Volunteers are at the front-line of the work we do at WSCLC. They are responsible for a large part of our client intake, undertaking research, assisting solicitors with legal work and countless other tasks in the CLCP team. In our first Spotlight feature, Holly reflects on her experience undertaking her PLT training at WSCLC.
Holly graduated from Macquarie University with a Combined Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts. She began volunteer with us in February 2021 after surviving the first wave of COVID-19 and has continued her work throughout the current restrictions. We asked Holly about the highlights of her work, and advice for future volunteers:
Why did you choose to volunteer with WSCLC?
I actually had the opportunity to undertake a short placement with WSCLC while at university and I really enjoyed it. It ignited the social justice warrior within! It also gave me an insight into the importance of community legal centres as a ‘safety net’ for those vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals who cannot afford to obtain legal advice. I also chose to volunteer at WSCLC because I knew that I would be exposed to a variety of practice areas and I would be able to gain skills that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to learn from reading a textbook.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It is hard to describe a typical day as it varies – from attending client interviews and taking notes to assisting solicitors in legal research tasks, drafting correspondence and preparing legal documents. I am also tasked with creating Community Legal Education resources and self-help tools for individuals such as factsheets, guides and presentations. Pre-COVID I also went to Parramatta Local Court once a week to assist with traffic matters.
What have you found most rewarding about your role?
It is hugely rewarding – both professionally and personally – to know that your work is making a meaningful and positive difference to the lives of clients. At WSCLC I often see clients that have been dealt a difficult hand in life and have found themselves in tough situations through no fault of their own. I am constantly surprised by the barriers that clients face and the different (and often unusual) legal issues that come through the door.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
I think the achievements that I am most proud of are those matters that I worked on from beginning to end. I was able to successfully defend a vulnerable refugee client against a commercial debt recovery firm on the basis of hardship achieving a full debt write-off. I was also able to contribute to the Prison outreach program by helping incarcerated clients take control of their lives.
Do you have any advice for interested applicants?
If you want to gain practical experience in a legal environment and be exposed to a diverse range of legal issues, then this is the placement for you. All of the solicitors at WSCLC were fantastic mentors throughout my PLT placement and I have been inspired by their ongoing commitment to their clients. They go above and beyond the call of duty to help people at various ‘crisis’ points in their lives. The WSCLC team always answered any questions that I had and made sure that I was learning something new every day. I think also the best part of my placement was that I learnt not only about how the law is applied in day-to-day situations but also about how to deal with clients. University focuses so much on the academic side of law that it forgets that the practice of law revolves around working with people. Even something as simple as learning to speak to clients using an interpreter is a great communication skill to know.
If you are interested in volunteering with the CLCP, keep an eye out on our website and Facebook page. We expect applications to reopen later this year, pending COVID-19 restrictions.