Wise Words from Aunt Pep

Dear Aunt Pep,

Our logic has always been that if you get good grades, you’ll get a better job. However, to get a job in the legal profession you need experience. To get experience, you need to get a job in the legal profession. To do either of these, you need to compromise your grades. So, what do we do?

Best,

Professionally Perturbed

 

Dear Professionally Perturbed,

It is a truth universally acknowledged that law students with an intention to practice are in search of the elusive balance between good grades and legal experience. Unfortunately for all of us, most students find themselves entirely lacking Jane Austen’s deft plotting abilities. Take comfort in the fact that for all of us without barristers for daddies or other opportunities provided by nepotism or cronyism, how to hit the career jackpot is a question with no absolute answer.

Just like all those problem questions we’ve worked through, a variety of conclusions are valid – the significance is in the reasoning. If you suspect your grades might suffer from the traditionally long hours legal jobs (whether paid or volunteer) require, then perhaps stick to coursework during the semester and dip your toe in the legal pool during winter and summer breaks.

Conversely, if you feel like your courses are feeling increasingly abstract and that you might benefit from putting theory into practice, polish your resumé, get applying and see what turns up.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, we can’t all be Mr Darcy.

Aunt Pep

 

The People You Meet at ANU Law

By Lucy McKindlay

 

Tag yourselves…

The Big Fish in a Small Pond One

  • Duxed their high school.
  • Has done every extra-curricular known to man.
  • Thinks a high ATAR will translate into good law marks.
  • Actually just super burned out and really should have taken a gap year. 

 

The Hungover One

  • Is at Moose religiously every Thursday night (most Fridays and Saturdays too).
  • Has a much less consistent record for attending lectures.
  • Always cops the 10% tutorial participation mark.
  • You would be forgiven for forgetting they take the course entirely, until you see them emerge across the room for the final exam. You might even be lucky enough to catch them at the graduation ceremony, but only because it’s an opportunity to go for a well-deserved drink afterwards.

 

The Over-Achieving One

  • Is so excited and so happy to be here.
  • It is their passion to be a human rights lawyer and to work for the UN.
  • Is always on top of all their readings and says that they are really enjoying their subjects.
  • Catchphrase: “Law is a challenge, but that’s a good thing!”
  • (Is actually dying inside).

 

The Daley Road One

  • Often seen wearing puffer jackets and RMs, despite the fact they come from Sydney or Melbourne and haven’t been on a farm in their life.
  • Usually turns up to tutorials with their posse of college mates, yet looks bewildered and out of place in that one elective where there are only townies to talk to.
  • Already has their clerkship confirmed and probably a place in a top tier law firm.
  • Is really just riding out the degree to get the piece of paper at the end.

 

The Creative One

  • Does a visual arts degree with a side of law.
  • Only does law to appease the family, but really does not care at all about fiduciary duties or corporate contracting… this is probably a good thing, because they have no idea what is going on 90% of the time.
  • Does no work but somehow manages to manipulate that creative genius and get decent marks.
  • Always turns up to class 20 minutes late but looks edgy enough to never be called up for it.

 

The Arrogant One

  • Without fail, always claims they have barely studied for their exam and didn’t start their assignment until the last minute. (Has actually been working hard for months.)
  • Always says they are disappointed with their marks, yet after you reveal your (actually) low grade, they reveal they received a measly 88.
  • Enthusiastically congratulates you on your shitty mark despite this significant gap.

Australian Taxation Office Exposed for Fraudulent and Dishonest Behaviour

By Emilio Lanera

In 2006, Helen Petaia started her own business called Safe Family Cards Australia (SFCA). The purpose of Petaia’s company is to deliver immediate access to critical medical information. This simple, yet brilliant, idea was inspired by a medical emergency Petaia had experienced. During the birth of her youngest son, the hospital was not able to locate crucial medical documents that were instrumental to ensuring a safe and healthy birth.

