JD student eyes a career in criminal law

Melbourne JD student Rachel Cashmore always wanted to help people, which is why she has wanted to study law since childhood.

Her undergraduate studies in criminology and a love for crime-related books, movies and podcasts have led to a passionate desire to practice criminal law.

“My undergraduate in criminology taught me about prisons, police, the gender and sexual aspects of crime, and everything in between,” Rachel says.

“It gave me a solid understanding of our criminal justice system from the point of view of the offender, victim and police, and my law degree has fit those pieces into place.”

Rachel’s criminology studies explored the overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in prisons, the mishandling of evidence, and public punitiveness that disadvantages people in the justice system. Rachel came to see the law as the best way to do something to help the victims of these patterns.

Both its world-class ranking and the attraction of learning amongst esteemed academics at the forefront of their field attracted Rachel to Melbourne Law School (MLS), so she decided to sit the LSAT.

“I had to sit it twice, and I planned on sitting in a third time if that didn’t work,” she says.

“What I will say to prospective students is don’t give up. It’s not necessarily the score that you get that is important, but the methods utilised that will help you in the law.”

Once she was offered a place at MLS, Rachel grasped many of the opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities.

“I particularly enjoyed the networks the law school helps you set up,” she says.

“At the Public Interest Law Careers Night I met a woman representing Reprieve Australia, an organisation that advocates against capital punishment - a year later I was interning for them overseas in New Orleans.”

Rachel was placed in a legal centre called Capital Appeals Project for four months where she prepared appearances before the Supreme Court of Louisiana, attended depositions for law suits pertaining to mistreatment in prisons, and assisted clients calling from death row.

“I built upon my undergraduate studies by learning more about racial overrepresentation and other injustices related to the death penalty. I could not have had that insightful experience without the programs MLS had on offer to set me up with an organisation such as Reprieve.”

This opportunity encouraged Rachel to pursue further enrichment experiences, so through the MLS Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI), she undertook an internship at the Victoria Legal Aid in the Family Law division and later participated in a clinical subject at the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre.

Rachel has also really enjoyed the Evidence and Proof subject.

“There is something about tying in studying for a class and a murder mystery is just so exciting!”

These experiences have helped Rachel decide that she either wants to get into the Victoria Legal Aid New Lawyers Program or work for a criminal defence firm to represent vulnerable clients who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

Despite this clear vision for the future of her career, Rachel hasn’t forgotten to make her MLS experience rich with friendships. She has also focused on building a large group of friends in her cohort.

“We study together, go out together – commonly to the Queensbury Hotel for trivia night every week as a healthy break from study.”

If you are thinking about applying for 2018, the September LSAT closing date is August 2 2017.

Register now for the LSAT