When Mary Baras-Miller was considering law schools during Year 12, her Dad Steven was quietly wondering what was next for him after a long career in television.

'Tagging along' to Open Day, Steven was soon inspired to follow in his daughter’s footsteps. We chatted to the duo about what it’s like to go from housemates to classmates.

Mary and Steven hit the books together.

Family advantage

The family that learns together, stays (and smashes it!) together.

Mary: “Studying law with my dad has actually been great. We study together at home and debate around the dinner table – it’s like living with a classmate. I’m sure it annoys my mum and younger brother!”

Steven: “I have no doubt my daughter wasn't initially rapt in me enrolling in the same degree as her! I drive her a bit mad being that mature-aged student who never stops asking questions in class. But we both quickly saw the advantage of having someone around that you could bounce off. We have an understanding of how the other thinks, so we naturally make great study buddies.”

Everyone should have a live-in study buddy!

Why Law (and why now)?

Law was an obvious preference for Mary, with her passion for social justice from a young age at Lauriston Girls’ School (Armadale).

“I’m really interested in human rights law and applying justice to international crimes against humanity,” she says.

Her talents are evident, being awarded both the Booth Medal for outstanding first year Bachelor of Laws student, and the outstanding Law student overall, 2018.

Steven’s pursuit for the law began after a 21-year career as an editor on the ABC’s Australian Story. He says:

“I was looking for something new and different. I'd worked on a documentary about a man named Vincent Shin who completed his law degree at Victoria University – so knowing the campus was in the city, Mary, her mother and I went along to Open Day. We also found out about VU’s Graduate Entry law program, which I didn't know existed. It was kind of a lightbulb moment as I'd always been interested in law and politics but hadn't seen a pathway into it until then.”

VU's City Queen Campus, in the heart of Melbourne's legal precinct.

Practice makes perfect

Gaining practical experience during their studies – through mooting and work placements – Mary and Steven have both given their future selves an advantage when they graduate.

Steven: “I did a placement at Victoria Legal Aid in the duty lawyer program at the Melbourne Magistrates Court, and at WEstjustice in triage for the family and general clinics. Both placements were invaluable in gaining an understanding of the work of a lawyer. It enabled me to see police briefs and all the operations of the Magistrates Court. The WEstjustice placement gave me experience interviewing clients and identifying legal issues.”

Mary: “I’ve participated various mooting competitions, which has given me great exposure to court proceedings – as have my placement at WEstjustice and my paid job at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court. In first year our class visited Parliament House – observing the legislative process and how laws are passed.”

Mary at Parliament House.

On balancing work, study and play

The pair not only study hard but work and manage busy lives. Both attribute the flexibility of VU’s Block Model to maintaining equilibrium.

Steven: “VU’s Block Model works for me because the single-unit study mode matches the way I operate. For example, on Australian Story I'd work on a single program for a month and dedicate myself to that. Block Model works in the same way, so instead of being across many areas of the law all at once, you focus on one at a time. In my work at the ABC, I moved into news and current affairs which is less demanding, and I was able to enrol in early morning classes. It can be challenging but it's worked out so far.”

Mary: “My job at the Magistrate’s Court in the Victims of Crime Jurisdiction exposes me to so many areas of the law and the perfect way to earn an income. I also have a love of the dramatic arts and regularly acting in plays including the Fringe Festival last year. The Block Model makes it more manageable, with fewer contact hours and the focus on one unit at a time.”

Steven continues to work for the ABC while Mary's career has already begun at the Magistrate's court.

What’s next?

For Mary, long term she plans to become a humanitarian lawyer.

Meanwhile, Steven is enjoying the ‘second act’ of his life and looks towards a tree change.

“Our kids are almost out of school, so we are looking to move to regional Victoria and work in a country law firm,” he says.

Mary Baras-Miller, future humanitarian lawyer.

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