Sustainability Business Clinic

What is Sustainability Business Clinic?

In 2014, Melbourne Law School began offering a unique JD clinical subject, Sustainability Business Clinic. Sustainability Business Clinic connects JD students to small, start-up community and social enterprises that work in the public interest to improve environmental wellbeing. These enterprises do not have the capacity to pay for the specialised legal assistance they need to launch and support their sustainability projects. The clinic provides a practical legal experience in which students can use and refine the legal knowledge and skills acquired at law school to advise real clients on real legal issues.

The clinic is based at Melbourne Law School and supervised by environmental lawyers from leading global law firm Ashurst Australia. Under supervision, students give transactional, place-based and start-up legal advice to new and innovating community and environmentally-minded enterprises: for example, community wind farms, neighbourhood urban renewal projects, green energy co-operatives and transport sharing initiatives. Students will research and advise on a potentially broad range of areas of law, including climate and renewable energy law, local government, environment and planning law, tort law, contract law, property law, corporate and industry regulation, and corporate governance law.

What does it involve?

Sustainability Business Clinic comprises client advice, legal research and reflective components. Students will complete 12 days of clinical work at Melbourne Law School. In addition, students will participate in seminars to support their development of practical skills and to facilitate discussion and analysis of the law relevant to clients' problems and trends in sustainability thinking. The classes will also allow students an opportunity to identify and explore the need for potential law reform to improve the prospect of sustainability solutions to environmental problems. Students will also be asked to consider and discuss their perceptions of the law in practice and reflect on the role of the law and their place in it.

Ambition

Sustainability Business Clinic offers students an opportunity to apply and enhance their skills in a professional work environment. In doing so, it seeks to expose students to the realities of legal practice.

Sustainability is an increasingly crucial aspect of all business. The clinic aims to equip students with skills and competencies vital to a future career in this field of legal practice. The clinic also taps into the growing literature on, and will build practical experience around, sharing lawyering and grassroots transactional lawyering. Students will reflect on their career trajectories and hopefully discover another exciting avenue to use their legal skills after graduation.

Sustainability Business Clinic also allows students to make a direct contribution to access to justice for small start-up enterprises. An important objective of the clinic is to enable students to help new sustainability projects to move forward and to contribute to the movement for environmental sustainability. In this way, Sustainability Business Clinic allows students a chance to undertake work that will have a positive impact on the environment and make a real difference in the community. Under the supervision of expert lawyers, students will assist community groups and social entrepreneurs to establish and run innovative projects that endeavour to build stronger, more connected, resilient and sustainable communities and futures.

Ashurst and Melbourne Law School

Sustainability Business Clinic is based on a partnership between Melbourne Law School and Ashurst Australia, one of Australia's leading commercial law firms with a commitment to corporate social responsibility. The Sustainability Business Clinic concept was developed by Katherine Lake, a senior associate in Ashurst Australia's environmental practice at the firm's Melbourne Office, and Brad Jessup, a Melbourne Law School lecturer who will teach the seminars to accompany the clinics. Students who participate in Sustainability Business Clinic will work under the supervision and guidance of Ashurst's environmental lawyers.

For prospective clients

Ashurst Australia and Melbourne Law School aim to help community, not-for-profit and social enterprises who need transactional (ie not litigation) legal assistance and do not otherwise have access to lawyers and who cannot afford lawyers. The thematic focus of the clinic is on sustainable development. So the clinic's clients will be working to reduce environmental degradation and to build stronger and more resilient communities that will be more capable to respond to environmental challenges in the future.

The clinic's clients are also driven by a common interest to make a difference within the community. Oftentimes they are taking actions ahead of governments and before policy support for their innovative business models has been developed. As a consequence clients have a particular need for legal advice to navigate a legal system that does not necessarily fit their business ideas.

In recent years the clinic's clients have included energy co-operatives and disruptive energy businesses, urban gardeners, formative businesses in the emerging sharing economy, small-scale food businesses promoting local, efficient and lasting food supply and networks, and technology start-ups whose enterprises concern supporting participatory decision-making and environmental fund raising.

The clients of the clinic become pro bono clients of Ashurst Australia. That is, they pay no fees for the legal service they receive. Ashurst Australia's qualified lawyers supervise the students in preparing the legal advice and documents requested by the clients. Ashurst Australia then finalises and signs-off on the legal work.

If you think your enterprise would be a suitable client for the clinic then send a message to Brad Jessup expressing your interest.

How do I apply?

The clinic is well suited to students who have an interest in harnessing the power of law reform to achieve positive environmental and community change. It enables students to support local groups and enterprises in their use of business and innovation to seek environmental change and enhance social cohesion. Working in the clinic will bring into focus for students the breadth of skills and knowledge they have about the law and how they can use those skills to assist our community's environmental and social changemakers.

Details available on the JD LMS Community.

JD LMS Community Login

Further Information

Handbook details: LAWS50126

Enquiries about Sustainability Business Clinic can be directed to the Subject Coordinator, Brad Jessup at brad.jessup@unimelb.edu.au.