When Toowoomba teacher Mary Ann Armstrong returned to university to study law, she was determined to find out if two things were true. “I was once told that nice people don’t make good lawyers. I was also told that I would not be capable to complete a law degree in three years because I had six children.”
Through sheer determination and a positive attitude, Mary Ann proved both statements false when she stepped proudly onto the stage last weekend as one of USQ’s first Law graduands. “My law degree belongs to many more people than just myself,’ she said. ‘It was a choice to study law; however, it was a gift to study law at USQ.”
Mary Ann said her decision to become a solicitor stemmed from a desire for a new start and change in career. “I had just completed my Master of Training and Development through USQ, having been a teacher in Toowoomba since 1997,’ she said. ‘Although I loved being an educator, I was looking for a new beginning. When I was told that USQ was starting up a Law School in 2008, I jumped at the chance to study law.”
Mary Ann’s youngest child was a small baby when she attended her first lecture in March 2008. Her confidence received a boost when she achieved seven high distinctions and one distinction in her first year of study.
“That first year I dedicated myself to that degree, only working part-time, although it soon became clear that I needed to find a position within a law firm so that I could balance the theoretical knowledge with practical application. I needed to work and study full-time to achieve my goals.”
Last year Mary Ann began working at GR Brown Solicitor in Sandgate, Brisbane.
“I started out as the receptionist, and remember not even being able to understand some of the language used around the office,’ she said. ‘But with the support of Mr Brown, a sole, general practitioner with more than 40 years experience, I learnt quickly and woke up every morning looking forward to a new challenge. For two years he guided me, never raising his voice or being negative. He introduced me to the courts, allowed me to brief Counsel and attend court whenever possible. He also gave me time off for my exams. I was determined not to let him or my university lecturers down, let alone my family and myself.”
Mary Ann studied three semesters a year, and by January this year was eligible to graduate with a juris doctor qualification. During her last semester, Mary Ann enrolled as a full-time student in the Legal Practical Training course at the College of Law and recently received her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, as well as her admission at the Supreme Court of Queensland. She is now a qualified solicitor in Queensland.
The USQ School of Law was established in 2008 and currently has more than 600 full-time, part-time, on-campus and distance education students.
Submitted by Madeleine Tiller, USQ Media