Night at the legal advice clinic
Our state-wide Youth Legal Service (YLS) runs weekly advice clinics on Monday evenings. Recently the advice clinic has shifted how it operates to advise vulnerable young people, many of whom are impacted by COVID-19. We’ve put the spotlight on what a remote advice clinic looks like for the volunteer solicitors and staff who commit their time and expertise to help young people in challenging circumstances.
How the YLS Advice Clinic works
Ordinarily, the YLS advice clinic runs as a telephone advice clinic in the Sydney CBD. Volunteer solicitors will finish their workday around the city and head to Colin Biggers & Paisley (CBP) offices near Sydney Town Hall where they’re briefed on matters for the evening.
Volunteer solicitors come from a number of firms including pro bono partners Baker McKenzie, Colin, Biggers & Paisley, Hall & Wilcox and Johnson Winter & Slattery to provide legal advice to young people across NSW on matters including fines, employment and crime.
Adapting to remote advice clinics
Our volunteer solicitors have adapted quickly to their own new circumstances to continue delivering access to justice to those in need.
Youth solicitor Katie Green, who supervises the clinic, describes how the transition to remote advice clinics has been.
“Although we are currently all working from home, I have to say that running the clinic from Colin, Bigger and Paisleys’ offices is much easier and friendlier. I also don’t have to listen to my toddler crying in the background!” says Katie.
The advice clinics are generally very busy and tend to around 20 cases in a night. MLC is privileged to receive regular support from volunteer solicitors and legal assistants who now coordinate those matters over the phone, from their own homes.
The next day at MLC, Katie and Practical Legal Training students do all the follow-up work. Presently, for example, the YLS is assisting a number of young people to draft letters to their employers – to agree to change their employment contracts on a strictly temporary basis until COVID-19 subsides.
Despite temporary COVID-19 measures, young people are continuing to receive the legal advice they need and the MLC volunteer community remains tight-knit.
“For now we are missing our sushi dinners and the usual banter between our amazing volunteers but overall it has been a smooth transition and we are managing well.”
MLC champions and volunteer solicitors
Nick and Holly, pictured in the header image, are volunteer solicitors from Baker McKenzie. Nick and Holly play a huge role in assisting with COVID-19 employment-related enquiries for the YLS advice clinic.
“It’s a pleasure to work with all the solicitors who assist,” says Katie.
“We have great relationships with our pro bono partners, solicitors get a great feeling out of volunteering, and it’s fun and dynamic means of creating access to justice for more people in our community.”
Holly Ritson, 29, (pictured top-right) on what it’s like delivering legal services remotely, shares “providing advice to clients over the phone on a remote basis is not that different compared to how we normally work, where volunteers provide advice over the phone at CBP.”
Except now, says Holly, volunteers can provide legal advice “from the comfort of our own homes with a home-cooked meal”.
Holly notes that it’s been concerning to see a growing number of COVID-19 related issues affecting young people in terms of their employment and other consumer-related issues.
The YLS clinic is an essential service to young people who, like the rest of our community, are doing their best to get by in an uncertain and constantly changing climate.
Marrickville Legal Centre thanks all of our champion volunteers who are helping our community from home!