How student Cheryll Rosales created a real-world impact by improving access to justice
The journey to the Master of Laws ‘Access to Justice’ program was not linear for Cheryll. With a background in Education, experience as a legal communicator, and a number of degrees already under her belt, it was the opportunity to help the community whilst earning her Masters that saw Cheryll become involved with The Accessible Justice Project.
Originally from California, Cheryll’s background in Education saw her work with a variety of clients, developing a passion for working with children with disabilities. Intending to continue down this career path upon moving to Australia in 2013, Cheryll ran into difficulties securing work in this field with a lack of local experience becoming a barrier for meaningful employment.
“When I started applying for teaching positions, I was told that I needed local experience to be considered for permanent full-time positions. In the meantime, I started working as a temporary relief teacher and disability support worker.”
Determination is what defines Cheryll. After numerous rejections for permanent positions in education and the disability space, she began to consider her options. It was these rejections that were the catalyst for Cheryll to pursue law.
“I had always planned on going to Law school, but my postgraduate journey in the United States led me to a career in teaching.”
Deciding to follow her intuition and undertake a Bachelor of Laws, Cheryll worked tirelessly during her studies, working 3 casual jobs whilst attending classes full time.
“Four years and a baby later I graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (honours) degree.”
During her final year of studies, Cheryll gained work as an Education Specialist with a not-for-profit organisation, working with those who had complex communication needs and helping them tell their stories to criminal justice personnel. This line of work was incredibly fulfilling and allowed Cheryll to follow her passion for helping others, whilst working her way into senior roles.
At a crossroads in her professional career, Cheryll was unsure whether she should continue down the path of legal administration roles, or listen to her intuition and pursue a career practising law.
“I was admitted in the Supreme Court of South Australia in 2019 and began a position with the Federal government as an Internal Review Officer. This work was especially appealing as it combined my knowledge of disability with my knowledge of statutory interpretation. But something was missing. There was still a desire to practise law.”
As an Alumni of the University of Adelaide, Cheryll received regular newsletters from the University. One in particular featured an article on the Master of Laws ‘Access to Justice’ specialisation and placement with The Accessible Justice Project, which sparked her interest.
“I was intrigued. The Master of Laws ‘Access to Justice’ specialisation would combine my desire to help those who were vulnerable, and I would be able to practise law whilst completing a master’s degree in the process.”
Already with a multitude of degrees and work experience under her belt, Cheryll was not initially interested in undertaking further education as often this can mean taking a pay cut or adding on educational debt. But the Master of Laws ‘Access to Justice’ specialisation was different. Cheryll could have the best of both worlds through further studies to open up new opportunities, and the chance to undertake paid practical work as part of The Accessible Justice Project.
“It was a win/win situation for me. I would either learn that I loved the practice of law and would continue as a lawyer or I could go back to working in the not-for-profit sector with legal experience and a master’s degree under my belt.”
The Accessible Justice Project is a joint initiative created by Lipman Karas and the University of Adelaide. The Accessible Justice Project operates as a low-bono practice, where students provide affordable legal advice to members of the community who don’t qualify for publicly funded legal assistance but also can’t afford the ongoing costs of a private lawyer. Students involved in The Accessible Justice Project are paid for their legal services and have the opportunity to be mentored by senior lawyers from Lipman Karas.
The professional benefits of The Accessible Justice Project have been profound for Cheryll who has gained much needed practical experience, improved her employment prospects upon graduation, and received guidance and mentorship from high calibre legal professionals.
“I have been able to learn what “best practice” is and be supported in my efforts to achieve “best practice” standards. Putting into practice what I have learned and having a safe, yet challenging space to learn in has made a world of difference in how I approach the practice of law.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of The Accessible Justice Project for Cheryll has been the opportunity to work with colleagues whose passion for people matches that of her own.
“I work with a team who have very different experiences, but a similar passion. This has helped me learn and grow, not only as a lawyer but as a person.”
After having the opportunity to work with a diverse range of people under the guidance of senior solicitors, Cheryll has finally found her footing in the legal profession and hopes to continue to use her skills as a lawyer to help vulnerable people achieve positive legal outcomes.
Through the Master of Laws ‘Access to Justice’ specialisation Cheryll was able to satisfy her need to gain further experience as a lawyer, whilst continuing to give back to the community. Gaining valuable professional advice from her mentors as part of The Accessible Justice Project, Cheryll is now primed to take on the trials, challenges and rewards that a career in law brings. For more information, please visit the Master of Laws ‘Access to Justice’ website or read further about the specialisation in our Master of Laws ‘Access to Justice’ article.