Public Interest Law Careers Guide - Felicity Millner Testimonial
Public Interest lawyer: Felicity Millner
Organisation: Environment Defenders Office
Short biography: Felicity Millner is the Principal Solicitor at the Environment Defenders Office, Victoria. Felicity has worked in environmental and planning law throughout her career and been involved in a several significant public interest environmental law cases. Before joining EDO Victoria, she worked as a Senior Solicitor at the Environmental Defenders Office in NSW and as a solicitor in private practice at a firm specialising in Local Government, Planning and Environment law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts/Law from the University of New South Wales. In 2011 Felicity was named young environmental lawyer of the year by the Law Council of Australia.
Law: Where did you start and how did you get where you are today?
My first ‘job’ was a 3-month internship at a Land Council doing Native Title work in Western Australia. My second job was in private practice working in a boutique planning and local government law firm. I found out that this job was available from an environmental law barrister who I had met with, to ask him about practising environment law, which was one of the areas of law I wanted to work in when I’d finished studying. Private practice provided useful training and experience for EDO work. I worked at the NSW EDO as a solicitor before becoming principal solicitor at EDO Victoria. My volunteering and internship experience was crucial to me getting a job at the EDO.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced during your careers?
I wanted a job with a social justice component when I finished my degree but could not find many, and was not successful in obtaining any of the social justice positions I applied for. I got a job in private practice, which in my case provided me with good skills and training which was very useful. However, I also knew that it was not what I wanted to do in the long term. As a result, I continued to volunteer, doing social justice legal work and stayed committed to working in that space, which ultimately helped me get my first job at the EDO, and also meant I didn’t lose sight of where I wanted to get to. Figuring out how and when to leave private practice was also challenging.
What advice do you have for lawyers and law students wishing to pursue careers paths focusing on positive social change?
Do lots of volunteering to try and get experience in social change and social justice organisations and social change law. This was helpful for me getting a job at the EDO. Having a ‘genuine commitment to environment protection and social justice’ is always a key criterion when we are recruiting at the EDO.
In addition, getting involved in the areas of law and organisations you are interested in working for by volunteering, attending events, and so forth, builds up networks and means that people are more likely to think of you when a job is going.