Michael Uche Ukponu | Energy and Resources Law

After practising law in his home country of Nigeria for several years, Michael came to Melbourne to study a Master of Energy and Resources Law, chasing his ultimate career goal of promoting sustainable energy development and environmental protection.

“In 2013, I graduated from law school and was issued a Certificate of Call to the Nigerian Bar, which qualified me to practise law as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria,” Michael recalled. After practising for five years as an Associate Counsel at a law firm, Michael decided to pursue his ambition of specialising in energy and environmental law. He enrolled in the University of Melbourne’s Master of Energy and Resources Law.

“Melbourne Law School ranks very high globally among universities that offer quality pedagogical experience in energy law and environmental law. It helps graduates develop the required competence to flourish in the practice of these specialisations in the international arena,” Michael said. Melbourne Law School’s excellent reputation and global focus made it a great fit for Michael’s career aspirations. “I hope to work in legal academia or at international organisations promoting sustainable energy development and environmental protection,” he explained.

Michael gratefully acknowledged the positive impact of the University’s academic staff on his learning experience. “The teaching staff are highly qualified, vastly experienced, globally recognised, and significantly impactful in their teaching,” he said. He also praised the University’s non-academic staff. “They ensured that students were properly settled in their academic life – everything from admission to graduation was professionally and satisfactorily handled by the Academic Support Office.”

Reflecting on the highlights of his university experience, Michael mentioned the importance of opportunities to seek practical career advice and connections. “I was exposed to career fairs where prospective employers and professional organisations were brought in to offer helpful information for international students like me to further our career plans in Australia and internationally.”

Michael Uche Ukponu, Master of Energy and Resources Law

He also appreciated the support he received through the Ian Malkin Centre for Legal Academic Skills, the University’s resource and student support hub for legal writing, legal research and study skills. “I was able to develop my academic writing and research skills, much thanks to the impactful work of Professor Chantal Morton and Dr Judy Bourke,” he said, naming two academics who worked with him at the Centre. “I continue to feel the impact and legacy of their guidance. As of 2023, I have contributed at least 10 articles and book chapters to reputable international journals and book publishers,” he added.

Michael, who was also a recipient of the Australia Awards scholarship, graduated with his Master of Energy and Resources Law in 2019 and wasted no time putting his degree to good use. “I have been able to commence my specialisations through locally and internationally published materials exploring related diverse issues such as renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, electricity regulation, mining and minerals, and access to environmental justice.”

It wasn’t long before Michael’s student journey came full circle. In 2022, Melbourne Law School welcomed Michael back as a PhD candidate. He shared a succinct overview of his doctoral research: “I’m studying regionalism as a pathway to the prohibition and punishment of environmental crimes under international criminal law.”

For others interested in a similar career path, Michael emphasised the importance of taking small steps in the right direction. “I remember one of the first small steps I took to pursue my career aspirations was to attend a biogas and bioenergy workshop in Nigeria in 2017,” he said. “Be genuinely driven about your career interests and take intentional and proactive steps, no matter how small, towards achieving them.”

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