Written by Dawn Lo

13 August 2021

“Recently, I had a student who was ready to drop out of Law completely and his work integrated learning placement turned it around,” says Pearl Beaumont, Director of Experiential Learning at UNSW Law & Justice.

Work integrated learning (WIL) – also known as Experiential Learning, provides Law & Justice students with the opportunity to gain practical experience in their field of study – both local or overseas – through internships, clinics, and mooting opportunities.

How can WIL benefit students?

“Under supervision, students can practise skills that they’ll need in the workplace in a range of specialist areas such as commercial law, criminal law, environmental law, human rights law, youth law, technology law, public law, as well as criminology,” says Pearl Beaumont, Director of Experiential Learning and Lecturer at UNSW Law & Justice.

“Our host supervisors provide meaningful supervision and guidance in the workplace to ensure the placement is one that facilitates student learning. Host supervisors collaborate with students about their learning goals at the beginning of their placement and provide ongoing feedback throughout their WIL placements.”

How is WIL structured at Law & Justice?

The WIL at UNSW has different offerings – each with a unique course structure – combining placement with other course requirements designed to enhance the learning opportunity.

“For example, at an internship placement or a Law clinic, the student will engage in activities in the workplace and attend seminars to reflect on their experience. These opportunities are usually available in the later part of a degree so the student has some foundation upon which they can build and apply their skills in the workplace,” Beaumont says.

“For Criminology students, there is a course that provides them with the unique opportunity to gain practical experience and deeper understanding of the criminal justice system and related agencies.”

Aligned with UNSW’s emphasis on WIL, this course provides a structured and supported work placement designed to provide students with practical experience by tackling criminal justice challenges and working with a criminal justice or related government or non-government organisation. 

“Partnering with these organisations, provides students with a one-of a kind experience to help them understand how criminal justice works in practice.”

Beaumont further states that Law students can also benefit from clinics, internships and mooting opportunities.

“UNSW Law & Justice offers Law students the opportunity to undertake WIL through legal education in one of the highly regarded UNSW clinics and allows them to bring what they have learnt in the classroom into real-life practice under the guidance of experienced practitioners.”

UNSW Law & Justice provides the choice of four clinics:

In addition to clinics, internships are also opportunities for students to gain work experience and to work in a range of organisations; including advocacy and policy areas with non-government organisations (NGOs); an in-house counsel team, social justice organisations and law reform and public interest groups.

“There’s also the opportunity to obtain valuable experience working with editors of law publications and journals. Students can gain practical legal experience that further develops a unique insight into their future career paths,” Beaumont says.

There is also Law mooting where UNSW Law students can hone their professional skills through a variety of competitions such as mooting, trial advocacy, client interviewing and negotiation. 

“Mooting provides competitors with the fantastic opportunity to experience what life will be like as a legal practitioner representing a client in the context of adversarial proceedings. Mooting WIL opportunities are available through the International Law Competitive Moot Competition and the International Commercial Mediation Competition,” she says.

Do we have Law & Justice alumni as existing partners?

“Many UNSW students go on to work in organisations with whom we partner. Two legal organisations we recently partnered with for our Law Internship Program were set up by UNSW alumni and we now proudly place Law students with them.” These organisations were:

Sprint Law, UNSW Law & Justice alumnus Tomoyuki Hachigo (BA LLB 2013)

Immi Advisor, UNSW Law & Justice/Commerce alumna Sapna Patel (BCom LLB 2012)

Any success stories to share?

“Many of our students find work opportunities through their WIL placement, whether it be by way of a successful job application or through building their professional network and taking up opportunities arising from these relationships.

“Recently, I had a student who was ready to drop out of Law completely and his WIL placement turned it around. The organisation and supervision of this student on placement inspired and motivated him to complete his degree. He also found an area of legal practice he was passionate about and wished to pursue,” Beaumont says.

What is the breadth of opportunities that WIL can offer?

The diverse placements cater to a range of fields of expertise and specialisation.

“Some students seek out placements to consolidate their area of interest, whilst others take the opportunity for placements outside their usual area of interest as a point of comparison and to broader their knowledge and expertise.

“We have a range of internship partners in government departments, community-based organisations, and small to large law firms at UNSW Law centres. These provide legal practice, advocacy, policy, academic and other legal workplace opportunities.

“For our clinics, we have longstanding partnerships with the Kingsford Legal Centre, Redfern Legal Centre and the Land and Environment Court. Our Human Rights Clinic forges diverse partnerships through its work as an international legal practice. It is based at UNSW Law & Justice and provides students with an opportunity to run cutting-edge international and domestic human rights cases and projects. We also offer internships,” Beaumont says.

What can students expect at the end of the WIL program?

“Students will have completed a rewarding course providing them with skills they can carry into their working lives. The placements provide invaluable networking opportunities to build and develop important relationships for students throughout their careers. Relevant workplace experience on  students’ CV can really help distinguish them in the eyes of the employer.”

What are the prerequisites?

When can students apply?

“For Law, information on scheduled application periods for each term is available to students on MyLaw and Inplace. For mooting, the application period usually starts in June every year. However, this will kick off earlier in 2022. For Criminology, internships will be available in 2022 in Term 3 only,” Beaumont says.

For any queries about the UNSW WIL program, please reach out at experiential@unsw.edu.au