More than just books

Leighton McDonald-Stuart enrolled in a Bachelor of Laws double degree at the University of Adelaide, and since, has never looked back.

Leighton McDonald-Stuart is seated clasping his hands in the library

Leighton McDonald-Stuart sitting in the Barr Smith Library.

Growing up in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, and completing his secondary schooling in the beachside suburb of Brighton, Leighton had high ambitions to make the most of his education and earn himself a job in a high-rise office in the heart of the Adelaide’s Central Business District. 

Venturing into the city for his tutorials and lectures which he described as “life-changing, stimulating and inspiring”, Leighton saw the appeal of exploring Adelaide’s East End and studying for more than five years at the Adelaide Law School.

Leighton longed for the opportunities of rigorous research, high-calibre teaching academics and an enviable alumni network community from whom he could learn and work with. 

“I knew the University of Adelaide had a reputation for academic and research excellence, and many of the people I had looked to, as making a worthy contribution to society, also studied at Adelaide”, he said. 

Enrolling in a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws double degree at the University of Adelaide, Leighton immediately immersed himself in the vast opportunities available to him.

Leighton said he had a longstanding interest in the law and a passion for politics, so the dual law and arts degree was a natural choice. Having commenced his Bachelor of Laws degree elsewhere, Leighton was excited to make history at Australia’s second oldest law school. 

In 2015, Leighton took the reins of editorship for On Dit Magazine, previous contributors included high-profile law graduates like Christopher Pyne, Annabel Crabb, Nick Xenophon, Penny Wong, Shaun Micallef and even former Premier John Bannon. Leighton was inspired by the diverse and different pathways these graduates undertook after graduating from the same degree. It was clear to Leighton that a law degree would open more opportunities than he had envisioned. 

“I wasn’t always set on being a lawyer, but I knew that the combination of a double degree gave me an excellent footing for whatever career I wanted to pursue” he said.

The first in his immediate family to graduate, his parents were fully supportive of Leighton’s journey to study law. One of his most treasured learning memories were the interactive classes that took place overseas overseas. Leighton went to Singapore to learn about politics, and then undertook a comparative law study tour to Shanghai Jiao Tong University, looking at different aspects of Chinese law where he developed an interest in corporate and trade related matters. 

Leighton was also fortunate to win a scholarship from the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, via the University of Adelaide’s Institute for International Trade, where he learned about European Integration in the European Union and Australia’s imminent free-trade agreement with the European Union, which included visits to key legal institutions, such as the European Commission in Brussels. 

“I was also fortunate to take part in an EU Centre of Excellence study tour to European Union (EU) institutions in Brussels, Belgium, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France” Leighton McDonald-Stuart

“While this wasn’t a formal part of my coursework, it was one of the most intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking experiences of my time at Adelaide. We visited EU policy makers, influencers, and high-level bureaucrats ahead of the negotiation of the EU-Australia Free-Trade Agreement.”

Apart from editing magazines and boosting his study tours, Leighton was extremely dedicated to his studies. 

Surprisingly enough, his favourite subjects from his Law degree includes both Priestley 11 and law-elective subjects. A fan of ‘Corporate Law’ with Professor Christopher Symes, and the ‘Law of Work’ with Professor Andrew Stewart, Leighton finds the fast-nature of corporate law very exciting. 

According to Leighton, the breadth of law electives at the Adelaide Law School was a highlight for his legal education, especially because he was able to explore theoretical and doctrinal law in a legal practice environment. Leighton particularly enjoyed the Clinical Legal Education elective, after undertaking his placement at one of the Adelaide Legal Outreach Service (ALOS) clinics.

“There were few subjects that I didn’t find enjoyable or rewarding, and many have direct career relevance. In particular, my placement in my Clinical Legal Education course provided me with the foundational knowledge I needed to tackle the questions that I am now asked in a professional capacity”, he said. 

Leighton’s education has equipped him with the skills needed to tackle the opportunities in the corporate world. Drawing upon his broad areas of interest as well as the technical knowledge from his legal degree, Leighton is now a Financial Services and FinTech lawyer in Piper Alderman’s Adelaide office. An admitted lawyer (completing his Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice with the Law Society of South Australia), Leighton provides specialist advice on complex regulatory and legal matters to clients of varying sizes across Australia.

Since graduating from the Adelaide Law School, Leighton has only looked back at his university education with immense pride and a sense of accomplishment.

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