Over the summer of 2018 I was fortunate enough to be invited to Sydney to experience a 6 week Aurora internship with Terri Janke and Company. This was a valuable and rewarding experience which showed me that a legal career can be about more than just black letter law; it can be about empowering the community and building relationships. I was very fortunate to experience this area of law and to meet with the creative and talented Indigenous people with whom Terri Janke and Company works.
Terri Janke and Company is an Indigenous-owned law firm that specialises in intellectual property, with a particular focus on Indigenous cultural and intellectual property (ICIP). ICIP helps to protect the cultural and creative interests of Indigenous people and ensure that artists’ legal rights, creative rights and cultural rights are maintained once a piece of art is created and involved in a business transaction. The work of the firm therefore helps to safeguard the rights of Indigenous people to protect their traditional arts and culture. This was a fascinating and challenging area of law to experience. It was particularly humbling to work in this area alongside Terri Janke, who is well known as one of the leading experts on ICIP. I was excited to learn from someone so well regarded and I learnt a great deal under her mentorship.
During my time at Terri Janke and Company I was exposed to an extensive range of work in and related to the ICIP field, including:
- drafting contracts between artists and government agencies which would allow the use of the artists’ work for educational purposes while protecting the artists’ intellectual property rights;
- providing advice about registering trademarks for bush teas and other products;
- providing advice on a matter relating to Indigenous fake art ;
- drafting a will and estate documents for an Indigenous artist and meeting with the client to have them signed and notarised; and
- a more creative legal challenge of negotiating clauses in a contract to allow an entire Indigenous community to maintain their cultural moral rights.
Because intellectual property work relates to people’s artistic endeavours, it is a very personal area of law. The opportunity to do this kind of work at Terri Janke and Company was unique, in that so many of the clients are Indigenous artists. I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction in helping these artists navigate the legal realm to achieve their personal and professional goals. Being placed with Terri Janke and Company also afforded me interesting experiences outside the legal realm, such as attending meetings with directors and producers of well-known Australian television shows. Being able to be immersed in this world was truly a rewarding experience. I also thoroughly enjoyed making friends with the team at Terri Janke, some of whom were talented artists themselves and would share with me their latest creations, of which I was in awe.
My experience at Terri Janke was a well-rounded and enlightening educational experience. I gained knowledge of a new area of legal practice, but there was much more to the internship than just improving technical skills. My time at Terri Janke and Company taught me a key truth: everything in this area of law has to do with people and what motivates them. The law can be used to empower your clients to achieve their dreams, and to fight for their rights when the chips are down.
The Aurora Internship Program provides an incredible experience for students and lawyers to develop new skills and apply theoretical knowledge in the real world whilst gaining feedback and advice in a supportive environment. I would highly recommend this opportunity to anyone.