Social responsibility and justice in law
Are you a law student exploring your future career? How do you navigate social responsibility and negotiation in practice?
We recently connected with UTS Law alumna, Sadaf Azimi, who graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in June 2022 and spent the remainder of the year on contract as a Visiting Professional to three Judges of the Trial Chamber at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. In 2023, she began as a lawyer at Australian Government Solicitor within the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra.
In this interview, Sadaf speaks about her experience at UTS, what she has learnt through her studies, and in her career so far.
So, Sadaf, what made you decide to study at UTS?
I had heard excellent things about the culture of studying at UTS. When applying, I was choosing between the University of Sydney, where I did my undergraduate degree, and UTS for law. I appreciated how law at UTS is taught in a way that is practice-oriented, committed to social responsibility and, most importantly for me, there is a collaborative environment between the cohort. On the point of social responsibility, the Brennan Justice Program really sets UTS apart from other Law faculties. I think the effect of instilling a sense of service and social justice in young lawyers sets a strong ethical foundation for practice. Based on this – it was an easy choice.
What lessons, tips and experiences do you use now that you learnt from your time at uni?
During my first year of law, my good friend and I became involved in the Negotiation Competition within the Skills Portfolio organised by the UTS Law Students Society. Although there is an idea that law is generally adversarial and combative, in practice it is so much more valuable to be able to find innovative solutions which meet everyone’s needs. I found negotiation fundamentals were often drawn on in my life, especially those that encouraged the principles of consultation, like interest-based negotiation. The intent of an interests-based approach to negotiation is to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. This is premised on the idea that value may not necessarily always be monetary and encourages the finding of creative solutions. Other tips like negotiating in good faith, never threatening to litigate, and lowballing with numbers have also proved indispensable (especially if you have difficult landlords)!
What would you say to current students?
The university experience is precious in that this period is solely for the purpose of learning. It is unlike any other period in our lives! With that in mind, I have three tips:
- Participate in the competitions hosted by the UTS Law Student Society. There is a range of competitions with a range of required preparation depending on your bandwidth. They’re a great way to try your hand at something new and see which parts of practice appeal to you the most.
- Go on exchange. Whether it’s a short-term four-week exchange, or for a semester, UTS Global has agreements with some excellent universities around the world. This is where you can gain real-life experience, and learn a lot about yourself along the way, too!
- Take full advantage of your academics. Email them for coffee, and don’t be shy. A simple email has often led to industry-specific career advice, a mentor-mentee relationship, help drafting a CV and sometimes even assistance finding one’s first paralegal role.
What have you done professionally since finishing your studies at UTS?
I finished my postgraduate law degree in June 2022. I spent the remainder of the year on contract as a Visiting Professional to three Judges of the Trial Chamber at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. In 2023, I began as a graduate lawyer at Australian Government Solicitor within the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra.
As a side note, applications for their 2024 Graduate Program are now open, if anyone is interested!
Tell us a bit about your background. How has it influenced your decision to study and practice Law?
After high school, I volunteered with a grassroots community-building organisation called the Ruhi Institute in Italy and Kosovo for a year. The post-war context in Kosovo birthed a curiosity about the world, state relations and sovereignty, which led me to study international relations in my undergraduate degree. I wanted to get overseas as much as possible, so I did two language exchanges in France and a United Nations internship in Geneva. At the UN, I worked on an investigation into retaliation against whistle-blowers in the UN system, which was my first encounter with legal research and policy. Soon after, I began law at UTS.
My family fled Iran escaping religious persecution in the 70s, and settled in the UK and later, Australia. Hearing the refugee journey has surely shaped my perception of reality, in the sense that humanity is like one human body, and we cannot separate ourselves from the suffering of another. Because of my sympathy for the migrant struggle, a live issue, public interest law and policy always made sense.
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
Although my domestic career has been full of learning, intrigue and newness, I appreciate those rare opportunities to be personally challenged in the pursuit of my career path. For this reason, I treasured the time I interned at the United Nations in Geneva, and worked as a Visiting Professional at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. What made those chapters so memorable were the concurrent joys and crises of living overseas and grappling with a new language. It was also surreal for moments like hearing Kofi Annan address the United Nations in Geneva, or Karim Khan address the Trial Chamber in The Hague, to form part and parcel of a day’s work!
What have been some of the biggest learning experiences of your career so far?
I am now two months into my Graduate role – so you will have to forgive me in saying that (finally!) entering legal practice is a significant learning curve. After being a student, intern, and paralegal for years, it is daunting – and exhilarating – to be given carriage of legal advices. I am learning a lot; mostly to trust the capacity-building process.
I would also say that my French is far from perfect, so the tasks at the ICC and UN that required translation of legal documents were certainly challenging (read: hard), but nothing that reverso.com couldn’t assist with!
What are the values you plan to bring to your practice?
I hope to continually strive for excellence and a thirst for knowledge in my practice, service and personal life more broadly. Beyond that, I want to continually believe in the oneness of humanity. I believe that the life of society, and therefore its processes and institutions, are irresistibly inching towards this ultimate goal. This long-term vision helps me maintain stamina and the rare commodity of hope when it feels like change is slow.
It was great to hear from Sadaf about how she hopes to bring values of excellence, knowledge-seeking, empathy and social responsibility to her career. If you’re a UTS Law student, there are so many resources available to help you explore your practice and your career. You never know what could help you figure out what comes next: be it, a simple email and coffee with an academic, or applying to a program overseas. Whatever your next step, take it in stride and use the resources you have to go far.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Amelia is a Sydney-based writing and communications enthusiast working at UTS Careers as a Communications Assistant. She is a current UTS Student, studying a Bachelor of Communications (Creative Writing & Advertising), and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. She is passionate about creativity, storytelling, and the art of a well-timed gif, and has a vast collection of crazy socks.
Australian Government Solicitor
Sadaf graduated from UTS with a Bachelor of Laws in June 2022, and spent the remainder of the year on contract as a Visiting Professional to three Judges of the Trial Chamber at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. In 2023, she began as a lawyer at Australian Government Solicitor within the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra.