In May/June 2011 the ALRC was fortunate to have a legal intern from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Jennifer Ruiz, who was sponsored to spend five weeks with us. Jennifer also completed a BA in Political Science at the Florida International University and has worked as a judicial intern at the Court of Special Appeals and as a law clerk at the US Attorney-General’s office in Baltimore. Jennifer worked on the National Classification Scheme Review. In this recording, she describes her experience as an intern at the ALRC.
Marie-Claire Muir, Website Manager (MM): Hi, we’re recording a podcast today, which is just going to be a brief conversation with Jennifer Ruiz, who is a law student from Maryland in the US. Jen has just finished her second year of law school and is going into her third. She’s with the University of Maryland and she’s just completed six weeks with the ALRC as a legal intern.
So, Jen, it must have been a big decision for you to come all the way to Sydney to complete your internship. What was it that got you interested in the ALRC, what made you decide to apply for an internship with us?
Jennifer Ruiz (JR): Well my school does a program where they prepare your work with law reform commissions all over the world, since it’s something we don’t really have in the US, so it provides you a really valuable comparative law experience and out of all the commissions that were available I was most intrigued by Australia, partly because of its reputation and the great Presidents that they had in the past that have been very well known in the human rights sphere throughout the world, but also because of the location. I thought that coming here and coming so far would be a once in a lifetime experience and I definitely have found that it has been that for me and I’m very glad that I made the decision to come all the way out here.
MM: Oh good, so this is your first time in Sydney?
JR: Yes, this is my first time ever going this far, I’ve never taken a plane ride that is more than eight hours, so … (laughs).
MM: Great, so can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on in your six weeks here.
JR: Well, when I first arrived I was assigned to work with the Classification team which is working on the inquiry of reviewing the classification scheme of your media here in Australia and attempting to find a convergent solution … um … and I came at a very interesting time, right after the initial Discussion Paper was released, so I got to sit in on a lot of meetings with key stakeholders and really get to hear from all different kinds of people, from Google, from ABC, from YouTube, from people all over and hear their ideas on what stance the Government should or should not have on media labelling schemes.
MM: Alright, and in terms of … how your daily work routine went and working with the team … At the ALRC we usually have more than one inquiry going at the same time so our legal officers, as you know, sort of work in teams on their own inquiry. Can you tell us how you found the team dynamic and your role in relation to the other legal officers?
JR: I think everybody here really wanted me to get the full experience, so I was able to kind of do some work with both teams, although primarily with Classification but I do see the different dynamic between the two different teams and also since the Family Violence inquiry was a little bit further along in the process … when I sat in on some of those consultations, which is the second round with the stakeholders, I saw that people were a lot more engaged and a lot more, just accumulative about the solutions that were proposed, as opposed to at the initial stage now that the Classification team is in, where people are kind of running their ideas and suggestions … um … so I was able to see that and I saw that both teams worked really well together, separately, just all around the office in general. There’s a very nice dynamic and very cordial, very friendly, very welcoming … so I was very happy to be a part of that.
MM: Well great, and what would you say you found most useful or beneficial in terms of experience you’ve gained from the internship.
JR: It has definitely been one of the most valuable lessons in comparative public policy that I could have ever had. I don’t think I could have learned this much just reading a book or sitting in a course … I think that being able to come out here and being able to have that experience and work with the team and see the process that happens and how they end up proposing solutions and what role they really do play with Government, and they are just so aware of everything that’s going on at any point in time, it was just very interesting. And I’m now going back to the US to use some of the things I’ve learnt here, to apply it there since we don’t have, necessarily, the same kind of commission per se but we do have a lot of public policy and reform initiatives … so this has given me a real inside look into how that process actually works.
MM: Great, well that’s fantastic, thank you for talking to us.