The internship allowed me to gain professional experience in a field that can feel quite abstract and academic when you study it in the classroom, and to get a taste of the sort of work I would like to pursue in the future.
When Christopher Skoglund applied for the 2018 Leslie Zines Constitutional Law Scholarship, he was eager to gain real-world experience in Australia’s top public law offices. His application was successful and last summer he completed a 10-week internship at the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Government Solicitor.
“I dealt with really interesting legal issues, worked with some great people, and engaged with a variety of matters in constitutional law – an area I was keen to explore,” said Christopher, a final-year Juris Doctor student at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Law.
The scholarship was established in memory of Professor Leslie Zines AO, a former Dean of the ANU College of Law and one of Australia’s leading constitutional law scholars. The internship comprises five weeks with the Office of Constitutional Law at the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), and five weeks with the Office of General Counsel at the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS).
“There was certainly a contrast between the two. At AGD the work was more responsive to day-to-day political developments, while AGS was a bit more arm’s-length,” said Christopher.
In the Office of Constitutional Law, Christopher produced a guide on the law relating to parliamentary privilege under s 49 of the Constitution and the Parliamentary Privileges Act.
“While I was working on the guide a few different matters popped up relating directly to parliamentary privilege, which was fortuitous timing. I was also able to go see the Solicitor-General on his feet in the High Court and sit in on a number of meetings relating to constitutional policy issues.”
In the Office of General Counsel, Christopher undertook a number of research tasks for the Constitutional Litigation Unit and the Employment, Entitlements and Money team.
“The most interesting thing I did at AGS was producing a research note for the Commonwealth’s submissions in the upcoming High Court case Taylor v Attorney-General. The plaintiff is seeking to bring private criminal proceedings against Aung Sun Suu Kyi for crimes against humanity, and my research note related to the reviewability of the Attorney-General’s refusal of consent under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.”
Christopher noted that the scholarship provides a great opportunity for ANU law students to put their academic knowledge into practice.
“Aside from really enjoying Commonwealth Constitutional Law, the idea of working at AGD and AGS really appealed to me. The internship allowed me to gain professional experience in a field that can feel quite abstract and academic when you study it in the classroom, and to get a taste of the sort of work I would like to pursue in the future,” he said.
Next year, Christopher will be working as a judge’s associate to Justice Susan Kenny at the Federal Court in Melbourne.
“Justice Kenny’s background is in constitutional and public law, and I’m sure my experience at AGD and AGS helped me to get this incredible opportunity,” he said.
As for his plans for the future, Christopher has his sights firmly set on public law. “After the associateship, I will return to Canberra and hopefully find myself back where I was over summer.”