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Take stock and chase your passions, law students told

Encouraging law students to develop interests outside the law could lead to better mental health, according to the immediate past president of the Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA).

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 09 November 2023 Big Law
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Annabel Biscotto has taken an unconventional route to her academic pursuits. While many law students complete their law degree and commence clerkships and internships before accepting a full-time role at law firms or departments, Ms Biscotto decided to take a leave of absence this year from her studies to explore other areas of interest, particularly extracurricular engagements with the ALSA.

Alongside this, because Ms Biscotto is passionate about her Italian culture, she has connected with people from this region.

“I post about law on LinkedIn, meaning these two circles cross over. I’ve gone deeper into the Criminal Justice Institute in Sicily, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t put myself in those circles,” she told Lawyers Weekly ahead of the Women in Law Forum 2023.


At the forum, she and a panel of speakers will discuss how workplaces could become more supportive and inclusive and prioritise the health and wellbeing of women.

She has called for more opportunities for other law students to explore and develop their interests and see what sparks joy to boost their mental health.

However, she acknowledged that this could be difficult to do because law students operate in a competitive environment that compels them to complete their degree and accept full-time positions with top-tier law firms.

“But if they find that this profession is not for them, there’s less incentive for them to leave because they’ve tried so hard and spent five to six years of their life getting to this stage,” Ms Biscotto said.

“They don’t want to throw it away, so they just stay and continue in their role.”

Her role at the ALSA has allowed her to have discussions with other law students about their goals and opinions about the field of law, she said.

“You have many high-performing individuals in high school who then go into university and find that it’s very competitive,” Ms Biscotto said.

“Students see lots of advertisements and sponsors at the top-tier law firms, and they think it is the best job. Then, it’s off to the third and fourth year of their degree, after which they apply for internships and clerkships and eventually secure a great role at these firms.

“There is some stigma around taking a break because if you want to do fewer units, people may perceive it as you being unable to keep up or that your grades aren’t good enough.”

This, along with the hustle culture that is perpetuated by their peers, leaves law students with little time and few opportunities to pursue interests outside of law, Ms Biscotto mused, which could result in depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.

However, legal professionals may hesitate to vocalise their concerns for fear of being perceived by their employers as being unable to fulfil their responsibilities in their role, she pointed out.

“They may be unsure of what the assumptions and beliefs around mental health conditions are. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do your job. You might require compassion and empathy and some accommodations,” she said.

“Having said that, mental health is being more openly discussed in the workplace.”

Ms Biscotto encouraged students who wish to pursue their interests to build networks and speak with their peers about how they manage it.

“My favourite saying is you can’t be what you can’t see. If students can’t see their peers following their passion, then it’s very difficult for them to do it themselves,” she said.

“When people speak about it, it won’t be perceived as a bad thing to take a break in the middle of a degree to pursue their passion.”

To hear more from Annabel Biscotto about how law students could broaden their horizons by pursuing their interests, come along to the Women in Law Forum 2023.

It will be held on Thursday, 23 November 2023, at Crown Melbourne.

Click here to buy tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.

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