Fabio Panarese (Italy) - University of Adelaide
Course completed in Australia: Bachelor of Laws (LL.B)
Institution: University of Adelaide
Current position: Principal of Studio Legal Panarese (SLP)
Italian lawyer Fabio Panarese doesn’t mince words when he talks about the difficulty of studying his profession in a foreign language.
“It was a hard and tough experience,” he says, describing his first day in class at the University of Adelaide as “nearly impossible”.
“Law is language,” he explains. “A written High Court judgement is difficult enough to understand in Italian, but in English - as an Italian - it is even more complex.”
Despite having been a practising lawyer in Italy, Panarese says he wasn’t confident he could make it through his Australian degree.
Luckily, he didn’t have much time to contemplate failing as he juggled work and study commitments, often starting his day at 8.30am and not finishing until around 11.30pm.
The hard work and long hours paid off and he now runs his own commercial law firm in Milan, working across both the Italian and Australian legal systems.
“It shaped my career,” he says of his time in Adelaide, and suggests that every student could profit from doing the same.
“To learn and practise law in Australia was the best experience I could have,” he says.
Knowing the two structures - European civil law and Anglo Saxon common law- is an advantage when working, as he does, on international contracts and in specialised areas such as secession law.
“It makes me more competitive”, he says. “It’s not just the fact that I speak English, but that I understand both systems and can mediate either way”.
He characterises his time in Australia as both an academic and a personal success. “It strengthened my personality,” he says. “I learnt that you never judge people by the way they look, you judge them by what they say, their thinking, what they have inside. I got more mature,” he says simply.
Panarese had previously visited Australia as a tourist and had a yearning to return and develop his international law skills. His Italian wife, as luck would have it, had been born in Australia and was keen to live there again.
Family connections and an easy lifestyle drew them to Adelaide.
“It seemed like the best place to grow a young family,” he says. “Everything is close, it’s easy to manage.”
Plus, he adds, the University of Adelaide “really looks after its students".
“What I really like about Australia is the fact that everyone has a ‘fair go’ (i.e. a reasonable chance to do something),” he says.
“I think that’s very important for the progress of a country because it allows the best energies to come up and work for the good of the people.
“Connected to this is that it’s never too late to change or improve your career, no matter how old you are.”
Panarese says that there was much he liked about Australia but perhaps his most favourite thing, which he admits might sound a bit strange, was the blue skies of Adelaide in springtime.
“As they say in Italian,” he says evocatively, “you have ‘the joy of life’ looking at that sky.”
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