Evelyn Cacas- Internship at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Through undertaking the Law and Justice Internship I was provided with an invaluable practical learning platform. I was able to observe the protocols and processes of a Commonwealth Tribunal and engage in meaningful research tasks, primarily relating to the Migration, Social Security, Veterans’ Affairs and Taxation areas of Public Law.
While studying Law at a tertiary level provides students with relevant legal knowledge and skills, practical application of these capabilities is limited, this is understandable given the strongly academic nature of the university environment. The Law and Justice Internship embraces a different learning style where participants learn through practical application and observation. Whilst many may find a hands-on approach more challenging, because of its self-driven and independent structure, the learning outcomes are far more useful and rewarding. This is where I believe the Law and Justice Internship sets itself apart from other University courses, because it enables students to drive their own learning, and understand, for themselves, how the legal profession operates.
During the course of my placement I attended Tribunal Hearings where I was able to witness advocacy in-action. Through listening to counsel submit their arguments I closely observed and analysed the efficacy of different advocacy styles. Distinguishing and developing arguments in a persuasive manner is a fundamental skill that all Law students cultivate in their studies, I found witnessing the practical application of this skill insightful and valuable. Moreover, I especially enjoyed engaging in post-hearing ‘debriefs’ with the presiding Member, as we were able to have an open and honest dialogue about the legal concerns and questions raised in each case. In these discussions Members often acted as mentors, sharing their personal experiences and soliciting advice about the legal profession. These conversations were the highlight of my placement. On a personal level the internship assisted with the development of my legal and interpersonal skills, it also allowed me to pursue my individual interests in Public Law.
Being given the opportunity to intern at the AAT offered valuable insight into the operation of Federal Public Law. I was able to better ascertain the function of the Tribunal and the crucial role it plays as an independent decision-making body. Through my experience at the AAT I was able to secure a Member Support Officer position at the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT), where I am able pursue my interests in Administrative Law and learn more about its operation at a state level.
I would like to extend thanks to the AAT and their wonderful staff for being terrific hosts. Further, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Senior Members’ associates, Elle, Leo and Annie for their assistance and guidance throughout the experience.
I would also like to thank the course coordinator Associate Professor Laura Grenfell for facilitating the placement and offering guidance for the entirety of the course.
The course presents a distinctive opportunity for law students and I would encourage all students to apply. Not many are afforded similar internship prospects, particularly in the Public Law sector, this is why I recommend this experience so highly.
Author: Evelyn Cacas