Published on April 26, 2021

Kristina O’Brien’s (2016) work in the law is challenging and confronting, but this vital undertaking provides meaningful reparation and support to childhood institutional sexual abuse survivors. Kristina shared more about this work and her professional and personal hopes for the future.

lady standing near a number of directional signs

Tell us abut your work in the law.

I moved to Sydney and commenced my double degree (Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of International Studies) at Macquarie University and started working at my current firm (Ellis Legal, Lawyers & Advocates) in September 2017. We are a firm that specialises in civil claims for survivors of childhood institutional sexual abuse. My work is often confronting, but seeing the impact that we have on each client’s life is incredible.

In 2019, I undertook a six-month exchange program, where I studied at Reading University in England (very happy to have been able to do this before the COVID-19 pandemic!) I finished my degrees in January 2021 and am now working full-time. By the time this article is published, I will be completing my Practical Legal Training (PLT) for projected admission as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of NSW.

You recently graduated from your course, what are your plans now?

My current plans are to complete my PLT and become admitted as a solicitor. After that, anything could happen! Most likely, I will remain at my current job and gain more experience as a solicitor in a familiar environment. I have recently been able to increase my contact with clients and my responsibilities surrounding damages assessments, negotiations and settlements, so I am excited to see how I can grow professionally in the next few months.

What excites you about the future?

Now that I have a few years of employment experience under my belt, I’m excited to see where I will go next! It sounds cliche, but the changing nature of the professional world means that my job in five years may not even exist. That means it’s ok if I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life, because I don’t have all the options yet. Also, the law has such transferable skills that I might not even find myself in a law firm in the future.

I was excited to travel and possibly work overseas, but that might be on hold for a while now!

“My work is often confronting, but seeing the impact that we have on each client’s life is incredible.”

Is there any aspect of your time at HVGS which has stayed with you since you finished school?

One of the most important things I learned at HVGS was how to relate to and build relationships with teachers and those in positions of authority. Although I didn’t know it at the time, interacting with others in leadership positions allowed me to rise above my age/role/capabilities, which has been critical for me in the workplace. For example, school captain meetings with senior leadership staff gave me insight into how to present ideas and thoughts professionally and take criticism where necessary. My time at HVGS was an excellent foundation for everything I have undertaken since then.

If you had a message for your student self at HVGS, what would it be?

I would tell my student self not to worry about not having all the answers yet! Particularly going through the HSC, I often felt as though I had to have my whole life direction planned out (at the ripe old age of 17). This was so stressful for me. Since leaving HVGS, I haven’t followed what I thought my life plan would be in Year 12, and I’m thankful for that!

I would also tell my student self to stop trying to force opportunities to happen and instead take them as they come, because they will. If I had locked myself into a career path straight out of high school, I doubt that I would have found my current job, and I would have missed out on some fantastic experiences.


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