I believe that a law degree opens many doors. It sharpens your mind and develops your skills in writing and research. As a minimum, it is an intellectual challenge and enhances your critical thinking and boosts self confidence. Once you qualify, it promises great career opportunities.
Maithri Panagoda AM (LLM '96)
When Maithri Panagoda AM migrated to Australia, he brought with him a wealth of legal experience and education from his home country and international postgraduate studies that were foundational to the growth of his profile and career.
Since arriving, Maithri pursued postgraduate study at Sydney Law School and built an unparalleled legal reputation around justice for members of the Stolen Generation and survivors of child sexual abuse.
Maithri is a partner at Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers, where he has worked for nearly 30 years. He and his team of 15 focus their work on survivors of child sexual abuse and Stolen Generations. The life-changing and historical impact of his work stem from a deep-rooted level of commitment to making a difference, and hard work.
He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Notre Dame.
He said this about the matters he is involved in: "From a moral perspective, these matters are confronting and challenging. From a legal angle, fascinating. One might say ground-breaking work. In addition to the ability to think outside the frame, you need to have empathy."
Very astutely, Maithri recognised that many of the high achieving legal minds he works with in his firm and within the industry are Sydney Law School alumni.
Maithri's legal highlights reflect his commitment to the life-changing work he immerses himself in and his work ethic.
“I have had the good fortune of being involved in some landmark cases in Australia. Over the years, I had the opportunity to work with some of the best legal brains in Australia. I believe that my biggest achievement is being able to establish a system with the help of some wonderful people whereby we could achieve a measure of justice for members of the Stolen Generations. We have settled over 250 Stolen Generations claims. Since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, I have been acting for a large number of survivors of historical abuse. The High Court case of Kuru v State of NSW is another noteworthy matter in which I represented the Plaintiff.”
Maithri has an established legal career and he has built his practice and reputation around a challenging and highly impactful area of law. So, how did Maithri get to where he is today?
Maithri's legal and life pathway is an interesting one. His legal career spans international waters, having worked and studied in a number of jurisdictions around the world before migrating to Australia.
While Maithri's legal trajectory soared in Australia, his legal career was established in his home country of Sri Lanka, where he completed his undergraduate law degree. He then moved to England where he pursued postgraduate studies in sociology and law. Third time is a charm, as Maithri migrated to Australia in 1981 where he has since settled with his wife and three children, who notably have all graduated from The University of Sydney.
Maithri began his Australian legal career as a criminal lawyer, where he worked at the Western Aboriginal Legal Service (WALS) in Dubbo. With his heart in civil litigation though, he built a practice at WALS in that area before moving to Sydney and joining Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers.
Once the opportunity arose for Maithri to pursue postgraduate study, he began his search for the best university to undertake his Master of Laws. He said: "I had been thinking of undertaking postgraduate studies for some time, but did not get the opportunity due to family and work commitments. When I did, I checked what was available at different universities and found that Sydney Law School had the best curriculum for my needs."
Discussions with lecturers were stimulating.
Maithri appreciates the range of alternative pathways that stem from a law degree: “Apart from practising as a lawyer, you can go into commerce and industry, media, politics, academia, the list is never ending.”
To me, a law degree has given me an opportunity to make the world a better place, and the power to make a difference.
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