A passion for providing online legal support to small businesses is the focus for Griffith Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Business student Shaun Milligan, recipient of one of this year’s prestigious New Colombo Plan scholarships.

Launched in 2013, the New Colombo Plan is an Australian Government initiative which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia, by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and take internships in the region. The New Colombo Plan is a scholarship program which funds selected students for periods of study of up to one year.

The program also includes internships and mentorships, as well as flexible mobility grant programs for shorter-term practicums and research.

A fourth-year student from Brisbane’s Holland Park West, Shaun is planning to use his scholarship to complete a six-month study program at the University of Hong Kong, culminating in the establishment of a streamlined and cost effective online commercial dispute resolution (OCDR) system for small businesses.

He says the impetus was when his brother’s small consulting business came under fire by one of the global players in the market for an alleged trademark infringement.

“It was a difficult time for him with the legal issues and we realised how an OCDR system would make things a lot cheaper and easier for both him and the millions in Australia who do not necessarily have the resources to take on the big guys,” says Shaun.

The importance of small business

“The Australian and Hong Kong Governments have also recognised the importance of small businesses in each country’s long term economic plans. However, little OCDR support is available to small businesses that want to establish foreign trade investment between Hong Kong and Australia.

“As a student of law and business, with an understanding of small business pressures, I am passionate about enabling these businesses to compete on a global stage. Hong Kong already has excellent online legal dispute systems and I plan to bring back ideas and knowledge to help small business over here.

“I am hoping to achieve this through collaboration and engagement that opens up new pathways for Australian and Indo-Pacific businesses.”

After Shaun finishes his semester of study at the University of Hong Kong, he wants to intern with the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC).

“This internship will enhance the knowledge I gain through my studies by providing me with practical insights into commercial dispute resolution and other commercial law practices across the region.”

In between study, Shaun has also found time to volunteer with young students with disabilities at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital School in South Brisbane, helping them with study and fundraising activities.

“I wish to combine small business growth with my personal interest to improve employment conditions and access for the disabled community.

“Australia is recognised for its policy work in Disability Employment. In the future, I want to be the leading lawyer/business person in OCDR for small businesses in Australia and the Indo-Pacific. With the skills and networks that I build through my NCP program, I will return from HK and work within dispute resolution including the industrial issues facing the disabled.”

On his future career, Shaun is keeping his options open but is keen on the idea of becoming a practicing barrister.

“I love participating in mooting competitions which sharpen my public speaking and legal skills and the bar is an attractive career path for me,” he says.

“I have already had some great practice at Griffith which is a very supportive and enriching teaching environment.”