As a young child, Nikita Harlalka was fascinated by stars and space. Initially she wanted to be an astronaut but, as she grew up, her interests turned to aeronautical engineering. It wasn’t until Nikita studied HSC 4 unit mathematics in Year 12 that she realised advanced maths was not her passion.
She then began to think about what she’d like to study at university and, more importantly, what impact she wanted to have on society. She wanted to pursue a career that would be intellectually challenging, allow her to contribute to the fundamental pillars of society and assist society’s most vulnerable. This is how Nikita came to the decision to study law.
“I realised that no matter what I did, I wanted to be able to have a positive impact and contribute to society,” says Nikita.
“I was drawn to UNSW Law’s unique focus on social justice, as well as the small class sizes. I was also attracted to UNSW for its culture. The University is known for its vibrant student life, strong entrepreneurship and the vast array of opportunities, plus its friendly and inclusive environment.”
In her first year, Nikita was a student presenter for the Student Legal Education Group, a project promoting legal education and access to justice in low socio-economic high schools. The program facilitated workshops focusing on legal rights and issues. Having come straight from high school, she enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to a social justice program so early in her university years. In her second year, she was able to expand the group and develop her leadership skills as the coordinator of Student Legal Education Group.
During her time at UNSW, Nikita held various leadership positions in the Law Society, including Editor-in-Chief, Vice-President (Private Law Careers) and President in 2018.
“These experiences provided me with a unique opportunity to identify gaps and create change. I implemented a focused mentoring program, introduced the Possibilities Guide to inform students of the various career paths available to them and organised Q&A forums. This enabled students to learn from each other’s experiences, which aided their professional development and promoted collegiality within the Law School.”
“As the president, I had the opportunity to review the strategic direction of the society, negotiate sponsorship agreements with prominent law firms and manage the society’s budget. These opportunities have been fundamental to my personal and professional development. I was able to form important friendships and learnt to take pride in my work, to be held accountable, address complaints and voice my opinions,” says Nikita.
Another aspect of her time at UNSW Law which she enjoyed was the application of classroom learning to real-world situations through competitions and conferences. Nikita took part in two international mediation competitions, IBA-VIAC Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition (Vienna) and International Commercial Mediation Competition (Paris), which allowed her to apply her legal skills and learn how to persuade and advocate. She says these opportunities have equipped her with invaluable negotiation skills which are transferable to the workforce.
“UNSW also has an incredibly strong and supportive entrepreneurship culture and facilitates opportunities for students to present their start-up ideas to professionals. I was involved in one such competition – the UNSW Business School Peter Farrell Cup – where my team had the opportunity to present our business idea to several industry leaders as grand finalists.”
Nikita is currently working as a paralegal at MinterEllison. After graduating, she will commence the firm’s Graduate Program while completing her Practical Legal Training (PLT). She hopes to be involved in MinterEllison’s pro bono programs and to promote the culture of ‘giving back’ to the community. Nikita also hopes to continue her relationship with UNSW Law by mentoring students and judging competitions.
Her advice to current and future students is to take every opportunity to get involved in societies, competitions and mentoring.
“UNSW Law has an incredibly vibrant student life. These experiences are fundamental in forging life-long friendships, learning more about yourself and ultimately being able to choose a career best suited to you.”