How the Law can empower you to help those most in need
A career in law isn’t for the faint-hearted, but if you’re someone who wants to help others during difficult times, it could be the industry for you. Southern Cross University Bachelor of Law graduate Tom Kershaw is one of those people. As a solicitor in the family law and care and protection division of Legal Aid NSW, he handles the legal matters of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in his community.
"Most if not all of our clients will be experiencing a range of issues in their life. Not only the legal problem that we're helping with but also a lot of social issues. They could have mental health issues, disabilities, drug and alcohol problems, or have been a victim of domestic violence" Tom said.
For Tom, his job requires understanding how these issues impact their lives and helping them navigate their legal matters amongst everything else. Working with children and families can be an emotional challenge, but equally rewarding. "The most important thing in most people's lives is their children, so it's very emotional," he shared.
"You often can't separate the two, they're so intertwined. It is common to have a legal issue as a result of all these other compounding social issues they've got. The job requires a broad range of skills to perform effectively,” he said
Before working as a solicitor, Tom had several different occupations which built his passion for helping others and developed his capacity to problem solve and deal with difficult scenarios. One role was in managing claims for an insurance company where he would assist people who were shocked and unsettled. Tom was also a member of the Australian Army Reserve and worked at Southern Cross University managing a student mentoring program. Another job was at a migration agency dealing with protection and humanitarian visas.
“A variety of employment experience has been a key to my success as a solicitor,” he said.
These different roles helped him develop the necessary 'soft skills' and resilience required for his work later on. This, coupled with his education at Southern Cross, would equip him with the knowledge needed to make a difference in his chosen field.
"My primary motivation for studying law was to be able to help others. It seemed like a great way to get a skill that would allow me to help in difficult situations," he said.
He chose Southern Cross because of the relaxed atmosphere and its location, surrounded by rainforests. Noting the differences, "the universities in the big cities looked large and intimidating. Lismore felt like somewhere I could study and feel at home."
He described the opportunity to study on campus in a beautiful environment as a great privilege, grateful to go somewhere every day to learn and better himself. From his studies, he found he gained a broader and more in-depth understanding of the law, helping him to see different perspectives and understand people and situations better.
"The classes were always interesting because often we would get to look at new laws being debated in Parliament," he shared.
"There were units I studied which really changed my point of view on a number of issues. The lecturers made me understand the importance of social justice, spurring on my passion to help people and make a positive impact on society."