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Zarah shows us it's never too late to become a lawyer

This article appears in: Changing careers, Law, Online study
Female student smiling

After moving to Australia, trying her hand at a range of jobs and starting a family, Zarah Tenorio's dream of becoming a lawyer is finally becoming a reality. She's just started her Bachelor of Laws and is already kicking goals. She's even received an Outstanding Academic Achievement Award. Read on to see how she's navigating life as a law student and working mum. 

I had done all sorts of jobs and started a family of my own, but deep down I knew that something was missing.

Zarah at a picnic with her family
Zarah with her family

I have dreamt of becoming a lawyer since I was a kid. A few years ago, I was on track to start law school in the Philippines when my parents asked me to move to Australia. Being a family-oriented Filipino, I moved to Darwin to try it out. I loved Darwin; I loved it so much that I pressed pause on my goal of becoming a lawyer.

Instead, I focused on getting an Australian qualification under my belt. I studied a Certificate IV Business and then a Diploma of Business with CDU. After completing my Diploma, I worked in the finance and tertiary education sectors. 

Four years later, I had done all sorts of jobs and started a family of my own, but deep down I knew that something was missing. That’s when I decided it was time to chase my life-long dream of becoming a lawyer.

Believe in what you want so much that it has no choice but to materialise.

My colleagues always ask me what field of law I want to work in. I don’t really have an answer yet, except to say that I want to be a great defence lawyer. I am incredibly passionate about becoming a lawyer. And it’s passion that drives you, every single day, to do what you’ve always wanted. It was that passion that led me to decide to study law.

Zarah reading a book
Zarah studying on campus

I was only two months into my law degree when I applied as a paralegal with my current employer, working a health research institute. I had no prior Australian experience in the legal field, but I submitted an application, and I guess the selection panel saw my passion. As I’ve said, passion is key. 

One of the most challenging aspects of studying is time management. I put my family above all else. I make time for my husband and daughter, because they inspire me. They make me happy, and when I am happy, I can do wonderful things.

My studies are my second priority. Some people may put their career or study first, but I prioritise by how happy something makes me. And my family is the only thing that makes me want to pursue this dream of becoming a lawyer.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

My lecturer once told me, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail! Everything is about planning. You have to plan when you will study, when you will spend time with your family and, most importantly, when you will find time for yourself.

My advice is to plan everything, find a great support system, believe in yourself and always appreciate what you do, because more often than not, you’re actually doing better than what you think.

What does the future hold?

There are so many issues, and opportunities for change, in the criminal justice system. I’m particularly interested in reducing the impact of language barriers and cultural differences.

I believe that the accused should always be tried in a process that is fair to them. If they don’t fully understand the law and the facts laid out before them, they must have access to a dedicated interpreter to explain the details. This is an area I’m passionate about. I’d like to further my studies and learn some local languages so I can play a part in breaking down these barriers.  

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