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Life as a lawyer: Meet criminal lawyer Jaimee-Lee Jessop

Life as a lawyer might seem cut-and-dry to the naked eye, but in reality, there are so many exciting and diverse careers available to law graduates. Whether you choose to become a solicitor, work in a niche area of the legal profession, or pursue the road less travelled in research or another career entirely, law is an unbeatable foundation for career success. As part of our Life as a lawyer series, we’re profiling our standout alumni and seeing where their paths have led them after graduating from Bond Law. 

Jaimee-Lee Jessop has forged quite the path in the five years since completing her Bachelor of Laws here at Bond. After her admission to the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2017, Jaimee took up a number of positions as a solicitor in criminal law, before beginning her current role as a senior associate at Jasper Fogerty Lawyers in Brisbane in 2019. We spoke to Jaimee-Lee about her career so far, her path to studying law, and what it takes to succeed as a criminal lawyer. 

Tell us about what drove you to study law.

I enjoy the intellectual challenge of law and being able to engage with important causes such as justice, equality, and human rights. Studying law touches on many different areas – politics, philosophy, sociology, history. Legal analysis and writing skills are also highly desirable and transferable in the workplace, whatever career you decide to pursue.

Why did you decide to attend Bond?

As well as the fact that I’m Gold Coast bred, Bond’s law program is well regarded, and provides many opportunities for students to get exposure to leading industry professionals and practical experience. I knew that Bond’s culture was contemporary and collaborative, and that students had unmatched access to staff. I was able to attend university on a scholarship, which also contributed to my decision – Bond has an extensive scholarship program.

How did Bond prepare you for your future career?

One thing I really appreciated about studying at Bond was the balance between theoretical knowledge and real-world experience.  There was an evident focus on integrating my learning with my future career interests, which definitely gave me the skills and confidence to follow my dream of practising criminal law.

What sparked your interest in criminal law?

I was drawn to criminal law because I’m passionate about helping the most vulnerable members of our community. My practice in criminal law is very diverse, and includes assisting young children charged with offences, people with drug and mental health issues, and victims of abuse and domestic violence. I enjoy getting to know my clients on a human level, and on a professional level criminal law involves a lot of courtroom advocacy – building my advocacy and speaking skills has been a definite highlight of working in criminal law.

Tell us a little about what you do in your role at Jasper Fogerty.

I’m a senior associate at Jasper Fogerty Lawyers, who are a highly regarded and progressive criminal defence firm. It’s an excellent training group for a criminal lawyer and places a strong focus on supportive networks and a culture of excellence. My days are varied: mornings are often spent in court (I do a lot of my own advocacy) and in the afternoon, I might be attending on a client, visiting jail, or assisting a client who is under arrest. My job requires me to act fearlessly in the best interests of my clients, but empathy and care also play an important role.

Jaimee-Lee at her graduation from Bond University

Why did you choose defence rather than prosecution? What are the differences?

I chose to be a defence lawyer because I care about fighting for the underdog, and about upholding due process, fairness and equality.

In terms of the differences between the two, the prosecution represents the state. The role of a prosecutor is to present the evidence against a person and prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. They don’t act for the victim or for the police in their role.

A defence lawyer, by contrast, represents their client. Put plainly, it’s the individual versus the state. My role as a defence lawyer is not to ‘get guilty people off’, but to ensure that the prosecution have sufficient evidence to prove their case to a high standard.

What are the challenges you face as a criminal lawyer?

Sometimes, the job can feel thankless and misunderstood – but this is more than made up for by the fact that a role like this is central to a functioning and fair justice system. Nothing that’s worthwhile is easy! There is a well-known legal quote that resonates with me a lot: ‘there is no client as scary as the innocent person’. Clients come to me during the most difficult times in their lives, and while it is a huge privilege to help others, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t weigh on me sometimes.

What about the highlights?

I think the biggest highlight is being part of a justice system that I believe in, and working to help others. I’m tremendously lucky to experience the unique professional satisfaction that comes from serving others. Being in court and advocating for the rights of someone else is also incredible – when it goes to plan, it’s the best feeling!

Are there any skills or traits that you think would suit a career in criminal law?

All of the lawyers I admire are hardworking, thoughtful, have strong values, and are committed to their clients. I think that anyone considering a path in law should focus on developing their stamina, passion and self-belief, as these are essential traits. Empathy and well-honed communication skills are also very critical to the practice of law!

Want more insight into life after law school? We’ve got graduates living all over the world, establishing incredible careers in every sector imaginable. Keep an eye out for more Life as a lawyer stories from our amazing Bond alumni.

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