Tori Hawley credits the education she received at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, as well as J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School, with springboarding her towards her goal of international law work.

Now 25, Hawley recently completed an internship with the head judge of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

She is now back in Liverpool, UK, the city in which she graduated with a university law degree, and is working towards her qualification exams, and becoming licensed. She is also toiling for a start-up firm, with hopes of joining a larger outfit in London in the next year or two.

Speaking with The Highlander from Liverpool recently, Hawley talked about her “amazing experience” with the European Court of Human Rights, where she interned for four months.

Going into it, she didn’t know what to expect. “I was going to be an intern. I would say my expectations were more like, ‘I’m going to be getting coffee,’ but that was so not it.”

The daughter of Sean and Marilyn Hawley said the European Court of Human Rights is a “huge institution that is super busy, so their interns are really important.”

Within her first week, she was editing a speech for the president of the court, Siofra O’Leary, who has both judicial and political responsibilities. Hawley said she mostly supported the political functions. That first week, she also prepared answers for an interview O’Leary was preparing for.

She recalled being afraid of the responsibility that comes with editing the speech of such a high-ranking world figure. Within two to three weeks, she was writing “from scratch, to ambassadors and judges, or briefing notes if political figures were coming to the court. It was incredible.” She added, “the level of responsibility, and the significance of the tasks, was way beyond what I thought it was going to be.”

She felt the University of Liverpool law school had prepared her, though.

The work of the Court is weighty. When Hawley was there, they heard cases concerning Russia and Ukraine. The entity is still dealing with Russian cases even though the country has now been expelled from the European Court of Human Rights. “There’s individuals challenging governments, but there’s also governments challenging each other, so there’s these really complicated cases.”

One ongoing case when Hawley was there stemmed from six Portuguese youth filing a complaint against 33 countries, alleging the respondents had violated human rights by failing to take sufficient action on climate change, and seeking an order requiring them to take more ambitious action.

“It was a super, super busy day at the court, which was full of people coming to watch. I was greeting journalists and showing them where they would be viewing the hearing. It was a really big deal.”

She also experienced life in Strasbourg, where she met peers from all over the world.

“Growing up in Haliburton, I have a bit of a preference for smaller cities. I just find them a bit easier to get used to. Strasbourg was perfect because it’s very quaint. But there’s so much going on at the same time. And you’re so close to everything.”

She’ll continue with the start-up in Liverpool with plans to move to the London firm in a year or two to gain more on-the-job experience towards getting her license. Her dream remains international law.

“I think that growing up in Haliburton, I always had this curiosity about the rest of the world. I’ve always just been a really motivated and ambitious person. I’m career-oriented. I like having big goals. And what bigger goal could you have than an international career? It’s exciting to me.

“I also love people. It’s just really powerful and beautiful to connect with people who have such different backgrounds. It’s just an amazing experience to realize how similar we all are even though we have all of these differences that make us so unique.”

She thinks she is in the perfect field. She says she is eternally optimistic but also realistic. She said the law is intellectually rigorous. “You’re thinking really hard about these systems and how they’re working and where they’re going. But, at the same time, you’re thinking about the solutions to problems. I want to do good in the world and I want to use my skills for that.”

When Hawley graduated from HHSS, she wrote a letter to her Grade 7 teacher, Laurie Bowker at JDH. “She had made such an impression on me.” She thanked the teacher for giving her confidence and said her goal was to work in an international court. “It’s really cool that I pulled it off.”