Career profiler: Keeping law and order
5 Jun 2019
Studying a double degree gave USC graduate, Beth McKenna, the opportunity to combine two of her passions, Law and Social Science. Now having finished her degree, Beth is now working as a Judge’s Associate – a highly competitive 12-month position which provides personal and confidential aide to a District Court Judge and insight into court processes.
Beth’s day-to-day role is quite diverse – She conducts research, liaises with court staff and legal professionals, media and the public and travels with the Judge on court business.
USC Parent Lounge spoke with Beth about what it’s like to work behind the scenes of a busy courtroom.
What did you study at USC?
I completed a double degree of Law and Social Science at USC in 2018.
Why did you decide to study this?
I loved Legal Studies at high school and all my subjects were humanities subjects. I was interested in law and humanities and I thought this was an ideal combination as it taught me how to research and interpret law as well as to critically analyse the law and legal system in a broader social context.
What was your favourite thing about your degree? How did it prepare you?
My favourite thing about my degree was the most challenging and the most rewarding, completing my Honours project. This project analysed key Australian judgments and legal narratives of Australian sovereignty and is particularly helpful to my current role as a Judge’s Associate as I spend a lot of time reading, analysing, editing and writing judgments.
I love that USC has a strong sense of community and truly quality teaching. The practical focus of my degree has already enabled my employment in the competitive legal profession and the friends and memories I’ve made over the last four years are irreplaceable.
What are your doing now? How would you describe your journey since graduating? What have been some of your proud moments?
I was lucky to be offered a Judge’s Associateship during my final year of university so the biggest hurdle since graduating has been moving from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast. The application process for Associate roles is quite intense and incredibly competitive so I feel very lucky to have been successful.
I’m loving living down here! I was very proud and surprised to be given the University Medal at graduation and the Women Lawyers Association Queensland Award for top female law graduate.
What does an ‘average’ day in your job look like?
I spend most of my day in court assisting the Judge, keeping a record of proceedings and handling evidence. Outside of Court I help with legal research and drafting, and I liaise with court staff and legal professionals on upcoming matters.
How is your industry changing?
Even within the court system legal matters are becoming less adversarial, with parties regularly resolving various issues before reaching court. This means more decisions are being negotiated by the parties themselves, generally enabling outcomes which are win-win scenarios for all parties.
What is something about your career/industry that many people don’t know?
The trials you see on TV are rarely realistic, in real life they take a lot of time, there are a lot of legal arguments which don’t involve witnesses, or the jury, and a lot of work goes into ensuring the defendant receives a fair trial and the system achieves justice.
What is your favourite thing about your job/career?
I love learning more about law, being exposed to top notch advocates and getting to understand the background workings of the court system.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in your area?
Work hard at uni, get involved in extra-curricular activities and apply for every opportunity you’re interested in, you never know where it could take you!