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
Beyond the Sandstone

Beyond the Sandstone

Jonathan Steffanoni reflects on his experiences completing a Juris Doctor degree, and what now lies ahead.

Jonathan Steffanoni reflects on his experiences completing a Juris Doctor degree, and what now lies ahead.

I recently completed a Juris Doctor at RMIT, one of the first wave of law graduates from an institution which has a rich and unique history with the legal profession. No doubt, the well-respected RMIT Articled Clerk’s course which ran between 1962 and 1978 will be familiar to many in the Victorian legal establishment.

Mirroring many other aspects of legal practice, the young RMIT law school represents the nexus of the old and the new. RMIT has embraced technology, with the course being available online through Open Universities Australia, or on campus. The Melbourne City RMIT campus is home to the Old Magistrates Court, the Eight Hours Monument, the Old Melbourne Gaol and the site of a planned memorial remembering the first judicial executions in Victoria in 1842.

It is a place which is has deep historical connections to the Victorian justice system.

It’ impossible compare the experience of law schools objectively. However, in saying that, I feel that it’s valuable to consider some of the defining characteristics of the RMIT Juris Doctor course, viewed through my personal experiences.

The first thing that seems to define the RMIT JD course, is that teaching is not scheduled between 9-5, Monday to Friday.

Lectures and sessions are held in the evenings and on weekends, which can certainly test the commitment (and social lives) of students. Having said this, it makes studying law accessible to those of us who decide to study and practice law later in life.

Being a post graduate evening course, students often bring an established area or knowledge or expertise, and have a developed an understanding of what is expected in the ‘real world.’ Not to belittle the academic staff, fellow students were always able and willing to enrich the lectures by illustrating legal practice and principles through every day experiences.

The opportunity to include a research thesis in the course was one component which I found particularly challenging and rewarding. I chose to define my own research topic, while other students undertook primary research while shadowing a magistrate or judge.

I was encouraged and guided by both my research supervisor Dr Penny Weller, and Stan Winford from the RMIT Centre for Innovative Justice in completing a detailed paper on reforming the sentencing jurisprudence for minor drug offences. The opportunity to engage in a serious research project focused on law reform provided a great insight into an often overlooked aspect of the law.

Contrasting with the academic discipline required in the research thesis, a clinical practice placement at the North Melbourne Community Legal Centre provided me with challenges of a different kind. The prospect of dealing with real clients with real issues during my studies was one which I’m certain I will take much from.

The nerves that come with meeting a client, and not knowing much of what they have come to see you about, can be initially daunting, to say the least. Yet when you realise that you do have much to offer, and can make a difference, those initial fears are replaced by a great feeling of personal satisfaction and empowerment.


Mooting matters

Advocacy and mooting are two areas of the law which are often seen as being an area for those who intend to head to the bar.

I believe the strong emphasis that the RMIT JD course placed on advocacy and mooting by requiring that all students pass multiple mooting assessments is one which will hold all graduates in good stead, regardless of whether they head to the bar.

I am sure that I would not be alone in recalling inner and silent and panic the first time one waits for the judge to enter the Old Magistrates Court. I would also say that I’m also not alone in taking a great deal of confidence and self-belief out of the experience.

RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice was recently established and is headed by former Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls. The Centre is focused on promoting and guiding students to consider new ways of doing law. The focus of the Centre is on researching and promoting effective alternative approaches to improve criminal justice, civil dispute resolution and legal service provision.

Whether it was by way of guidance on researching my thesis, attending networking events or simply knocking on the door for a chat, the Centre has encouraged a more holistic consideration of the law. I think this epitomises my experience of the RMIT Juris Doctor programme in many regards.

While the law has such a rich tradition, it’s important to remember that the law exists for the purposes of supporting the social, economic, cultural and political hopes which we all share.

Jonathan Steffanoni (pictured) is a senior legal and regulatory consultant with QMV Super Solutions



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

Beyond the Sandstone
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Dec 14 2017
International arbitration and business culture
Promoted by Maxwell Chambers. This article discusses the impact of international arbitration on t...
Papua New Guinea flag
Dec 14 2017
World-first mining case launched in PNG
Citizens of Papua New Guinea have launched landmark legal proceedings against the country’s govern...
Dec 14 2017
Punishing offenders twice pointless, politicians warned
The president of the Law Society of NSW has warned legislators from other states about adopting cont...
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'...
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...
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 & ...