If you are curious and enjoy the process of learning, you will enjoy the experience of a law degree - even if you might not love every subject
Kieran Pender likes being busy.
He juggled being an ANU law student at the same time as being a journalist for publications including The Guardian, SBS and Monocle. Kieran has covered international events including the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2017 Tour De France, interviewed sports stars such as Nick Kyrgios and Ben Simmons, and reported from a breakaway state and a remote Pacific island.
His academic accolades have included an ANU Law World Bank Fellowship in Washington DC, studying in Geneva and California, mooting in Japan and India and co-organising an international symposium at the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies on the centenary of the 1917 Russian revolution.
Now based in London, Kieran received his Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at the July 2018 graduation ceremony. During his studies, he has received: the 2017 Meyer Vandenberg Property Law Prize; 2017 Dean’s Certificate for Law Internship; 2016 Dean’s Certificate for International Arbitration and Negotiation Moot Competition in Japan; 2015 James Davis Prize for Conflict of Laws; and 2013 Ann Downer Memorial Prize for Law.
Kieran also has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons), for which he received the University Medal.
Why did you decide to study law?
Growing up I was influenced by two people who had daily contact with the law: my father, an economist and company director, and my godfather, a barrister. In year 10 of high school I undertook work experience with a local Canberra law firm and loved it, so studying law was an easy choice. I rejoined the firm, now Bradley Allen Love, when I started my undergraduate studies and subsequently spent seven years there during my slightly protracted studies. Having this practical experience alongside my studies was invaluable.
What was the best thing about your time at ANU College of Law?
It is hard to pick just one, but I am particularly grateful for the international exposure I was given by the ANU College of Law. This has two aspects. Firstly, in the class room I was exposed to comparative and international law, and imbued with an understanding of the cross-border nature of law.
The ANU College of Law is a world-leader in these areas, and the expertise of members of faculty shone through in their teaching. Secondly, the ANU College of Law - and the university more broadly - offer a range of exciting international opportunities.
I studied as part of the IARU Global Summer Program at the University of California, Berkeley, undertook a course on international law and international organisations in Geneva and was a fellow at the World Bank as part of the ANU College of Law's scholarship scheme. I also mooted at competitions in Japan and India. I will never forget the experiences, friends and knowledge I gained from these. They contributed to me being offered a role in London, and made the process of adapting to life overseas much easier.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about studying law?
I think to enjoy studying law, you need to enjoy learning. The law is a multi-faceted discipline - the substance of criminal law is a world apart from financial markets regulation, or international humanitarian law. But if you are curious and enjoy the process of learning, you will enjoy the experience of a law degree - even if you might not love every subject!
What was your honours thesis on?
My honours thesis looked at the constitutionality of regulatory restrictions on the political expression of public servants. Say a government employee sends a tweet in their own time criticising policy - can they lawfully be terminated from their employment? It is a vexing topic at the intersection of administrative, constitutional and employment law. I became interested in the issue during my time in the employment law team at Bradley Allen Love, and appreciated the chance to explore it in more depth under the excellent supervision of Professor James Stellios and Cameron Roles.
How did the Fellowship at the World Bank influence you to work at the IBA?
I was fortunate to spend time at the World Bank in Washington DC in late 2015 and early 2016, and this has proven a really formative experience. I was working in the anti-corruption litigation team under the guidance of Matt Harvey, and upon returning to The Australian National University I started collaborating with Associate Professor Kath Hall, who works in the area. We coordinated a publication for the International Bar Association (IBA), and Kath encouraged me to attend a related conference. That inspired me to undertake further work in the area and ultimately contributed to me being offered a role at the IBA.
Since February I have been working in London as a legal advisor in the Legal Policy & Research Unit at the IBA, the peak global body for lawyers. I am leading the team's work on whistleblower protections, and contributing to a project investigating the prevalence of bullying and harassment in the legal profession. I am also continuing my work as a journalist - I recently spent four weeks in Russia, covering the World Cup for The Guardian and SBS. What the future holds - who knows?