Sienna, a Year 10 student, wasn’t looking forward to work experience. Then she found the perfect fit when the alumni program at her school discovered an alum willing to offer her a placement.

In a Q&A series with people involved in the Ourschool program, Caroline Milburn, Ourschool’s CEO and co-founder, talks to:

Julijana Todorovic, lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers, and alum from Kew High School’s Class of 2012
Sienna, Year 10 student, Kew High School

Julijana, can you tell me why the alumni program work experience placement was beneficial for you and your firm?
The best thing about hosting a student from your own school is that you have an instant connection.  You can talk about the teachers that you both had, and you can talk about the way things are run at school.

You have a lot in common already. So, it’s a real privilege to have that with Sienna.

And I think the benefit of having a focus on state schools is that we’re a very socially justice minded firm. Social justice is at the core of everything we do, so being a part of Ourschool really aligns with our firm’s values.

What about the importance of networks in the law?
One of the very difficult things about the law is that there are a lot of barriers and a lot of it is who you know.

And as we know, law is perceived as a prestigious career, which means it’s often populated by people from higher SES backgrounds. There aren’t as many state school students studying law as there are those who went to private schools.

I think it’s really crucial for the outcome of justice, for the outcome of society, that we actually get as many state school educated kids into the law, on the benches of the court, acting for people, so that we get a much more balanced society.

Sienna, what did you learn from your work experience placement with Julijana?
I learnt that the law and being at a law firm is far different than how it’s portrayed in the media or how people think about it.

So instead of it always being about courts and a judge, instead of always standing up and defending a client in court, a lot of the work is behind a computer or maybe it doesn’t even involve people going to court.

Working in the law could be about economic aspects – you’re helping get money back for a client to bring justice to all people in the community without it being this huge, huge deal in court.

Do you think you would’ve been able to get this placement without the alumni program at your high school?
No, I don’t think I would be able to at all because my connections are very few.

I had the option of going to an IT firm or an IT office which I wasn’t at all interested in.

With this program I’ve been able to do something I’m more interested in which is law and I’ve been able to broaden my horizons. I’m grateful for that.

Offering work experience is a meaningful way for alumni to give back to their old high school and open doors for current students. Ourschool welcomes enquiries from business owners and employees who are interested in providing work experience placements for public high school students. See our list of current partner schools and get in touch at [email protected]