Subject offered January, Semester 1, June, Semester 2 and November in 2023
What is Legal Internship?
Internships, externships, placements, experiential or work integrated learning. By whatever name, these opportunities are all about practical experience. Students have a choice of applying for a MLS Clinic-led internship or finding their own internship independently.
Note: Legal Internship and Independent Legal Internship come under the same subject code (LAWS50059). Students may therefore only undertake one internship placement for subject credit as part of their JD.
All of our placements have a public interest focus – contributing much needed resources to community and increasing access to justice. Students have a choice of applying for one of the internship placements coordinated by Melbourne Law School Clinics or independently sourcing their own internship (Independent Legal Internship). Legal Internships are for a minimum of 15 days.
As well as offering placements at a range of public interest organisations, the program allows students to arrange an Independent Legal Internship with an organisation of their choosing, which will be credited towards their degree.
Independent Legal Internships may be hosted by any public interest organisation - whether domestic or overseas - that will facilitate a student undertaking unpaid, legally-oriented work. All applications must be approved by the Subject Coordinator to ensure that they meet the subject requirements.
What will I learn?
Undertaking a public interest legal internship provides students with the opportunity to:
- Develop practical legal skills that cannot be obtained in a classroom
- Apply their legal knowledge to real-world problems and enhance their ability to undertake legal work in a professional environment
- Deepen their awareness of the wider social and policy issues relevant to particular areas of legal practice
- Establish a valuable professional network with lawyers and staff at their host organisation
- Include practical legal work on their CV
- Clarify their interests and guide their future career choices.
Internship opportunities are available across a wide range of practice areas in the public and community sectors. Melbourne Law School Clinics has partnerships with a range of host organisations and placements are advertised to students at various times throughout the year.
Recent partner organisations include:
- Advanced Care Planning Australia
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Consumer Action Law Centre
- County Court of Victoria
- Darebin Community Legal Centre
- Federation of Community Legal Centres (Victoria)
- Fitzroy Legal Service
- Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Service
- Judicial College of Victoria
- Law Institute of Victoria
- Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner
- McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer
- Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
- Oxfam Legal
- Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness
- Refugee Legal
- Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
- Victoria Legal Aid - Family Law
- Victorian Ombudsman
- Women's Legal Service Victoria
- Young Workers Centre
While not all organisations offer placements in every round, students who wish to engage with a different public interest organisation for their internship may choose to source their own placement (an Independent legal internship) and apply to have this approved for subject credit.
There are many exciting independent internship opportunities, both within Australia and internationally. Students can source internships at organisations to build on their interests in an area and explore their passions - below you can find just some examples of where previous students have undertaken Independent Legal Internships.
- Arts Law Centre
- Beijing International Arbitration Commission (China)
- Central Desert Native Title Services (Aurora)
- Congressional Representative Offices, Houses of Congress (Washington DC)
- Lawyers without Borders (USA)
- The Law and Advocacy Centre for Women
- North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA)
- Supreme Court of Victoria
- UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, Cambodia
- Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service
- Victoria Law Foundation
Aurora Internship Program
The Aurora Internship program is administered by the Aurora Project, and aims to facilitate individual professional development and strengthen the capacity of Indigenous sector organisations. Students who selected for an Aurora internship may apply to have this credited as an Independent Legal Internship.
The Aurora internship program places law and social sciences students and graduates at Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and Indigenous corporations, government bodies, community groups and other policy organisations across Australia. Interns assist in legal work, policy development, and Indigenous affairs more broadly. Aurora internships allow participants an opportunity to explore careers in these areas, while also contributing to organisations in need of additional resources.
Placements are usually of four to six weeks duration.
British Institute of International and Comparative Law Internship
The British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) is one of the world’s leading independent research centres for international and comparative law, promoting the rule of law in national and international affairs. A unique opportunity exists for Melbourne Law School students to undertake an internship assisting Associate Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law, Dr Jean-Pierre Gauci, on a BIICL international law research project.
This internship is generally available twice yearly, over at least two months (full time), however longer part-time internships may be considered. Successful applicants may be eligible to obtain subject credit.
In Semester 2, 2021 and/or November 2021/Summer 2022 up to three internships will be available. These internships will be conducted remotely.
Postcards from Placement
Valerie spent part of her summer interning at the Young Workers Centre in Carlton, where she helped equip future workers with information and facilitate representation and assistance in a variety of employment matters. “It has been an incredibly insightful and rewarding experience to have worked alongside a passionate team who fights for an important cause, for everyone and a better future,” she says.
Angus and Tom spent their summer interning at the United States Congress. “From impeachment proceedings, committee hearings and policy briefings to constituent mail, phone calls and research, my time on Capitol Hill is one I will never forget!” Angus says. As someone aspiring to work in public policy, Tom says that “seeing the world's most consequential lawmaking from the inside has been an invaluable learning experience".
Samantha and Emily spent part of their summer interning at the Naaja Legal Agency in the Northern Territory. Samantha says it's been a privilege to work for an organisation that's built on a commitment to community. "We've been working on civil matters, which include police misconduct, government complaints and child protection, that all comprise some part of the systemic disadvantage Indigenous Australians face in the Territory. We'll be returning to Melbourne feeling very inspired by all the legends we've met and worked with along the way." Melbourne Law School is proud to participate in the Aurora Project Internship Program, which places law and social science students in native title and other indigenous sector organisations throughout Australia.
Where will this take me?
A Legal Internship is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate your law studies with the reality of legal practice. There are a number of ways to approach the choice of placement – students can use the internship experience to learn more about an area of law or legal practice, explore a workplace that may be of interest or to build their legal skills and employability in supervised and supported environment. The flexibility of the Melbourne Law School Clinics program gives you the opportunity to direct your own learning.
About your coordinator
Kate Fischer-Doherty is the MLS Clinics Director at Melbourne Law School. Prior to joining MLS, Kate worked as a lawyer in the community legal sector for 10 years, focusing on legal education and assistance for disadvantaged and marginalised communities. Her current research interests include student professional and ethical development through clinical legal education.
How do I apply?
Melbourne Law School Clinics recommend that students interested in the Legal Internship attend one of our information sessions aimed at providing key information and answering any questions students may have about the subject.
As a general guide there are two main periods to undertake the Legal Internship:
- November–June (Summer period, Semester 1): Applications open the previous October
- July–November (Semester 2): Applications open the previous April
Information sessions and application details will be announced on the Canvas LMS JD Community.
For industry: Interested in hosting MLS legal interns?
If you are a public interest law organisation that would like to partner with Melbourne Law School and host student interns throughout the first or the second half of the academic year, we would love to hear from you. Please contact MLS Clinic Director Kate Fischer-Doherty to discuss the possibility of hosting a student intern(s), the requirements for our host organisations and our students, and your expectations of the program.