An Interview with Maria Azzurra Tranfaglia

19 April 2022

Whoever embarks on an experience at Luiss, the learning remains for life. This is true for me and as for all Alumni. Today, we have the pleasure to talk to Maria Azzurra Tranfaglia, a jurist, Luiss graduate, and professional currently engaged in the legislative and institutional realm in Australia. Maria Azzurra is here today to share her story and biography.

Thank you for this opportunity and for having me. Let me introduce myself, I am Maria Azzurra and I have been living in Melbourne, Australia, for about ten years with my husband and our wonderful daughter, Gabriella. My career and life path are also the fruits of my experience at Luiss, where I obtained a Master’s Degree in Law in 2008. I chose my career pathway, and I wrote a comparative thesis on employment protection during business transfers (in Europe and Australia), under the supervision of Professor Roberto Pessi. During the last semester, I obtained a scholarship for thesis research abroad and I did an exchange period at the University of Melbourne. After graduation, I worked in Milan in important law firms with a global presence (i.e., Clifford Chance and Toffoletto De Luca Tamajo) first as a trainee and then as a Lawyer (after having obtained the title in 2011). My life experiences led me back to Australia, where I won a prestigious PhD scholarship in Comparative Labor Law at Melbourne Law School (according to several international rankings, the top five law schools in the world). During my PhD, I embarked on an academic career both as a lecturer and researcher. My experiences led me to undertake an interesting job opportunity in government – that is my current role – where I draft laws for employment protection policies among other tasks. Luiss certainly was a gateway exposing me to a panorama of international opportunities, starting with the experience at the United Nations in 2006 to the exchange program in Australia. I was able to grasp opportunities and leverage the international outreach of the University. Looking at the stages of my development, I recognize the value of the opportunities offered by Luiss and the extent to which these contributed to the shaping of my career and profile in the legal, academic, and governmental fields. These opportunities gave me a competitive edge to establish myself in such a fascinating and exciting discipline, but also profoundly grounded in the local context.

That’s right. Specifically, what do you do?

I currently work in the Department of Industrial Relations at the Prime Minister’s Office of the State of Victoria. My main project is implementing policies and possible legislative proposals to protect “gig economy” workers (i.e., UBER), who are often self-employed and do not benefit from the same protections of employees.

In this regard, the role of the jurist comes to mind. How has it changed and how do you envision the role of scholar in the future?

I see a changing pathway for jurists. The traditional outlets remain but there is so much more. I personally encountered it through my experience. First, as a lawyer, I contributed to applying laws to real-life cases. Later, as a researcher and, more recently, as a Senior Policy Officer, I was able to think about laws as sources of response to social demands. However, in order to think of law from a de jure condendo perspective, it is essential to have a firm grasp on applying laws to real-life cases. From this experience, one can draft relevant policies and application programs. Here is a practical example. In the past as a lawyer, I used to deal with the administration requirements in workers enforcement directives. The European framework for protecting and safeguarding workers is very strong compared to Australia, that has worked to strengthen regulations in the last decade. My PhD thesis is grounded on this comparative case study. Through my work, over time, I have had the opportunity to contribute towards public inquiries that resulted in the adoption of laws that guarantee greater protection both for temporary workers and virtuous operators, to promote labor market balance. The innovation of my thesis was also made possible through the use of comparative laws and methods, offering jurists the essential tools for understanding the autochthonous matrix of certain institutions and, at the same time, finding functionally equivalent solutions, which could not have been proposed without broadening its horizons and looking beyond national borders.

This is fascinating. Do jurists also witness abrupt changes and troubled times, like the years we are experiencing?

Absolutely. I witnessed the development of laws and practices applied at the governmental level to address the COVID-19 emergency. Employment lawyers have had to draft regulations related to important issues such as mandatory vaccination and hybrid work. In general, lawyers are constantly searching for solutions to new problems, and are on the front lines of balancing sensitive issues such as public health, individual concerns, and socio-economic factors. This tension must be resolved with logical solutions that can satisfy the greatest number of citizens.

I have long been involved in critical thinking and ethics with my students. I appreciate your cultural and philosophical arguments applied to your thinking.

Critical thinking – that is central to Anglo-Saxon academia – is fundamental, especially for modern jurists who contribute towards the creation of laws and legal culture. Through this methodology, the right policies can be identified, and the right policy options can be found. I am glad that students, taking on your course, are exposed to innovative and valuable thinking methods.

*The opinions expressed in this interview are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the respondent’s current employer.

Claudio Mattia Serafin, Professor of Juridical – Cultural Deontology and writer

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