Petaia was able to find investors to back her enterprise, and won contracts with major sporting codes, such as the Queensland Rugby League and AFL Auskick. She was even awarded government research and development grants, and tax rebates, to aid her in her endeavour.

However, in 2012, Petaia’s hard work would be undermined by dirty tactics of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Petaia was accused of being reckless and making false and misleading statements. Following these accusations SFCA was audited by the ATO, and after a year of silence, the ATO sent her a letter that claimed she owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Office.

Under the impression Petaia had been fraudulent and dishonest, investors immediately pulled out. This, however, was not the case. Petaia had followed all the taxation rules to textbook precision, and yet, for some reason, was being accused of tax evasion.

Tax

When company cash flow began to dry up and Petaia could no longer pay her children’s school fees or the mortgage on her house, she decided to challenge the ATO’s accusations. In 2014, Petaia demanded that every document held by the Office regarding herself and her business be provided to her. Not long after making these demands, ATO Assistant Commissioner Daryl Richardson called Petaia to explain that an error had been made in processing her documents. Richardson apologised and offered her $20,000 in compensation for the ramifications of this mistake.

The compensation offered was nowhere near the millions of dollars Petaia lost. Outraged by this injustice, Petaia decided to enter into mediation with the ATO in February this year, in an attempt to reclaim the millions of dollars she had lost.

Petaia is expected to be involved in a lengthy and costly legal battle with the ATO. However, this does not seem to deter her, as she says “Somebody eventually has to win against the Tax Office. They can’t keep winning just because they have more money, just because they have more power.”

Living in a free and democratic country like Australia, one would like to think that Petaia’s unfortunate incident with the ATO is a one-off. However, according to ATO Debt Collection Officer Richard Boyle, these kinds of tactics are used quite regularly to increase tax revenue.

In an interview with Four Corners, Boyle revealed that in June last year he was instructed to “clearly and categorically start issuing standard garnishees on every case.” A garnishee is a debt collecting tool that allows the ATO to order banks to take money from a taxpayer’s account without consulting the taxpayer themselves. Banks are then required, on an ongoing basis, to take money whenever it is deposited into the account and send it to the ATO. These questionable directions were followed by an email sent to Boyle in May this year, stating “the last hour of power is upon us… that means you still have time to issue another five garnishees… right?”

Boyle was also instructed to target small businesses. He suggested the reasoning behind this was that small businesses are less likely to challenge the ATO as they lack the financial capacity to endure a court battle. The ATO tried to prevent Boyle from going to the media by offering him a payout, but the debt collector decided he could not remain silent on the matter. Since exposing the ATO, Boyle has been suspended without pay, and was notified by the ATO they intended to dismiss him.

Although the ATO is attempting damage control, both Petaia and Boyle have exposed the agency for its fraudulent actions. Millions of Australians are furious, especially those who own or work for small businesses. The public is demanding that the Government undertake a public investigation of the ATO. Doing so it will allow Australian taxpayers to see that correct measures are being taken to quash corruption, and ensure that no one in the future has to endure a fate like that of Helen Petaia.

 

On-Screen Lawyers Who Never Lose Their Appeal

By Grace Morahan

Unlike my sister, I never had a particularly strong conviction to become any one thing. Most people labelled this a lack of direction, but I preferred to dress it up as an ‘intense fascination with the present.’ I was always the kid who changed who they thought they were and what they wanted to be based on their interests at any given time. In Year One, I was destined to become a teacher (having loved mine so much). In Year Three, it was an explorer (I was reading The Famous Five). And then, in Year Nine, it was a doctor (watching Grey’s Anatomy). So, I was lucky that by the time UAC was due, my obsession with Suits was in full swing. Since then, my love affair with over-scripted legal dramas has only expanded. Here is a countdown of my favourite big-screen solicitors.

