Swinburne experiences give law graduate a career kick-start

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Graduate Katrina Davis started in Swinburne Law School’s first student cohort in 2015 and now works at leading law firm Mills Oakley.

In summary

  • Swinburne Law School graduate Katrina Davis is a lawyer at leading law firm Mills Oakley
  • Katrina says the experiences she gained at Swinburne are her university highlights and the reason she got a job straight out of university
  • Katrina completed her practical legal training with Leo Cussen Centre for Law while still a student at Swinburne

The experiences Katrina gained at Swinburne feature most in her university highlights reel.

“I enjoyed every second of it,” says Katrina of her six years at Swinburne.

After starting a different degree, Katrina was seeking more of a challenge and transferred to a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Business when Swinburne Law School opened in 2015.

Moving to Melbourne for university was a huge change for Katrina, who grew up on a farm in regional Victoria. However, her studies would take her much further – from Canberra and Hobart, to Vietnam, Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

It’s these experiences Katrina credits for kick-starting her legal career as a graduate lawyer at leading firm, Mills Oakley, straight out of university.

Making the most of every opportunity

The highlight that “supersedes them all” for Katrina was being on the Swinburne Mooting Team selected to compete against the world’s top teams at the University of Oxford in the UK.

“Oxford was the best five days of my life,” says Katrina.

Her team finished ninth in the world – a feat Katrina says was only possible through the support and guidance of her teachers and teammates.

“To prepare, we would go into Swinburne’s moot court multiple times a week and face a panel of intellectual property law experts the staff brought in to painstakingly question us so we were ready with solid arguments.”

Katrina was also invited to join the Golden Key International Honour Society through Swinburne – an opportunity that took her to the US to work with other student leaders around the world promoting the importance of academia, leadership and service. Through Swinburne, Katrina also travelled to Vietnam for an international humanitarian leadership conference where she worked with students on development projects.

Another highlight was her role as President of the Swinburne Law Students’ Society. Katrina organised events that brought legal practitioners to Swinburne to discuss some of the law’s hardest questions around sexism, racism and bias.

Katrina says these experiences helped her gain valuable skills, industry connections and a “foot in the door”.

“Meeting so many people and learning how to network effectively helped me in interviews and, I believe, helped me find my first job as a graduate lawyer at Mills Oakley.”   


One of Katrina's mentors at Swinburne, Associate Professor Amanda Scardamaglia, moved her admission to the Australian legal profession.

A competitive edge

Katrina says Swinburne Law School gave her an “upper hand” that kick-started her career.

She first realised this advantage while studying her Diploma of Legal Practice at Leo Cussen Centre for Law while still a student at Swinburne.

All law students must complete practical legal training in order to apply to be admitted to practice. It is normally completed after graduating and can take an extra year. Swinburne is the only university in Victoria to allow students to integrate this training into their degree and Katrina says it was evident that Swinburne’s practical focus had placed her well ahead of her peers.

“Day one at Leo Cussen I had to read a piece of legislation and draft a letter to a client explaining the law. We were given 30 minutes to complete the task and I did it in 10 minutes…a lot of my assignments were practical and I found that applying the law in a real-life scenario was less daunting.”

In her third year, Katrina undertook a professional placement at the Coroners Court of Victoria. Upon completion, she was offered a job as a law clerk, which she continued until she finished her studies.

“These internships forced me to go out into the world and meet people in my future profession…it was because of the job at the Coroners Court that I had the experience and background to successfully apply to my current firm.” 

For Katrina, the smaller size of Swinburne Law School also made a difference to her experience.

“The size meant that whenever an opportunity would arise I could put my hand up for it, knowing there was a high chance of succeeding.”

“There is also nothing better than getting to know your teachers…they can recommend experiences or opportunities and give you tailored advice or guidance.”

It was one of Katrina’s teachers and mentors, Associate Professor Amanda Scardamaglia, who moved her admission to the Australian legal profession in August 2019.  

“Amanda is a woman I am eternally grateful for as she has been an amazing support and mentor throughout my time at Swinburne and after.