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Interview with Kieran Pender

Interview with Kieran Pender


Kieran Pender – Consultant, International Bar Association

Kieran is a consultant with the International Bar Association (IBA) Legal Policy and Research Unit, and a Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University (ANU) Centre for International and Public Law. He has led the IBA’s work on diversity and inclusion in legal workplaces, and is the author of Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession (2019). Kieran is also a freelance journalist and has reported from across the globe for The Guardian.

Legal Beagle: How did you become interested in human rights?

Kieran: My background is in employment law. I was fortunate to begin my legal career in a practice that represented both employees and employers (which is unusual, as most firms specialize on one side of the fence or the other). Acting for employees who have been mistreated by their employers, you see human rights in action every day – workplace rights, free speech, anti-discrimination rights. That was a formative experience.

Legal Beagle: Describe a typical day.

Kieran: For the past three years, I have worked at the International Bar Association, leading its campaign to address bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession. A typical day involving a combination of research, policy and advocacy. Whether it was drafting our landmark report Us Too?, preparing policy submissions to the United Nations or undertaking a global engagement campaign – every day was a different, and often a blur! I have recently joined the Human Rights Law Centre in Australia.

Legal Beagle: How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?

Kieran: I think my determination to balance a legal career with academic and media work right from the beginning of my career has been very helpful. It was not a conscious choice – I just didn’t want to give up any strand of what I enjoyed – and somehow I have managed to combine them.

Legal Beagle: Did you have any mentors in your career and how have they influenced you?

Kieran: Many. I’m incredibly fortunate to have benefited from the guidance of some incredible individuals. I try to pay it forward.

Legal Beagle: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Kieran: Take risks. And don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – the path of least resistance is ‘yes’.

Legal Beagle: What is the biggest risk that you’ve taken in your career?

Kieran: Moving to London was a big step into the unknown, but was an incredible period in my life. COVID-19 has seen me return to Australia, for now.

Legal Beagle: What are the key skills and experience required for a career like yours?

Kieran: My role – at the IBA and now at the Human Rights Law Centre – ultimately requires the ability to translate complex legal issues into compelling, accessible content that resonates. That requires strong oral and verbal communication skills and an in-depth understanding of the subject matter. As the saying goes, it is a lot easy to say something in 1,000 words than 100. But being able to condense, translate and deliver is so vital.

Legal Beagle: Of all your accomplishments, which are you most proud of?

Kieran: Without a doubt, my work on the Us Too? report and subsequent global engagement campaign. We visited about 30 cities across six continents, meeting with thousands of stakeholders. It was an honour to work on such an important topic and see it make a difference in reality.

Legal Beagle: If you were to start your career journey again what would you do differently?

Kieran: We only have one life, so I have never much reflected on what might have been.

Legal Beagle: If you weren’t doing this what would have been your alternate career choice?

Kieran: I am fortunate to have been able to balance my alternative career choice with my primary one – I also work as a sports journalist, predominantly for The Guardian. I love it. I have covered the Men’s World Cup, Women’s World Cup, Tour de France and many world championships. In theory, subject to COVID-19, I’m covering the Olympics in Tokyo in July.

Legal Beagle Course Kieran has instructed:

Risk Management: Bullying and Sexual Harassment in Legal Workplaces