A selection of Peter’s insights from the interview are featured below.
On how he developed a passion for public interest law:
“I worked hard, applied myself and I was lucky to be accepted into Economics/Law at Monash. I began to recognise that this thing called ‘the law’ might be a connecting point to, and a mechanism to achieve, the things I was very passionate about – justice for Aboriginal people. In my late teens I developed a very strong sense of the ongoing injustices done to Australia’s first peoples. My parents also instilled in me a sense of fairness and social justice and an absolute abhorrence for racism.”
On the importance of understanding commercial law in a human rights context:
“The best human rights lawyers are often commercial lawyers because it often boils down to advocating for institutional change and this can be most effectively done with a commercial focus or overlay: there’ll be contracts, there’ll be policy…you may need a political and legal combination to effect changes to the law.”
“Having a good commercial and strategic understanding is essential, as opposed to just ‘throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks’ – that’s just not the way to achieve change for the better.”
On getting through the first few years:
“I would encourage young lawyers to stick with it. Often in private practice, for example, there’s an attrition after 3-5 years. But stick with it. If you ‘get it right’ in any environment you can create your own practice and your own magic.”
“If you are hungry, determined, resilient and passionate, the alchemy happens – the opportunities will present themselves. When that window opens push it up all the way. Don’t doubt yourself. Be brave. And never, ever give up!”
To read the full Q&A, ‘Public Interest Advocacy – Meet Peter Seidel!’, click here.