Meet Simi: Juris Doctor (JD) student at Melbourne Law School
Simrat, or Simi as she’s known, is currently studying the Juris Doctor (JD) at Melbourne Law School. She’s an avid tea drinker, enjoys curating playlists and is passionate about utilising the law to support minority communities.
Her journey to Melbourne
Simi grew up in Kenya, before moving to Brisbane where she completed high school. She then went on to study political science in Abu Dhabi, before moving to Melbourne.
Simi has been living in Melbourne for two years and quickly felt a sense of belonging.
“As a woman of colour, it’s really noticeable for me when I feel like I belong, and I feel comfortable in a place. Melbourne has made me feel like I don’t really stand out as much as I felt in other cities in other parts of the world, and even other parts of Australia. That’s why I really love it.”
She picked Melbourne Law School for its reputation and alumni outcomes.
“I want to have as many opportunities and open doors post-graduation, and I felt that a Melbourne Law School education and network could give me this.”
Her experience at Melbourne Law School
Initially Simi was nervous about law school, a lot of her ideas about what law school would be like came from movies and books. She thought she might have to figure it all out by herself in a formal, competitive and cold environment.
When she started at Melbourne, she was pleasantly surprised.
“All of those ideas came crumbling down when I went into the law school. It was quite disarming. A lot of the professors, having been through law school themselves, are very cognisant of these anxieties students have, having had them themselves.” she explains.
They are all so friendly and warm and have an incredible ability to make very complex concepts easily understandable.
This teaching style has really supported Simi, through what she describes as an incredibly challenging experience.
The challenge is not without rewards and it’s this experience that she credits with unlocking her potential. Studying at Melbourne Law School has made her realise she’s capable of more than she ever thought possible.
The challenges of law school can also bring people together.
When speaking about her fellow JD peers, Simi explains that “it might seem like they have it all together on the outside, but really it’s a shared experience. It’s difficult for everyone and you can actually make quite good friendships out of that.”
Outside of the classroom
It’s not only in the classroom that Simi has extended her friendship circle and network. She’s also part of the Public Interest Law Network, one of many student interest groups at Melbourne.
The Public Interest Law Network runs events and provides students with opportunities to discuss and engage critically with socio-legal issues. During her time with the network, she’s contributed to the launch of a reading group and a magazine for law students.
She’s also conscious of keeping a balance between law school and her life outside of studies – including friends and her job at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Simi describes her lifestyle balance, in a way we can all relate to, as a “work in progress.”
“I think I champion finding a balance as a priority because it’s one that I know I’ll need to be able to navigate as a legal professional and as a grown up.”
Advice for other students
Simi’s self-awareness and admirable desire to learn and grow is inspiring, and her takeaways can resonate with many people.
Three key things that Simi has learnt over the course of her studies to date is to trust yourself, remove unnecessary pressure and to put yourself out there.
I'd tell my year 11 or 12 self to trust herself and to trust that whatever was to come, her future self would know how to handle it, so I'd tell her not to stress in advance.
This attitude has also benefited her study approach. By trusting herself and reducing self-imposed pressure, Simi has been able to create a healthier relationship with academics.
Outside of studying, her advice is to give things a go.
Coming into an environment where people may already know each other can initially feel intimidating. By putting yourself out there, you may realise that people are more open to meeting new people than you initially thought.
Another great way of meeting other students with shared passions is by participating in a university club or society.
Studying the Juris Doctor has given Simi a better sense of direction as to where she would like to focus her talents in the future.
“My one and a half years at Melbourne Law School has helped me uncover what I really care about and what I do not, which in turn has taught me so much about myself. I had an inkling going into law school that I was much more public-law oriented. Being in law school has confirmed that and has given me the confidence and skills to pursue this path.”
In particular, Simi would like to serve asylum seeker and refugee communities.
Taking Administrative Law as a subject helped Simi see how she could apply these values in her future profession.
“Admin law helped me see myself in the law…I could see myself practicing in this area because the principles of the law align with the conception of the law that I have – about holding our decision-makers to account, especially in the area of migration. My heart truly lies with minority communities, particularly the refugee and asylum-seeker community, so admin law showed me how I can best serve these communities.”
Simi believes that lawyers can make a difference by empathising and advocating for people’s individual, human struggles. One way of doing this is by making the law less intimidating and more accessible.
Lawyers are really important in being able to be that bridge between the individual and the legal system.