A hole in one

By Liz Banks-Anderson

MLS alumnus Timothy Lau has made every second count in the four years since graduating, and an international career at the London Bar beckons.

Timothy Lau
Timothy Lau

"I decided to study law after I quickly realised that ambition exceeded ability when it came to my first- ranking career choice: golf.

"In terms of similarities, golf, like studying law, has been described as a 'game of expletives deleted' although I am hoping that Mark Twain's description of golf as a 'good walk spoiled' does not similarly extend to my chosen career path in the law," he says.

It was the analytical and reasoning skills a law degree equips you with that attracted Tim to studying law.

"I have found these skills to be invaluable when tran- sitioning from law student to legal practitioner," he says.

As a student he undertook community legal work at the Pilbara Community Legal Service in a remote part of Western Australia, where there is a large mining presence as well as a high Indigenous demographic.

Here, Tim assisted Indigenous clients in a variety of matters including family law, domestic violence and tenancy agreements.

He says this experience had a profound impact on the shape of his career.

"Australia is a lucky society, enriched by our diverse cultures and blessed with prosperity and tolerance," he says.

"Despite this, there are many among us who are still dispossessed and often forgotten. I firmly believe that the gap between despair and hope is often bridged by the very decision of trying to make a difference."

Tim began working as a trainee solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills in London in August 2013.

For the young lawyer, it has been a remarkable transition from one side of the world to the other which began as a student, completing a combined Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Civil Law at Magdalen College, the University of Oxford.

"The greatest opportunities of my career so far have been moving to the UK, initially to study the BCL at Oxford and then to work in the city of London," he says.

"My experience as a trainee solicitor has been a personal springboard for embarking on a career at the Bar.

"I initially did not realise that I sought to pursue a career at the Bar in London, my focus had always been Australia," he reflects.

Tim says young alumni should not be afraid to be proactive in pursuing their international career aspirations.

"There is often a perception, ill-conceived in my opinion, that the path to practising overseas is difficult to obtain when coming from Australia. However, if you are proactive in exploring and applying for overseas opportunities, doors will quickly open," he says.

A career at the Bar appeals to Tim as it provides an opportunity to enjoy the academic challenge of practising law.

"By working as a Barrister, I will be able to indulge in rigorous intellectual engagement with some of the most difficult and heavily litigated legal issues, and I will be 'close to the action' in resolving disputes."

This is something Tim has aspired to since a student at Melbourne Law School, where involvement in mooting competitions and serving as an Editor of the Melbourne University Law Review proved to be formative experiences for him, setting the foundation for his interest in legal advocacy and a career at the Bar.

"As a fresh-faced first year, my mooting style was akin to Denis Denuto in the Australian classic The Castle – I felt aloof, incompetent and completely out of my depth and relied mainly on the 'vibe' of the Constitution. I hope to have come some way since then."

Tim will be returning to Canberra in July this year to commence a year-long term as Associate to the Hon Susan Kiefel QC AC, Justice of the High Court of Australia.

"I hope to be able to apply the skills and experiences from the High Court towards pursuing my aspiration of practising at the commercial Bar in London."

Image: Timothy Lau
Credit: Timothy Lau, courtesy of Herbert Smith Freehills

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 13, June 2015.