Throughout her ANU studies and since her graduation in 2016, Samantha O'Donnell has gained diverse experience in the legal profession working at Indigenous legal centres, a national law firm, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, and Sydney-based community legal centre the Financial Rights Legal Centre.
What degree did you study at ANU College of Law?
What influenced your decision to study law?
I chose to study law initially to add a practical skills-based element to my International Relations degree. I was certain I would never become a lawyer! I loved studying law a lot more than I expected and realised the many and varied legal roles that are out there.
What were some of the highlights of your time at ANU College of Law?
Completing my Honours thesis was a very challenging but rewarding part of my time at ANU. I completed my thesis on restorative justice and domestic violence, and was supervised by Professor Tony Foley. It was fantastic learning from such an experienced academic. This influenced me to apply to undertake further research and specialised study in this area.
Were there any challenges during your studies?
Studying undergraduate law involves a very steep learning curve. I was very lucky to meet a number of great friends who supported me throughout law school.
Why did you choose to specialise in criminal justice and criminology in your postgraduate studies?
I have always been very interested in criminal justice. This interest was further developed when I completed my thesis in restorative justice and domestic violence. I also spent some time as an intern with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency and volunteered for the Aboriginal Legal Service in Canberra.
These experiences highlighted to me the disparity that can arise in practice between protections afforded to members of society generally and those afforded to persons subjected to the criminal law process. I hope undertaking the specialised MSc will equip me with the relevant skills to pursue research in criminal justice and help address defects in our system. I also chose the MSc as it offers a combination of subject matter-focused coursework and a dissertation.
I was also inspired to choose Oxford by my friend (and fellow ANU alumna) Louisa Yasukawa (BIR/LLB (Hons) '16). She recently completed her MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies there.
Can you describe your experience working at the Financial Rights Legal Centre?
It’s a really great workplace. We work mainly with disadvantaged and vulnerable consumers. As a solicitor, I provide advice over the phone and also undertake casework in the areas of credit, debt and insurance. I feel incredibly privileged to work with such knowledgeable colleagues who are in it for the right reasons. It’s been a particularly exciting time to work in this space during and after the Financial Services Royal Commission.
What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing overseas opportunities, academic and/or professional?
- Research your options early: A number of courses/scholarship applications close at least 6-12 months before the commencement date.
- Complete a thesis as part of your ANU degree: It's a great way to see whether research and further study is something you're interested in.
- Put your hand up for opportunities: Getting involved in the field that you’re interested in can help you figure out what direction you want to take.
How has your degree benefited you personally and professionally?
I have benefitted immensely from the teaching and other opportunities at ANU College of Law. I was particularly lucky to be involved in the ANU College of Law internship course where I completed a legal internship with the ACT Human Rights Commission.
Having a degree in law from ANU also ensured I was able to find a graduate job after finishing my studies.
What are your plans for your future career after completing your Masters?
I am interested in working as a researcher and/or solicitor with a focus on criminal justice. I hope undertaking the specialised MSc will equip me with the relevant skills to undertake this research and advocate for individuals within our criminal justice system.
Learn more about internships available for ANU College of Law students.