Ready to volunteer

Build real-world skills in dealing directly with clients by volunteering at a CLC or other community legal organisation as a student. Stand out from the crowd when you’re looking for employment in the future, whether it’s in a social justice organisation, a corporate law firm or anywhere else.

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AT A COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE (CLC) OR ORGANISATION

You can find current volunteering opportunities at CLCs across Australia on the CLC Volunteers website. Here you will also find opportunities at some other community legal organisations including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS), or you can try their own websites.

CLCs provide legal assistance and advice to the public. They can also work more broadly, e.g. by providing community legal education, lobbying for reform, or making submissions to government. As a volunteer, you could help with tasks such as answering calls for assistance from clients, summarising their legal issues for a solicitor and then interviewing them face-to-face. You could even be researching policies affectingthe clients of the organisation or assisting in the development of submissions to government about law reform.

Even early in your degree you may be able to assist in the provision of legal services. This may include administrative work such as booking clients into advice sessions or helping to prepare paperwork for the organisation. Court support work is another avenue; accompanying clients to court not for the provision of legal advice, but as a friendly face providing support and basic information about how the court system works.

Generalist CLCs provide general legal assistance to those living in a defined geographic area. Specialist CLCs provide assistance in relation to particular areas of law, social groups or interests.

There are well over 200 independent, not-for-profit CLCs across the country, and there are often more positions available in the outer suburbs and in remote, rural and regional areas than in the inner city.

CLCs focus on broad areas of legal need:

Some generalist CLCs also feature specialised units and clinics (for example, many CLCs in South Australia have clinics devoted to child support issues).

You can find more information on CLCs in your area on the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) website. You can get a snapshot of the issues by attending a national or state conference of CLCs, which have discounted rates for students.

You can volunteer at any time, even when you are employed – most CLCs, for example, have night clinics or other ways for solicitors to assist outside of business hours.

AT A NON-LEGAL COMMUNITY ORGANISATION

By volunteering at a community organisation in a non-legal role you can demonstrate your genuine enthusiasm for altruistic work and improve your chances of getting a law-related position – especially if you’re a first or second-year law student who doesn’t have much legal training.

Start by thinking about issues that are important to you, such as homelessness, migrant’s rights or youth. Identify the community organisations that work in those fields by, for example, having at look at websites such as Fido Skilled Volunteering or Pathways Australia , then go to the organisations’ individual websites or contact them directly about volunteer opportunities. Some organisations are always looking for volunteers while others have regular intakes at set times of the year.

You could be volunteering at a homeless shelter, visiting refugee detention centres with outreach programs, volunteering to provide homework support to recently arrived migrants or volunteering with groups which run activities for people with disabilities.

You will gain a wide range of skills including interpersonal and administrative skills as well as the ability to demonstrate sensitivity when working with vulnerable and disadvantaged clients.

WITH A BARRISTER

You can find more information on volunteering with a barrister in the Law School section.

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