Dr Rachel Hews is a former high school teacher and police officer, now she’s a legal expert passionate about equipping students at QUT’s School of Law with future-focussed skills.
Like every other sphere of life, the legal sector has been disrupted by the fast pace of change in digital technologies in recent decades.
That means young people pursuing a law career today have vastly different considerations to the legal practitioners of previous generations – and so the education system needs to keep up to ensure they’re graduating with the skills, knowledge and adaptability required.
Enter Dr Rachel Hews, who – with postgraduate legal qualifications and experience in law enforcement and education – couldn’t be better placed to make this happen.
With Bachelors of Law and Commerce under her belt, Rachel kickstarted her career as a Federal Police Officer, winning awards for her work, including in international peacekeeping missions. She then side-stepped into secondary education, before landing in academia.
Creativity, new tech and the law
For her PhD at QUT, Rachel’s research looked at how digital technologies are impacting legal cases – specifically, she investigated how social media sites like Facebook and Twitter could influence jurors’ ability to decide on the outcome of a legal case.
Now Rachel’s applying her experience and passion for law and education at QUT’s School of Law as a Senior Lecturer and Coordinator, Undergraduate Programs (Curriculum).
In her teaching and her research, a big focus for Rachel is on using ‘design thinking’ in law – that is, solving problems by putting people at the centre.
Rachel has played a central role in developing and implementing design thinking units in the QUT School of Law. Design thinking is part of QUT’s Bachelor of Laws (Honours), and is one of five electives in the minor in law, technology and innovation.
“We teach students to use an empathic, human-centred approach that incorporates creative and entrepreneurial mindsets, and a design thinking methodology to respond to complex legal problems,” she explains.
“It’s a joy to watch law students discover they are creative and innovative even if they don’t think they are,” says Rachel who adds that she’s already had feedback from graduates about the high demand for these skills in their careers.
Rachel is also coordinating the curriculum review and re-accreditation for QUT’s Bachelor of Laws (Honours). “We aim to deliver a world-class law degree that incorporates technology and innovation, and that supports students to develop the graduate skills and capabilities they will need for the future of legal work,” she says.
And while entering into a traditional career like law in the face of fast-changing tech and new ways of thinking might sound a little daunting – Rachel says there’s plenty of reasons to be excited.
“There are endless opportunities for invention and this means graduates can pursue their own ideas and startups in a world where there’s a good chance of success,” she says.
Dr Rachel Hews’ study and career path
- Diploma of Policing, Australian Federal Police College
- Graduate Diploma of Education, QUT
- PhD, Digital Media Research Centre, QUT
- Solicitor, Supreme Court of Queensland (admitted)
- Senior Lecturer and Coordinator, Undergraduate Programs (Curriculum), QUT School of Law
Author: Gemma Chilton
Gemma is the Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.