Five more questions before you graduate: James Barrett

James Barrett

Why did you decide to study law?

I enjoyed the subjects in my undergraduate degree, including science and arts, but I couldn’t see a career in them. I wasn’t exceptionally talented at anything and I didn’t feel excited about the lifestyle they presented. Honestly, I felt a bit inadequate. Studying law wouldn’t have fixed that feeling if I didn’t enjoy it. But law did offer logic, philosophy and continual self-development. It also offered variety, both in the type of work and the subject matter. And once you’ve studied it you encounter it everywhere.

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

The best thing I’ve done is compete in external mooting competitions – Gibbs and Jessup. These were great for developing my knowledge, skills and personal character. I made good friends who will probably be successful colleagues well into the future. The best thing about ANU specifically, though, is the relatively laid-back atmosphere. That includes the local environment and being able to personally engage with academics. I might have felt like I was suffocating at other law schools.

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

Continue to be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it. Many successful lawyers began studying law for what they later admit were the wrong reasons, but found they thrived on it. If you don’t enjoy it, then people (including yourself) will appreciate you more for trying something that may not seem ‘prestigious’ but makes you feel alive. I sat in on an elective class at a friend’s law school before I applied, you could try that.

How did winning a prize help you?

Two ways – affirmation and personal benchmarking. I have never felt studying law is ‘hard work’, but it’s a big investment of time, money and emotional energy. My personal ‘successes’ don’t always qualify me for awards, but awards can serve as tangible goals to work towards in the pursuit of self-development. Achieving those goals feels affirming, even vindicating. Obviously, another help is that well recognised prizes stand out in applications for various organisations and scholarships.

What’s next?

In the short-term I’ll continue working as a Law Clerk at the Australian Government Solicitor. I’d like to travel overseas by the end of this year. In 2018 I will be the Associate to Justice Jagot on the Federal Court. The Federal Court exposes associates to a great diversity of law and advocacy at trial and appellate level, and Justice Jagot is very well-respected and friendly (albeit private). So I see it as an ideal start. After that I will be a solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills in Sydney. I see a High Court associateship and further study overseas as future possibilities, among other plans. I realise my goals may change and I’ll have to make the most of whatever I’m doing in the present to achieve my goals and be genuinely happy.

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