Marcella De Torres

Marcella De Torres

Student spotlight

Juris Doctor, second year

What led you to study at UNSW Law & Justice and why did you choose your particular degree? 

As an overseas-qualified lawyer working in financial services, I encountered a number of clients that required a legal professional with knowledge of both Philippine law and a common law jurisdiction. I was learning common law through my work experience and thought that going back to law school and getting another Juris Doctor degree in a common law jurisdiction is the next logical step to upskilling my legal practice. I chose UNSW Law & Justice after some research on the best law schools in the world.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned at UNSW Law & Justice?  

It seems easy to fall back into the same things, especially when you feel like this is not your 'first rodeo' as a law student, but not everyone gets another chance at doing something they love. Be open to new experiences and be curious. That openness and curiosity will help you grow.

What is a highlight or most meaningful experience in your time at UNSW? 

My most meaningful experience so far is the court observation for Crime and the Criminal Process class in T1 2023. It was my first time to be in the local and district courts in Australia and seeing the real-life implications of what we study in law school has helped contextualise what I have learned so far. I have also rediscovered my interest in criminal law after this experience and I did a lot of extra research on the topics for the Crime and Criminal Process course after my experience.

Have you been involved in any extra-curricular activities at UNSW? 

I joined UNSW Law Society as a member and benefitted from their JD/PG mentorship program and attended a couple of firm presentations and study skills workshops.

I have completed two co-curricular activities through UNSW Employability while doing coursework during T1 2023. UNSW Employability courses like the Professional Development Program and the Leadership Foundations Program help students get ready for the Australian workplace, which is free! It's a great way to get to know people outside UNSW Law & Justice and is especially helpful when applying for pre-penultimate programs and clerkships. 

I also joined Diverse Women in Law and I am in their Mentorship Program as a mentee and this program runs from April until November 2023. This program is sponsored by Allens and is also helpful with getting input from experienced legal professionals on how they are directing their careers post-law school. If you are interested in a specific field of law and are looking to learn more about it, consider joining mentorship programs. 

Outside of law school, I work out at the local CrossFit box and am usually found doing an hour on the rowing machine before the WOD.

How has your time at UNSW influenced your career and ambitions for the future? 

I came in with a specific purpose for obtaining another Juris Doctor degree but I knew that this was another opportunity for me to explore other fields of law that I am passionate about. Before leaving my home country, I established a non-profit with my fiancé and a couple of friends in Siargao island, Philippines, after a Category 5 typhoon hit the island in December 2021. I became more aware of how laws affect small communities and how we can bridge the gap for people who have limited access to it. Going to law school again reignited my passion for human rights and climate justice. Not everyone gets another chance at law school and I am taking this opportunity to make my legal practice more meaningful. 

What advice do you have for students thinking about studying at UNSW Law & Justice?   

Put yourself out there and do not be afraid to ask for help! Yes, law school is competitive and stressful, especially for an international student, but it does not have to be a difficult experience. Start conversations with people who sit beside you in lectures and do not hesitate to ask for help from your lecturers. Sounds cliché, but the things you will remember most about this experience will not be your grades, but the people you meet along the way and how you dealt with your challenges in completing your degree. Enjoy it!