25 October 2022
Interview #1 – Ying Yi Lim
Ying Yi Lim is currently a graduate lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) working in Employment & Labour. As part of her graduate rotation, she completed a pro bono secondment at the Australian Pro Bono Centre as well as at the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (IARC).
Ying Yi is passionate about exploring how law and development work can address human rights issues. She is the author of the book chapter “Redressing Native Land Grabs: Finding a State Fiduciary Duty to Consult its Indigenous People in Sarawak, Malaysia” in Law and Justice in Malaysia – 2020 and Beyond. As a university student, Ying Yi volunteered and engaged in various community legal centre, legal and advocacy work.
Ying Yi holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and Science from the University of Sydney.
Ying Yi spoke to Kaylee Neil about choosing an employer, weaving social justice into your career as an early career lawyer and how opportunities can come from unexpected places.
Kaylee Neil (pictured left), communications volunteer at the Australian Pro Bono Centre, interviewing Ying Yi Lim (Lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright)
KAYLEE: How did you become involved in social justice through your work?
YING YI: When applying for graduate jobs, I looked out for firms actively involved in pro bono work and was fortunate enough to be accepted at Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF). Many pro bono opportunities are available in NRF, even if you are not working directly in the pro bono team. As a rotating graduate, I worked on pro bono matters referred from Legal Aid in the Projects & Construction team, and provided pro bono assistance to charities in the Employment & Labour team. There were also opportunities to be involved in pro bono clinics assisting refugees and people experiencing homelessness organised in partnership with community legal centres (CLCs).
As part of my full-time graduate rotation in the pro bono team, I was seconded to the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (IARC) and the Australian Pro Bono Centre (APBC). At IARC, I mostly worked on the Afghan Evacuees project. We assisted clients who were evacuated from Afghanistan by the Australian government after the Taliban takeover – specifically with the process of applying for a permanent humanitarian visa. I also delivered general advice for other clients, including those on partner visas who have experienced family and domestic violence, migrant workers facing skilled visa issues, and other clients with questions about protection and humanitarian visas or family visas.
At the APBC, I coordinated the refresh of the Australian Pro Bono Manual, which guides lawyers on how to run a pro bono practice. I edited chapters reviewed by pro bono teams on a variety of important topics ranging from how to best manage a pro bono practice, to how to work with clients of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. I also assisted with the publication of Pro Bono Voco, a biannual magazine which highlights and celebrates the work of the Australian pro bono community. Working with the APBC has opened my eyes to the variety of ways pro bono work is carried out and coordinated.
Left: Ying Yi with the Australian Pro Bono Centre (APBC) at the APBC’s 20th Anniversary Event
Right: Ying Yi with the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (IARC) on Wear It Purple day.
KAYLEE: Did you draw on any prior experiences to help you during your secondments?
As a law student, I volunteered at the front desk of Marrickville Legal Centre, which gave me a great introduction to how CLCs work. I also completed an internship at the Sydney Institute of Criminology under the supervision of Dr Louise Boon-Kuo, researching racial profiling in airport policing. It was under Dr Boon-Kuo’s mentorship that my interest in social justice grew.
I then completed an honours thesis on Indigenous land rights in Malaysia under the supervision of Professor Salim Farrar. Through writing my thesis, I not only developed strong research and writing skills, but also began learning to think about human rights issues as impacted by legal, historical and socio-economic factors in a way that has been useful for my work at the APBC. When I started working at NRF, I was trained in technical legal skills which I have brought into my work as a secondee at IARC, including in legal drafting, research and working with clients through interpreters.
Surprisingly, I also drew a lot from experiences unrelated to law. For example, the project management skills I found useful as a secondee at the APBC were developed during my time as a president of the Sydney University Association of Malaysian Students.
KAYLEE: What have you learnt from your pro bono secondments that you will take into your career?
YING YI: The secondments allowed me to be integrated with each organisation and to develop new perspectives from their day-to-day operations and direct dealings with clients. Just to name a few of these perspectives, during my secondment at IARC, I sometimes had to advise clients that there were no visa options for them. This made me understand that these difficult conversations form part of the reality of work at CLCs, and more generally, as a lawyer. At the APBC, I built an understanding of how the Australian pro bono field in Australia has developed over the past decades. This allowed me to explore the areas in which the field of pro bono and social justice work can keep growing.
There are a lot of skills I have learned during my secondments that I will bring back to NRF. Being able to have autonomy and carriage over a variety of client matters at IARC has taught me a lot about legal research, problem solving, drafting and client management. At the APBC, I learnt how to take autonomy over a project, and of how to communicate with others within that framework more confidently.
I want to incorporate pro bono work into my career going forward. I’ll keep trying to put my hand up for whatever interests me and get involved. I would also love to continue relationships with the places to which I am currently seconded and provide support to them where I can.
KAYLEE: What advice would you have given yourself when you were in law school?
YING YI: I have a very specific answer – which is that I would tell myself to study development economics and migration law because those are areas in which I have recently become interested but did not study. That being said, like many areas of legal practice, it is possible to learn ‘on the job’.
More generally, I would tell myself to take up whatever opportunities come my way. When I started as an idealistic law student, I hoped to one day contribute to issues surrounding working refugees or on Malaysian societal and human rights. Now, I have done this, both through my IARC secondment and my honours thesis. This gives me room to say, “Hey, that dream was achievable! What else do I want to do?” I think opportunities come from a lot of unexpected places. If I hadn’t done the Institute of Criminology internship, I wouldn’t have done my honours thesis, and then I probably wouldn’t have ended up getting a job at NRF, or ended up at the APBC or at IARC.
Just take any opportunity that comes your way. Let your interests guide you.