Jean Kearney

Barristers/Legal Firms
Summer 2018

Over summer I had the opportunity to spend 6 weeks interning at Terri Janke and Company, through a placement organized by the Aurora Internship Program. Terri Janke and Co is a small law practice that specializes in Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP), IP and business law. During my internship I was given a wide range of tasks to work on that touched on all these areas and more!

ICIP is a fascinating area of law (during the first week I had to write a blog/article on it) and Terri is one of the leaders in the field - so it was invaluable to be able to learn about it from her. It is also an interesting area in the sense that much of it is regulated by non-legal protocols and international conventions, rather than through law. There are thus numerous gaps in trying to enforce/protect these rights. One of the first matters that I assisted with highlighted these gaps, which ended up preventing the client from protecting her ICIP rights. It was both illuminating and saddening to see that law and justice do not always overlap.

The main project that I was assigned to work on for the first 4 weeks involved assisting in writing a report and set of protocols for Museums Galleries Australia on Indigenous engagement with the sector. The team had been working on this project for months before I arrived, so it was a bit overwhelming at first to catch up with all the material. Luckily, everyone on the team was extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and I soon got up to speed. The first task I was given in this project was to write a section on heritage and international laws that are relevant to museum collections. This was quite a big task and I was thankful that I had quite a lot of time to work through and think about the task. The next area I was given to write on related to Indigenous employment in museums and galleries. This was probably the most enjoyable piece of writing that I worked on, as I was able to read through the many submissions and workshop notes and get an idea of the main issues in the area. I also attended team meetings where the structure and purpose of the project was discussed. This was an invaluable insight into how a big, multi person project is run.

Through the MGA project I was afforded a great opportunity, which was the chance to go to Brisbane to assist in the running of one of the workshops. I flew out in the morning, helped set up and prepare for the forum, and then took minutes for the meeting, before flying back home that night. Through this experience I was able to talk to a number of leading museum/gallery personnel and learn about their experiences and suggestions. The Brisbane trip also provided a great opportunity to bond with some of the other members of the team, as well as with Terri. 

Definitely one of the biggest highlights of the internship was the team at Terri Janke & Co. Terri herself is a great mentor – not only is she incredibly knowledgeable about the law, she is also genuinely interested in connecting with the people around her. She was always committed to making sure I got the most out of the internship process and taught me a lot about the multiple aspects of being a lawyer. Terri’s attitude towards connection and sharing also extends to members of the team. This is best highlighted in the weekly WIP meetings where everyone had to start the meeting by sharing and discussing what we did on the weekend. This created such a welcoming environment throughout the internship process. We also had a number of team lunches (sushi Fridays) and afternoon teas together, as well as after work drinks at the local bar. The other two interns were also great company and it was wonderful to have people to talk to and share in the experience. The various different levels and experiences of the team also contributed to the communal/sharing atmosphere. Also, almost everyone at TJC has an art/film/writing/creative background, which probably contributed to the feeling that this was more than just an ordinary law firm.

Overall, the experience of interning at TJC has been one of the best experiences of my JD degree. I have learnt things and had experiences that I would never have had otherwise. Going into the internship I was worried that I would be ill-equipped to enter the real world of law. I was concerned that I was missing something that real lawyers had, and that this would become apparent as soon as I entered the office. To my surprise, I have learnt that there isn’t a lawyer out there who knows everything there is to know about law, nor who is right 100% of the time. What I have learnt is that part of being a lawyer is recognizing when you don’t know something and taking steps to remedy this. Whether this be through research, conversations with co-workers, or even through making mistakes, the important thing is to strive to know; and while I am still not sure of my legal future, I definitely want to be someone who strives for knowledge.