Completing LLM, Columbia
“The law has become part of who I am, and I’m not quite sure who I would be without it. The fact that a law degree is looked on quite favourably in the job market is also helpful.”
What did you study and where?
LLB (Hons) BSc (Geography, Psychology) (Auckland); LLM, 2021 (Columbia).
What is your ethnicity?
Yugoslavian (Serbian, Croatian). My family immigrated here when I was a toddler.
Why did you decide to study law?
When I was 14 I read this great book by a human rights lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, called “Iran Awakening”. I was inspired by her lawyering work in her community, and saw being a lawyer as a way to help people. I knew then I’d be signing up for law school!
Where do you currently work and what kinds of work do you do?
I’m currently finishing my LLM at Columbia. After that, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do. I think I’d like to use my legal skills in a variety of settings – particularly helping people understand and resolve conflict (as a negotiator, barrister, and dispute resolution teacher).
What do you like about your work?
For the last couple of years I’ve been at the junior bar working on civil, commercial and some criminal cases. Being self-employed gave me a lot of flexibility in my work, enabling me to teach and to conduct research and writing. I like that I’ve managed to craft a career where I have the freedom to make the contributions I want to make in the law, while still being a lawyer. I know there are firms that give employees plenty of freedom to do the things they enjoy in the law, but it’s difficult to fully to do so. Some of us are still exploring what we want to do, and there is no nicely packaged ‘dream job’ out there – the dream job comes into being through trial and error. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to try different things out in such a short period time, and gain a clearer picture of what I want out of my career.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Dancing, snowboarding, yoga, beach walks, reading, anything artsy, movies, long coffee dates with friends and family, music festivals.
What advice would you give to those considering studies in law?
Despite my uncertainty about whether the law was/is right for me – both at uni and in practice – I don’t regret studying the law or becoming a lawyer. The law has become part of who I am, and I’m not quite sure who I would be without it. (The fact that a law degree is looked on quite favourably in the job market is also helpful.) I assume there must be some reason things have panned out this way for me, despite considering quitting law school pretty routinely when I was there. The best piece of advice I can give you is to follow what feels right. Don’t do what you’re not interested in. It might not immediately be obvious, but there’s a good reason for why you are attracted to certain things and it will lead somewhere important one day. I’ve had to make some hairy calls. I quit some incredible opportunities because they felt wrong in my bones and I chose myself over doing what others thought was right.
I recall putting my LLM applications together, feeling rather dark about where I was going with my career, trying to craft a narrative about who I was and what I would offer – and once I had reduced myself down to a page or two, I realised that despite the things I found boring and difficult in the law, I had somehow managed to follow my heart: I tried to help women; I tried to make the legal profession a better place; and I learned about how to best serve my clients and I tried to do so. So all in all, despite feeling quite negative about the law and the profession at times, I had somehow managed to keep people front and centre, and that was all I ever intended to do at the start of this. That’s the interest I’m now continuing to explore and follow.
Miriam Klein Ovink