St. Thomas Law rising 2L, Tara McClanahan just completed a very unique summer internship in Fiji. Tara worked as a legal intern at the law firm of Munro Leys in Suva. Munro Leys is Fiji’s largest and oldest law firm having been established over 150 years ago. Tara worked primarily with the litigation team, occasionally assisting the areas of commercial law and trademarks.
Her work involved international legal research – U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and all the Pacific Islands – on cases dealing with property, contract, and legal malpractice issues. This research lead her to an increased understanding of Fijian labor laws and how they are best implemented to suit international clients.
“My favorite thing learned is that Fiji’s Family Care Leave includes those who live in your dwelling; dwelling being interpreted to include everyone in the village,” stated Tara. But she noted other concerns.
“Even though Fiji is very community-oriented, it suffers from great political instability and deep poverty,” she continued. “For example, the current Constitution was written in 2013 and the minimum wage is near $2.32 FJD per hour.”
Tara had the incredible opportunity to go on a retreat with other members of the law firm to a village that lost electricity (that still hasn’t been restored), 44 of 45 buildings, and two lives during Cyclone Winston three years ago. While there, she participated in a traditional welcoming ceremony by drinking kava and brought sevusevu (gift of cloth) to the village. Once welcomed to enter, they played music, danced, and ate sweet treats with lemon leaf tea (because real tea is hard to get).
When she asked one Fijian how his day was, he responded, “Great! What have I got to not be happy about!”
“That’s Fiji,” exclaimed Tara.
St. Thomas Law’s students often have the opportunity to participate in uniquely transformative internships, especially during the summer. We encourage our students to spend their summers expanding their legal perspectives whether it be through local/international internships, community service, volunteering, or pro bono service.
See more from Fiji below.