Where are they now? with Kate O’Connor
The CIJ catches up with former RMIT Juris Doctor student Kate O'Connor to find out what she's been up to since graduating.
When did you graduate, what have you been up to since then?
I graduated in 2014. I started at ASIC (the corporate regulator) as a graduate in 2015 and worked there until the end of 2017. In 2018 I moved into private practice, working as a lawyer in the disputes team at Ashurst, working primarily on the Banking Royal Commission. In May this year, I returned to ASIC. I currently work in Enforcement, which involves investigating and litigating corporate misconduct.
Tell us a little bit about your career journey and why you decided to pursue a law degree
I did a Bachelor of Arts straight out of school. I spent a few years after that pursuing photography. I always had an interest in politics, so had in the back of my mind that I would eventually do a law degree and work in international law or human rights. I did go back and do my law degree in 2012, but have ended up practising in a very different area!
How well did the RMIT JD prepare you for your career?
The JD prepared me very well for my career. Most of the assessments at RMIT are practical in some way (eg writing an advice or preparing a bail application). The Centre for Innovative Justice also gave me an opportunity to see the inner workings of both the County Court and the Court of Appeal, as well as attend the Dame Phyllis Frost women’s prison. These were all incredible opportunities that provided the foundations for my career.
If you have one piece of advice to give law students, what would that be?
Keep an open mind about your job prospects. You never know what area of law you will enjoy, and the subject you enjoy most at university may not be what you will enjoy in practice (and vice versa). Also keep an open mind about the types of roles you apply for. A lawyer isn’t just someone who gives advice and appears in court. You would be surprised the breadth of industries that hire lawyers.
Is there anything that surprised you about working in the legal sector?
It’s very small! Hearing the statistics about the number of law graduates that enter the profession every year may have you believe that the legal community is gigantic and faceless, but once it is broken down into the various practice areas, it is actually very small. Even in the area I work in—corporate law—which is probably the largest practice area, I deal with a lot of the same people. This is an important thing to keep in mind when you enter the profession – your opponent may end up being your co-worker or someone you brief – so always be professional!