 

 7. Louis Litt – Suits

It was not Harvey Spector with his intense stare and quick-witted tongue, nor the striking intelligence of Jessica Pearson, but the humble Louis Litt who really took my fancy in the beloved Suits. How could one not love a man who indulges his passion for mudding, dance, and cats on a regular basis? Watching Louis Litt develop is akin to watching a child realise the value of empathy and selflessness; he’s stubborn, egocentric and seemingly sadistic, which makes his altruistic awakening at the end of Season Six only that much more heartbreaking.

Memorable Quote: ‘Punctuality is the best aphrodisiac.’

 

6. Jackie Chiles – Seinfeld

A penchant for description using multi-syllabic words is one of the defining attributes of the quick-tongued Jackie Chiles (see: ‘vesuvius, salacious, outrageous’). As a caricature of Johnnie Cochran (famously O.J. Simpson’s counsel), Jackie is a showman, a hustler, and a gambler. Despite his best efforts at representation being thwarted time and time again by Kramer and Jerry, his entertainment value is never lost.

Memorable Quote:Your face is my case.’

 

5. Elle Woods – Legally Blonde

Dripping in hot pink, sparkles, and Valentino, it is hard to deny that Elle Woods is one of the most influential pop-culture lawyers of all time. Unapologetically pink, strong-willed and outspoken, Elle attacks law (and life) problems alike with a certain creativity that is not only endearing, but impressive.

Memorable Quote: ‘I feel comfortable using legal jargon in everyday life. (*wolf whistle*) I object!’

 

4. Clair Huxtable – The Cosby Show

Intelligent, compassionate and assertive, feminist icon Clair Huxtable is to be remembered as one of the first mainstream depictions of African American women challenging the prevailing stereotype of single-mothers, broken families, and economic hardship. Clair changed the conversation around wealth and race, demonstrating that economic advancement was not exclusive to white America.

Memorable Quote: ‘I am a woman, who is black, but I am also a human being, who is an attorney, a mother of five, and somewhat knowledgeable about history, which is why I thought I was invited here. But when you look at me, this is all you see in me, a black woman?

 

3. Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird

It was perched in the back row of my Year Eight English class that my love for Atticus Finch began. He was the articulation of what a just lawyer should be: A defender of truth and empathy, over prejudice and hate. It was Atticus who imparted on me the idealism of what the legal system should be (an ideal that won me a few brownie points in LJE). Most importantly, and perhaps most tragically, he taught me that sometimes you can’t always win, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.

Photo of Gregory Peck.

Gregory Peck, Pre-Atticus

Memorable Quote: But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal – there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution gentlemen, is a court.’

 

2. Jocelyn Knight – Broadchurch

Quick-witted, self-assured and calm in the face of cruel provocation, Jocelyn Knight controls the courtroom with a composure unlike any other. Her character is multifaceted in a beautifully simple way – her backstory hinted at but never revealed, her morals paradoxical but assured. Yet what is for me most striking aspect of her character is her refreshing rejection of sexualised advocacy, a trait Hollywood producers unrepentantly impose on their female characters.

Memorable Quote: ‘Knowing truth and getting justice isn’t the same thing.

 

1. Denis Denuto – The Castle

Twelve o’clock rolls around and the Criminal Law take-home is released and ready to be attacked by second-year students waiting anxiously in study rooms across ANU. I grapple through the knowledge acquired from the two lectures I’ve attended this semester, and instead of remembering anything even slightly relevant, the voice of Denis Denuto circles in my head: ‘In summing up, it’s the Constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s justice, it’s law, it’s the vibe and aah no that’s it, it’s the vibe. I rest my case.’ An Australian icon of justice, and of struggling law students everywhere, Denis Denuto will forever remain my favourite silver-screen legal character.

Memorable Quote: The vibe.’

 

It was from Atticus that I learnt legal morality, from Jocelyn my courtroom manner, and from Denis Denuto the power of the little guy.  So, when the going gets tough, and exams are but a few sleeps away, I desperately await each study break to indulge myself in the lives of big-screen lawyers who, despite their Hollywood glamorization, feel more relatable than any top-tier solicitor could ever be.