Four University of Wollongong law graduates have been named winners at this year’s Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards.
Stephanie Puris and Elizabeth Lathlean, Megan Coall and Erin Lynch were each named winners in their categories of Pro bono, Energy and Resources, and Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety, respectively. The 30 Under 30 Awards celebrates young high achievers in a competitive industry where recognition is usually directed at partners and directors.
Erin Lynch, 29, completed a double degree, combining law with arts with a major in history, and now specialises in employment law at a boutique law firm – People + Culture Strategies.
“I finished my arts degree and continued with law and chose to go into employment law, which I find to be more personal than other areas of law. You get to know the people you’re working with and there’s always a personal story involved,” Ms Lynch said.
Now a successful young lawyer in Sydney, Erin has also volunteered to be one of a select group of successful female lawyers to share professional insights and experiences with UOW female law students through the three-month LUCY mentoring program this year.
Stephanie Puris was recognised for the pro bono work she carries out on top of her role as a commercial lawyer at King & Wood Mallesons, in Perth, one of the country’s largest law firms.
Ms Puris, who graduated from UOW with a double degree of law and commerce in 2009, became involved in the firm’s social pro bono initiatives early on and now coordinates a cyber project with the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, providing free legal advice to children. Stephanie has also worked with organisations such as the Australian Child Rights Taskforce to draft submissions on children’s issues to various United Nations committees.
“It’s been an opportunity to help children and for me to give back to the community. Children don’t necessarily have a voice in society and they can face a number of practical barriers when seeking out legal advice, so it’s important to give them a voice,”said. Ms Puris, who also recently won the Law Society of Western Australia’s ‘2014 Lawyer of the Year Award’ for lawyers with less than five years experience.
Megan Coall graduated from UOW in 2007 and now, at the age of 29, is a senior associate at King & Wood Mallesons, working at the firm’s Sydney office in commercial law in the field of energy and resources.
“I kind of fell into law, although thinking back through school I had a keen sense of justice and I always enjoyed learning about the legal system and advocacy legal studies and debating. When it came time to make a decision about what to study I found myself attracted to a double degree – law and commerce, majoring in economics,” she said.
Her pathway to commercial law with a focus on energy and resources in a global marketplace wasn’t deliberate, but, considering her background, it’s not exactly surprising either.
“I gained a fair amount of experience and built up a lot of relationships in the field of resources when I worked one day a week with a law practitioner in Sydney. I think that stood out on my CV, being placed in that field when I was a graduate at King & Wood Mallesons and I have just continued on that path.” Ms Coall said, also acknowledging that growing up in the Hunter Valley and then studying in Wollongong probably have something to do with her appreciation of hard industries.
“Young lawyers are an increasingly important part of a law firm. We thought it was about time that the efforts of these lawyers was recognised and highlighted,” Lawyers Weekly editor Justin Whealing said.