Students for public interest at MLC
Pictured: Public Interest student Marcus James and Managing Principal Solicitor Vasili Maroulis
Marrickville Legal Centre has welcomed 9 law students as part of its pilot student placement program. The program takes place over 12 weeks as part of the University of Sydney’s Public Interest Law Clinic. The elective course for law students provides practical experience with advice and cases, clients, and research projects. Student volunteers elect based off interest areas which MLC service they wish to work with and learn more about.
This semester MLC’s student placements had the opportunity to work across our Duty Lawyer Service, General Legal Service, Family Law Service, Strata Collective Sales Advice & Advocacy Service, and our two Tenants’ services.
“The placement allows students to engage and actively assist vulnerable and disadvantaged clients in a meaningful way.”
On the value of this opportunity for law students, MLC Assistant Principal Solicitor Justin Abi-Daher says, “The USYD public interest placement is a great opportunity for law students to truly practice the concept of access to justice in a real-life legal environment. The placement allows students to engage and actively assist our vulnerable and disadvantaged clients in a meaningful way. The students are an extremely valuable asset to have at the centre as they allow us to increase our ongoing assistance to clients. I highly recommend the placement.”
“You can’t learn that in a classroom.”
Public Interest Law Clinic student Marcus began his placement experience working with the Duty Lawyer Service (DLS) at Burwood Local Court. Marcus says this provided him with an opportunity to engage with clients face-to-face, support the solicitor with advice, and attend live court hearings. As the first port of call for clients who are often distressed, Marcus shares that it is important to show empathy and work efficiently. “It’s a lived experience. You listen, you take away key issues, and respond,” he shares. “You can’t learn that in a classroom.”
As COVID-19 restrictions set in and courts suspended operations, the DLS responded in real-time, launching a community education campaign to inform people in New South Wales about rapidly changing public health orders. Marcus and his cohort had a hand in helping the DLS team compile these resources, as well as assisting on traffic law cases and advice.
As the placement draws to a close, Marcus reflects that his placement experience was exciting, fulfilling, and “really highlighted the value of CLCs having the ability to quickly adapt and respond to change.”