Asiya Chebbo
Alumni spotlight

Asiya Chebbo

Juris Doctor, 2022

Asiya Chebbo is a Senior Judicial Registrar Associate and Legal Case Manager at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

Tell us about your life and career(s) after UNSW.
My life post-UNSW can be broken up into two phases, with two very different careers.

I started my career as a Media/Communications and Journalism graduate with a dream role at Woman’s Day Magazine, which at the time was part of the ACP Magazines stable and still part of the Packer empire.

However, a few short years into my career, the world of glossy magazines began to crumble as print media fell into decline. I was lucky enough that my degree allowed me to pivot roles and enter the world of public relations at Estée Lauder Companies. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Estée Lauder Companies, looking after a brand portfolio of skincare and fragrances and tailoring global initiatives created by our New York headquarters to suit an Australian market. 

My time at Estée Lauder came to an end as I welcomed my first child into the world, and I took a brief hiatus before I reassessed my career direction and enrolled in the Juris Doctor at UNSW, more than a decade after my first degree!

My Juris Doctor degree has taken me to all sorts of places within the legal landscape. During my studies, I worked on pro bono matters and Human Rights Commission Claims at Kingsford Legal Centre. I have since worked on high-profile criminal matters and am currently in the family law space.

I currently hold a role as Senior Judicial Registrar Associate and Legal Case Manager at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. Although I am now a world away from tabloid magazines and public relations, I believe I have come full circle and am grateful for all the skills I have acquired along the way.

Reflecting on your first year at uni - did you imagine yourself doing what you do today?
I can’t say that I imagined my life to be the way it turned out to be, but I am not surprised as I’ve always had an interest in many areas of study. In my first year at UNSW, I dabbled in a varied range of electives from International Relations to Art History and Theory.

Whilst studying for my undergraduate degree, I knew that I wanted to enrol in the Juris Doctor and ensure that I maintained the required WAM; however, soon after graduation, ‘life’ happened, and it took me more than ten years to circle back to embark on the JD.

Why did you choose your initial undergrad degree? And why did you choose to come back for your JD?
I was always interested in a career in journalism or the law, and as an HSC student, UNSW was a university I always aspired to study at. Naturally, when I received an early offer from the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences to study at UNSW, I jumped at the opportunity. Years later, I had no hesitation in going back to UNSW for my JD; in fact, if my children were to take the path of academic study, I’d hope they, too, choose the same alma mater!

What were your most memorable experiences while studying at UNSW?
Going back to university as a postgraduate student with children was a very testing and challenging phase of my life. However, it’s also been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. One of my most memorable experiences was undertaking a research thesis on succession law, and although my children will be able to attest to the many hours I spent away from them while reading and researching, I am very proud of the end result, and it was the best way to finish my degree.

I am also grateful for the people I met along the way. Fellow alumna Jay Rajendran (soon-to-be California Bar admittee) was a pillar of support on my journey and someone I’d now consider a lifelong friend.

Why is studying law important?
You only need to look at the atrocities being committed in the world today to see why the law is so important. Legal knowledge enables individuals to challenge abuses of power, promote transparency, and demand accountability from governments and institutions. Ultimately, studying the law ensures that the values of peace, justice, and the protection of human life can be upheld.

What are some common misconceptions about careers in law?
The stereotype of a career in law paints a picture of courtroom litigation. But in reality, a career in law is so vast and can reflect each individual’s strengths and passions.

If could you change one thing in the legal profession tomorrow, what would it be?
I’d love to see more women reflected on the bench and at the bar. Specifically diverse women in positions of leadership. Although we have made leaps and strides in gender diversity, the statistics sadly speak for themselves, with women making up only 25% of the practising barristers in NSW[1]. I hope that my involvement with the Women Lawyers Association of NSW will continue to champion women in law and facilitate positive change in the workplace.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face in your field of work?
Being a working mother is by far the greatest challenge I’ve faced. Juggling the demands of parenthood with a career is something I constantly need to manage and keep in check. Learning when to prioritise things and sacrifice others is an evolving skill that all working mothers constantly strive to perfect.

What advice would you give someone considering studying a JD at UNSW?
Don’t think twice, just do it. You will truly get out what you put in.

[1] Statistics | New South Wales Bar Association (nswbar.asn.au) Accessed 13 February, 2024