La Trobe University officially opens law clinic

La Trobe Law School officially launched the new Law clinic in Whittlesea today. The clinic is a collaboration between La Trobe University and Whittlesea Community Connections.

La Trobe Law School Dean Professor Fiona Kelly welcomed the Hon. Andrew Giles Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs and Member for Scullin, who launched the clinic.

Minister Giles said the clinic was an important initiative, offering students the opportunity to get the practical training they need to enter the legal sector.

“This will give these students a practical edge in the future, but more importantly also provides an essential community service, giving people access to legal services which they may otherwise be unable to access in my electorate,” Minister Giles said.

The clinic started operating in July 2023 and will offer placements to 200 La Trobe law, criminology, social work, and information technology students. A placement at the clinic offers law students the opportunity to put their classroom knowledge into action while providing free access to legal services to those in need.

At the clinic, students work in teams of two to provide legal services across five areas of law: wills and wishes; elder abuse; seniors legal support; fine and civil actions; and family violence. Their work is supervised by an in-house lawyer.

In the first six months of the clinic’s operation, 58 vulnerable women have been assisted through the Family Violence Clinic. Clinical placements are not a requirement of law school education in Victoria, but the demand for experiential learning is high among students and often expected by employers.

Professor Kelly said offering a diverse range of clinical opportunities to students ensured La Trobe graduates entered the job market with strong practical legal skills and the confidence that comes from managing a legal file and interacting with clients. “Entering the employment market with practical experience is becoming increasingly important to securing a graduate law position,” Professor Kelly said.

“The La Trobe Law Clinic gives students the opportunity to apply their legal knowledge and interact directly with clients, building a skillset needed for legal practice. It also builds a culture of service, where students provide much-needed legal services to community members who may not otherwise be able to afford a lawyer."

"As the outer northern suburbs continue their rapid expansion, the demand for free legal services is growing. Through the clinic, our students help alleviate the access to justice issues that plague the legal system in Victoria, filling a gap in the legal services market.”

La Trobe law student Ronan De Nardis said working at the law clinic gave him the freedom to manage his own clients in a supportive environment and has helped him develop a sense of teamwork, communication, and file management skills. “The clinic allowed me to develop confidence by providing opportunities to take initiative and challenge myself,” he said.

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