Internship experience shapes young barrister’s career aspirations

Auckland-based barrister and Melbourne Law Masters student Yvonne Yue Wang recently undertook an internship at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (the BIICL). Little did she know she would return home with a new vision for her legal career.


Yvonne applied in 2016 to undertake an international legal internship as a part of her studies towards a Master of Laws, in order to gain exposure to an area of law that lay outside her usual practice.

“There is a distinctive need for lawyers to consider different sub-disciplines of law in tandem, rather than in silos,” she says.

The International Legal Internship subject enables Masters students to undertake advanced legal research and analysis at a public interest or not-for-profit international institution or organisation.

Yvonne chose to apply to the BIICL because of its highly respected work in public international law and comparative legal studies.

“The BIICL provides informed, independent and practical legal analysis about contemporary issues on a global level,” she says.

To her delight, Yvonne was accepted by the BIICL as part of the Arthur Watts Fellowship in Public International Law. Upon her arrival in London, she was put to task in different aspects of the institute’s activities.

“I was part of the team who drafted the event report for the two-day conference on Dialogues between International and Public Law”, she says.

“The conference was the culmination of the first five years of collaboration between the BIICL and the MLS. In addition, I assisted in the preparation of other BIICL events.”

“I was also required to write a research memorandum for the Arthur Watts Senior Research Fellow, Ms Jill Barrett.

“The focus was on the human rights duties owed by private actors in domestic legal systems, as well as on a supra-national or global level.”

Having previously considered the issue of potential remedies for the victims of human rights violations committed by trans-national corporations as part of her Master studies, Yvonne had to formulate the conceptual arguments for and against the developments of horizontal human right duties.

“The lack of effective remedies for the violation of human rights suffered by individuals as a result of the action by other private actors, especially at the transnational level, desperately calls for more creative legal solutions,” she says.

In fact, Yvonne is now considering following her passion for public international law and human rights law all the way back to London.

“Upon graduation, I will be interested in applying for London-based positions with a focus on public international law,” she says.

“I am also interested in completing a PhD in public international law or human rights law.”

More broadly, her internship also challenged her perception of what it means to be a good lawyer.

“I find that in practice, there is a tendency for the majority of lawyers, myself included, to operate within the neatly constructed boxes of our own specialisations,” she says.

“The internship was a good reminder that a modern lawyer is expected to constantly learn and grow.”

For Yvonne, however, the most rewarding part of the internship was discovering – and becoming a part of – the international community of lawyers and scholars.

“It is at once gratifying and reassuring to find others being passionate about the law and how it should be developed on a global level,” she says.

“It has been an extremely humbling and rewarding experience.”

By Blake Connell

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