Learning beyond borders: How the GDLP kick-started Michelle’s career as a lawyer

Michelle Hankey (GDLP '14)
Michelle Hankey (GDLP '14) receiving the Elizabeth (Liz) & Bill Allen Prize for Practical Legal Training from ACT Law Society President Chris Donohue.

While I was in Hong Kong, I realised my desire to pursue a long-term career and I made the decision to complete the GDLP to determine whether I wanted to pursue a career as a lawyer.

When Michelle Hankey (GDLP ’18) was admitted as a lawyer of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in March, she was filled with anticipation and excitement about her legal career. In the five years since completing her Bachelor of Laws (LLB), she had explored different frontiers – both geographical and professional – leading up to her admission.

Now, she was on the cusp of a new, fulfilling chapter.

“My journey from graduation to admission was not straightforward, so my admission marked my desire to become a lawyer and decision to commence a long, challenging and rewarding career,” said Michelle, a part-time commercial lawyer at Williams + Hughes in West Perth.

By her own account, Michelle has navigated an unorthodox pathway into law.

After graduating from Murdoch University with her LLB in 2014, Michelle put her career in law on hold to explore other interests. In 2016, she moved to Hong Kong where she lived and worked until earlier this year.

Michelle’s time overseas allowed for introspection and consideration about her next step. In researching her practical legal training options, she was drawn to the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice (GDLP) at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law’s School of Legal Practice.

The convenience of its fully flexible, online delivery appealed to her enormously.

“While I was in Hong Kong, I realised my desire to pursue a long-term career and I made the decision to complete the GDLP to determine whether I wanted to pursue a career as a lawyer. The five-year ‘stale learning’ rule for graduates encouraged my decision to complete the GDLP promptly,” she said, referring to the time limit that requires law graduates to apply for admission to practice.

The international reputation of ANU – ranked first in Australia and 12th in the world for law by QS World University Rankings (2018-19) – was an added bonus.

“I was encouraged by the fact that an HR graduate recruitment advisor at a global law firm in Hong Kong immediately recognised the university and commented on its reputation,” she said.

A national program, the ANU GDLP allows students to undertake compulsory in-person units across several Australian cities. To suit her schedule, Michelle completed the Becoming a Practitioner (BAP) course in Melbourne and the Criminal Practice and Practical Legal Training courses in Perth.

“I enjoyed the supportive and engaging learning environment provided throughout the GDLP. The online materials provided a useful, practical overview of each area and the course convenors were approachable and always available to answer any questions, whether about the course or their own experiences in the law,” Michelle said.

Despite completing many of her courses online, Michelle said one of her most rewarding experiences during the program was her intensive BAP course taught by Craig Collins in Melbourne.

“Its aim is to introduce you to the skills required over the program,” she explained.

“I enjoyed the BAP because of the opportunity we were given to practice technical and soft skills - such as legal writing, client interviewing, negotiation, advocacy and public speaking - in a supportive, workshop-style environment over four days. Craig, with Barry Yau, provided excellent guidance and support during the course,” Michelle added.

Embarking on her career as a lawyer in her home state, Michelle credits the GDLP for equipping her with the knowledge and skills to thrive in her profession.

“It prepared me for my current role through the development of my technical and soft skills; in particular, legal research, legal writing, contract drafting, practical legal thinking, and problem-solving,” she said.

The program also presents distinct advantages to law graduates who may not necessarily aspire to be legal practitioners. Michelle notes the six-month program can help students recognise “the nature and type of work” that aligns with their interests.

“I identified the tasks I enjoyed through the coursework, which enabled me to recognise commercial law as my preferred area of practice. While I am pursuing a career as a commercial lawyer, I am aware there are alternate non-legal roles in advisory and consultancy that involve the same type of work,” she said.

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