We recently showcased our family law focused Clinical Legal Education Program to the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus. The program is run in partnership with La Trobe University’s faculty of Business, Economics and Law.
The highly successful clinical program, which sees law students placed at Loddon Campaspe CLC and other local legal
practices for one day per week, has been operating for three years.
The program has been running since 2007 and only started receiving funding in 2010.
However, with Commonwealth Government funding supporting the program (and six others like it around the country) due to run out in June 2014, we welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate to the Attorney-General how beneficial the program has been and to call on the Government to maintain its funding commitment.
Loddon Campaspe CLC’s CLEP program is coordinated by solicitor Chris Casey. Chris recently surveyed students who had undertaken the program between 2007 and 2012. The survey results showed consistently positive experiences. More than 60% of students saw themselves working in regional or rural areas in five years time. Student comments also indicated clear preferences:
‘It confirmed my desire to practise in a regional area as opposed to moving to the metropolitan area for work. Country firms engage far more closely with clients, having a more client-focused mindset.’
‘The CLEP Program gave me my first taste of employment in a legal context and allowed me to make a more informed decision on my future employment opportunities in a regional setting.’
‘It was a fantastic subject and a unique insight into regional justice, which students would not otherwise have. It encouraged many students to return to Bendigo or surrounding areas to practise as it demonstrated just how much is possible in regional areas and gave an insight into the kind of career you could have.’
Every survey respondent stated that the placement had met or exceeded their expectations. One respondent said:
‘The RRJ clinic placement exceeded any expectations I had before commencing the program. My expectations of the program were to develop an understanding of the operation of the law whilst assisting disadvantaged clients within the community. However I experienced so much more.’
Every respondent still studying law saw themselves volunteering at a Community Legal Centre after admittance to private practice. One respondent said:
‘I would say that volunteer and pro bono assistance is an essential extension of a practitioner’s role. I can’t imagine not volunteering in the future.’