28 August 2019

‘Be micro-ambitious’: In conversation with Law Student of the Year, Michael Jefferies

Published on 28 August 2019

‘Be micro-ambitious’: In conversation with Law Student of the Year, Michael Jefferies

It is no secret that law is a competitive profession. To achieve recognition is to be named first among equals, and it is an honour Michael Jefferies, who was recently named Lawyers Weekly’s Law Student of the Year, now shares with a select few. Insights spoke to Michael about what attracted him to the study of law, and what advice he might have for law students looking to make the most of their degrees.

Say ‘yes’ to opportunities

Law Student of the Year is awarded based on outstanding academic results, and contributions to legal study, extracurricular involvement, and passion for law and justice.

“Early in my studies I contributed a lot to legal study at my university as part of its first ever cohort of law students,” said Michael. He did this while maintaining consistently high grades and competing in legal skills competitions. As a New Colombo Plan Scholar, Michael undertook a semester abroad at the National University of Singapore, and recently had his Honours thesis on shareholder activism confirmed for publication in a leading academic journal.

“Throughout my five years at university I had a lot of energy for pursuing additional opportunities,” said Michael. “This included establishing and leading university student societies as well as local and global social impact initiatives, and attending conferences and competitions.”

He sums up his success as saying “yes” to every opportunity that came his way, and making the most of everything that life as a student had to offer.

“It is an honour to be chosen as the winner from across 38 law faculties nationwide after also taking the title last year!” Michael said.

Law as a means of practical change

Michael chose a combined degree in LLB/BCom because of its strong foundational skills and the multitude of career opportunities it offers. Inspired by his experiences in mooting and negotiation competitions, Michael began to focus on the law as a career.

“I enjoyed these practical opportunities to apply what we had been learning in an academic context to a more realistic scenario,” said Michael. “It also really ignited my competitive spirit and motivated me to extend myself.”

“Law constitutes the framework of society itself,” Michael observed. “Engaging with the law is a key means of making significant change through avenues such as social justice, politics and business. I had an early interest in international affairs and human rights, particularly from attending a Harvard Model United Nations conference the month before commencing my studies. 

“I found my legal skills highly conducive to achieving many key social and political outcomes when I assisted with the leadership of an Amnesty International group and later a global youth-based refugee advocacy organisation.”

Corporate governance first piqued Michael’s interest after he was elected as one of two student members of his university’s board of directors.

“Law has consistently provided me with a valuable skill set to bring to the table in my numerous boardroom roles to date, which in turn have each had a meaningful impact on the world,” said Michael. “The law’s core competencies of critical thinking, analytical skills and written/oral communication align closely with my personal strengths. The result is a compelling match between what I am passionate about and what I am good at, which is an encouraging foundation for my future career.”

The unexpected benefits of closed doors and ‘micro-ambition’

Michael credits his success to ‘micro-ambition.’

“You cannot plan or master the rest of your life at once,” explained Michael. “The path to your future achievements will emerge in the wake of your current ones. Be fully present and avoid the unconscious sentiment that the next moment will be more important than the current one. Your life is only ever now. You have to work hard at what is immediately in front of you.”

Being flexible about one’s goals is also essential.

“When you work towards long-term goals, pursue their exact fulfilment lightly. Be adaptable, because the next best opportunity, idea or initiative could easily be in your periphery,” said Michael.

“Be thankful for closed doors and missed opportunities,” Michael said. “If it didn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be. Avoid taking opportunities which serve as a ‘stepping stone’ which you aren’t invested in to get to ‘something else.’ Focus on what you can change. Keep learning, growing and striving.”

So what’s next for the 2019 Law Student of the Year? 

Michael is pursuing his passion for Corporate Advisory work as a Law Graduate at PwC Australia, with a focus on strategic advisory, governance and mergers and acquisitions. He has also continued his part-time involvement in non-profit boardroom roles alongside legal practice and is interested in sessional university teaching. 

“As part of the big picture, I hope my career outcomes will intersect corporate law, governance, societal change, and education,” said Michael.