Volunteers are the lifeblood of Marrickville Legal Centre, whose hard work helps us connect people to justice. 17-23 May is Law Week NSW as well as National Volunteer Week. In the first of our new VOLLIE VOX feature, Nhu Tran reflects on her experience as a volunteer paralegal at Marrickville Legal Centre and why access to justice matters.
Vollie vox: Nhu Tran
Nhu, can you tell us about your role?
I work in a paralegal role with the Generalist Civil team at Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC).
Why did you choose to work at Marrickville Legal Centre?
I have always been drawn to practice areas of law that involve individuals and their interactions with the legal system, particularly when they face real-life consequences. This led me to conclude that my interests were better aligned with social justice and advocacy as opposed to corporate or commercial practice. I understand that the legal system can be difficult to navigate and using the skills I acquired during my studies to provide equal access to the system motivated me to work in a community legal setting.
Why did you choose to work in social justice or advocacy?
Coming out of law school I wanted to use my skills for work that would have a positive impact on the lives of individuals, and naturally I gravitated towards social justice and advocacy.
I enjoy the collegiate environment of the MLC and the mentality that everyone is present and willing to assist in any task, whether that be taking a client call or delving deep into legal research to help clients access their rights.
What do you love most about your role?
I love the diversity of matters which come through the MLC on a daily basis, especially given the hands-on approach to the work which requires me to think on my feet. I appreciate that the lawyers at MLC entrust me with a range of responsibilities but give me support and access to mentoring. I enjoy the collegiate environment of the MLC and the mentality that everyone is present and willing to assist in any task, whether that be taking a client call or delving deep into legal research to help clients access their rights.
What is a typical day like for you?
My days are quite varied depending on the matters which come through. Generally, I come in and get briefed by the supervising solicitor about the tasks which need to be done for the day. These can involve legal research, clinic preparation, client meetings, letter and submission writing, or supervising the volunteers on the front desk. There are no days that are exactly the same, which keeps us all on our feet and makes the job engaging and dynamic.
What skills from law school have been most useful for you in this role?
Working with the Civil Team, I have found that subjects like Torts, Contracts, and Property have been quite useful to inform my understanding of client matters. Analytical thinking skills and the ability to find practical solutions for clients under pressure have been essential to the role. Most importantly, being able to work collaboratively in a team and relate to the clients has been a skill that I use every day. That is, being able to communicate with a broad demographic of people with varied social and cultural experiences.
Come in with a can-do attitude and be ready to throw yourself into the fray
What skills are becoming increasingly important in your field?
I believe that being adaptable and resilient are important attributes to be able to demonstrate in the workplace. Also, being able to use and understand new technologies to ensure efficient service delivery are useful skills in this field.
What have been the key highlights of your experience? What have been the most fulfilling parts?
A highlight of my time at the MLC has been working with the solicitors and support staff in a team environment. I thoroughly enjoy the group effort behind the advice clinics and being able to work with so many different lawyers with a range of different expertise and approaches to their work. Being able to obtain a positive outcome for the clients has been the most fulfilling part of the job, given the range of disadvantages they often experience in their daily lives.
What advice do you have for interested applicants?
Come in with a can-do attitude and be ready to throw yourself into the fray- there will be many people here to support and mentor you and you will get a lot out of the experience. Also, asking questions and being particularly inquisitive will assist you in both the client and legal work.