Lawyer has a passion for social justice

Laura Elliott has just made the leap from the Mornington Peninsula to Sydney to continue her pro bono legal work. The 28-year-old studied at Toorak College and holds a Bachelor of Business (Management/Information Systems) and a Juris Doctor degree. Laura’s worked as a lawyer at DLA Piper for two and a half years before switching to a pro bono role in Sydney at the same firm. She spoke to Kate Sears during her teaching role at a university in Fiji.

How did you feel when you heard you’d been announced as one of the 10 finalists in the Lawyers’ Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards in the pro bono category? 

I was very shocked and extremely humbled. The awards are very competitive, so even to be considered was amazing — and especially in this category, which gave me a chance to share my message and form new connections in this field.

What has the journey to this moment entailed? 

I have always been passionate about social justice and human rights, even before beginning working as a lawyer. Whilst at university I volunteered at a legal clinic that provides advocacy and advice for people with disabilities who have faced discrimination in employment and education. I also undertook a substantial amount of research and had a paper published on the sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities in Australia, a practice that still occurs today. I became pretty heavily involved in pro bono work almost as soon as I began practising as a lawyer and haven't really stopped. Being able to use my skills to help others in the community is incredibly fulfilling and gives meaning to my work.

Did you always want to be a lawyer and work as a pro bono lawyer? 

Growing up I actually wanted to be a vet, but my tendency to pass out at the sight of blood was kind of a hindrance to that. I became interested in the law during my later high school years but honestly didn't have the confidence to jump straight into a law course at university. It took me a couple of years to work up the courage to apply for the LSAT but it is the best choice I ever made. I have definitely found my calling.

You’ve just moved to Sydney for a pro bono position. 

Yes, I am lucky enough to have moved from our Melbourne office, where I was practising in the intellectual property and technology field, to Sydney, where I have taken a role in our pro bono team full-time for a year. I'm so excited to further my skills and knowledge of this area of law and to do what I'm truly passionate about full-time. Moving to Sydney has been an overwhelming experience but also a great one — it feels like a new adventure, and also kind of like I'm on holidays all the time. I'm sure that will wear off eventually but I'm looking forward to exploring all Sydney has to offer.

What will you miss about the Mornington Peninsula? 

My family, the food, the wine and the lifestyle. 

What’s been your most rewarding experience so far? 

I was part of a team that assisted the Human Rights Law Centre in preparing submissions to intervene as amicus curiae in the High Court matter of Clubb v Edwards, regarding the constitutional validity of safe zone laws for abortion clinics. The High Court decision supported the validity of these laws, which prevent the intimidation and harassment of women outside abortion clinics. It was really fulfilling to help the team advocate such an important human rights issue, which has the potential to lead to widespread change.

What’s your five-year plan? 

To own a sausage dog. That's as far as I've got.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add? 

To anyone who is scared to take the leap, do it. Be brave and do it. Do what you are passionate about and the rest will work itself out.

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