not only as you make that first decision, but also throughout your degree. What do you want to get out of doing law? Why do you think it'll be enjoyable or worthwhile? There’s no one "ideal" law student, and if you’re able to "own" your reasons for studying law, that’ll be a source of motivation in a challenging degree.

What was your honours thesis about?

My thesis was on common law reasoning and the operation of precedent in Australia, specifically the concept of ‘seriously considered dicta’ introduced by the High Court in 2007. My supervisor Leighton McDonald provided useful feedback and guidance that I learned a lot from. I loved the freedom of self-directed research, had great fun, and in the end the thesis tied together a lot of the themes I'd been thinking about throughout my degree.

What’s next?

I’m travelling in Europe and Asia for the next two months, and then I'm looking forward to starting as a graduate with Ashurst in Melbourne next year.

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team