Finding his passion for employment law: Q&A with Joshua Handley

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Joshua Handley graduated from the UNSW Juris Doctor (JD) in 2018, having developed a real passion for employment law and has been practicing in this area since.  

He says the best thing about employment law is that it deals with individual and commercial matters and the privilege of with working closely with clients in this way.

“Lawyers are granted an insight into people’s personal and professional life in a way that other careers do not. Employment relationships can be complex, nuanced, and intensely personal affairs.” 

Now an Associate at Bartier Perry in the Workplace Law and Culture Team, Joshua reflects on finding this passion for employment law and how the JD prepared him for practice.


Why did you choose to pursue a JD?  

I worked several jobs after completing my undergraduate degree but never felt I was on the right career path. In all honesty, when I started the JD, it was to “try it out” — but even after the first class, I already knew that this was the field I was meant to be in, and I have not looked back.   

UNSW Law & Justice is highly regarded in the industry, so its reputation was encouraging. They offered smaller class sizes, which meant more focus was on the individual student. I did not want to sit in a lecture hall of hundreds of students; I wanted the opportunity to talk with the people teaching the course, and UNSW delivered on that.


What’s the most valuable thing you learned at UNSW Law & Justice?  

Other than the law, I really learnt how to study and apply myself. The first term was a real shock to the system – my undergraduate degree didn't have exams and so I had not sat one since high school and was naively underprepared for the exams. I had to develop an effective reading routine, take notes, planning for assignments and exams. It took me out of my comfort zone, but honing those skills early helped me be a better student (and a better lawyer).


What is a highlight or most meaningful experience in your time at UNSW?  

The smaller classes meant that the students got to know each other. I am still very close with people I met on the first day of law school, all of whom have moved into practice. Throughout the course, we used to study together and talk out legal problems. Even in practice, we still call each other if we need help or direction. As cliché as it is, the best thing about the course is the people you meet.


How did the JD prepare you for your career?  

We were always told the JD teaches you to “think like a lawyer”. And that is true — being able to read and apply the law is a skill that requires ongoing practice and is not something that comes naturally to most people. I still use the research, problem-solving, and note-taking skills that were impressed upon us in the first term.


How has your time at UNSW influenced your career and ambitions for the future?    

I owe it all to UNSW. When I was looking to get into the industry, a friend in my course helped me get work experience at the Fair Work Commission. In turn, that experience assisted in landing a clerkship at an employment law firm. From there, it was back to the Commission as an Associate to a Deputy President, to where I am now. But that path started with a conversation in the law library and my expressing interest in employment law.  

You may not know who you will meet in the course before you start, but know that whoever they are, they can shape your future.

Two images of Joshua Handley at LawSoc event as MC and with fellow attendee

Joshua’s final piece of advice is to take advantage of every opportunity the JD presents. 

“If there are competitions, internships, research projects, or even a chance to get involved in the UNSW Law Society – you should try to take on as much as you can. These opportunities will present other opportunities and give you the most options when you graduate. You would be surprised at where they can lead.”  


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*QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2022