find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Tall poppies cut down in Australian law schools

Tall poppies cut down in Australian law schools

Jillian Button, a lawyer at Minter Ellison's Perth office, completed her law degree at Melbourne University before studying her Masters of Law in America at Harvard Law School. She shares her experiences.

Jillian Button, a lawyer at Minter Ellison’s Perth office, completed her law degree at Melbourne University before studying her Masters of Law in America at Harvard Law School. She shares her experiences.


The reason I went to the US, apart  from just being interested in focusing on the area of international climate change law, was that I also wanted to build my C.V. with something a bit different.

I took classes in international environmental law, international trade and international finance as well as some American law subjects. 

Harvard Law School, yes, it did live up to the hype. Even just doing a one year’s Masters was an incredible experience in terms of the level of intensity and calibre of the teaching and atmosphere of the campus.

It was completely different to my Melbourne University experience – and that’s not a criticism of  Melbourne Uni, it was just a different experience.

One of the key differences was the student body in my post grad course. It was a student body that had studied at an undergraduate level to get into law. At Melbourne Uni, most of the people you studied with came from Melbourne. 

At Harvard the students were very diverse in terms of their backgrounds and where they came from. It was a very diverse, very strong group of people and they were very competitive because they had fought and worked very hard to get into that classroom.

They used the Socratic method of teaching and all the students were expected to have a very good handle on the material that was assigned for that class. If the teacher asked you a question it was very high pressure, you couldn’t say pass. There was no hunkering down in the back of the class if you hadn’t prepared, you couldn’t be a passenger.

On top of everything else, at Harvard the resources available to students were incredible. For each student who attends, the university collects $40,000 a year and on top of that, it is a very wealthy institution. It can pay for eminent speakers to come from all over the world to speak at the campus and it really is a centre of intellectual activity. 

You were isolated from New York City by four hours, but it felt like you were at the centre of the world in some ways.

My experience at Melbourne University was different, to start with, because it was my undergraduate degree. I have to admit that when I went into my law degree at Melbourne I was ready for a bit of a change. 

I had come from boarding school and I found that the relaxed atmosphere of the Melbourne campus was great. Also, the five-year degree was an opportunity for students to really explore the areas of law they might want to practice in the future.

Ultimately I did meander my way through my law degree because I took the time to do more work on environmental law, and here I am, an environmental lawyer.

But I found that part of the law that I wanted to practice in at my own pace.

In Australia, I think the student body is just more normal, you are studying against people who are competitive but not overly so. It’s a more supportive environment where you don’t feel overly pressured.

In America there is also more of a cult of personality. American lawyers aren’t afraid to be outspoken and flamboyant, to use the media and do high profile pro bono cases. In Australia there is more of the tall poppy syndrome, you are a servant of the court and keep quiet. 

That is also reflected in the law schools. In America, you have to be outspoken in class, sometimes your grades depend on it. There was no tall poppy syndrome at Harvard.

Jillian Button is a lawyer in Minter Ellison’s environment group and is based in the Perth office.



Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Tall poppies cut down in Australian law schools
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Jackie Rhodes
Dec 12 2017
Report sheds light on LGBTQI inclusion in law firms
A recent report has revealed the varying perceptions on LGBTQI diversity and inclusion in the Austra...
Women in business
Dec 12 2017
Annabel Crabb headlines Women in Business Forum
Political journalist Annabel Crabb has appeared at the Coleman Greig Lawyers Women in Business Forum...
Dec 11 2017
Warm welcome for new district court judges
Three practitioners who were appointed as district court judges in WA have been congratulated by ...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...