Australian Young Lawyer of the Year strives for equal rights

At the age of 27, solicitor and University of Adelaide law graduate Natalie Wade (LLB 2012, B Com (Mgt) 2011) has been given the prestigious title of the Australian Young Lawyer of the Year. Presented by the Law Council, Natalie has been recognised for her advocacy for equality within the legal profession.

Natalie is currently a solicitor in the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion and recently worked as a solicitor in the Child Protection System Royal Commission, focussing on children with a disability and their vulnerabilities within the State Care System.

How did you feel upon receiving such an important recognition?

I was humbled that the Law Council recognised the work I do and the incredible organisations I am involved with which address many different minority rights including people with disabilities, women and refugees. It was also fantastic to have the Law Council, as the national peak professional organisation acknowledge and celebrate diversity in the profession by awarding a young, female lawyer with a disability with one of their main awards of the year. I hope this is a testament to what our profession is starting to look like.

What drives you to succeed?

I am acutely aware of the disadvantage and lack of equal opportunity that exists in our community both at a state and national level. This drives me to use my legal skills to contribute to change and reform which will improve the recognition and protection of rights of marginalised people. It is incredibly important to me that our profession reflects the community which we serve and that members from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and included.

What did you enjoy most about your law degree at the University of Adelaide?

One of the best parts was being exposed to leading academics and practitioners in their respective fields of law. This inspired me to cultivate a career where I will (hopefully) one day be a leader in my chosen field.

How did your experience at the University shape you as a person?

It was a defining experiencing in shaping me as a person. I was heavily involved in student life while studying on campus, including being a representative on the Student Representative Council and for a time, I wrote a column for On Dit on the experience of students with disabilities. It was an open environment for me to practice my advocacy and activism for causes I was passionate about. I learnt valuable lessons in what worked and what didn’t which I still use today in practising human rights law.

Do you have any advice for future law students?

To current law students: use the time to develop a passion for the law; whether it is for a particular area of law like constitutional law or corporate law or an issue that arises in the law that could benefit from further research or representation. The five or so years you are at law school are best used to work out how you want to contribute to the profession (and study ­– you must study a lot!).

To law graduates finding employment: where possible, seek out opportunities that offer experience in the work you would most like to do. Whether you are particularly keen on human rights law or tax law, try and find a workplace that will let you grow that interest and develop your skills in it. Also, remember that having a law degree can be the gateway to many other career options other than to be a practising lawyer; look at Malcolm Turnbull, Waleed Aly and John Cleese!

Read more University of Adelaide graduate stories in the alumni publication Lumen.

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