Public Interest Law Clinic

Subject offered Semester 1 and Semester 2 in 2023

What is Public Interest Law Clinic?

Public Interest Law Clinic (PILC) offers students the opportunity to develop their practical legal skills while making a real difference in the lives of members of our community. In this clinic, students support lawyers in public interest law organisations one day a week over the course of the semester, directly assisting in the delivery of legal services to clients. Complementary seminars led by law school academics with direct public interest lawyering experience, and a range of dynamic guest speakers encourage students to reflect on their practical experience in the context of ensuring meaningful access to justice, while allowing them to develop practical legal skills.

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Student experience

“The Public Interest Law Clinic (PILC) was the most rewarding experience I had during the Juris Doctor. During my placement at Refugee Legal I worked closely with my supervising lawyer on submissions, research and direct interactions with clients, allowing me to truly see public interest law in action. I felt supported throughout my placement by my PILC coordinator and cohort and built a practical legal skillset through our lessons and discussions with key players from real cases and the sector. PILC ultimately reminded me of the ‘human face’ of the law – one that cannot be found in the pages of a textbook.”

– Molly (2020)

"Being involved in the PILC was a wonderful yet challenging experience which offered invaluable practical insight into working in the public law and in a community legal centre (CLC). Katie was a fantastic subject coordinator who prepared us well for many of the challenges that arose while interning at our CLCs, while also giving us a bigger picture perspective of a life as a public interest lawyer through interviews and engaging readings/media content."

– Billy (2020)

What will I learn?

Students enrolled in Public Interest Law Clinic will:

  • Complement their JD studies with hands-on experience in a public interest law environment.
  • Work directly with clients, hear their stories and watch their matters progress.
  • Identify the challenges many groups encounter in accessing social justice.
  • Be encouraged to consider whether existing laws and institutions meet the aims of the justice system and to draw on their practical experience to propose solutions.
  • Develop practical legal skills directly relevant to working with clients in a public interest / community legal setting.
  • Gain an understanding of the different components of strategic public interest litigation.
  • Increase their awareness of the broad variety of public interest law career opportunities available after graduation.

Where will I go?

Public Interest Law Clinic has strong partnerships with a number of organisations. Current and previous partners include:

JobWatch (current partner)

Jobwatch is a specialist employment law community legal service working providing assistance to clients in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. Students in our employment clinic at Jobwatch are trained in substantive employment law and work with clients to provide a range of legal services including information, advice, referrals, support and casework. Students also participate in the Centre's community legal education and policy work.

Refugee Legal (current partner)

Refugee Legal is Australia’s largest not-for-profit provider of free legal services in its specialist field of immigration and refugee law. Students work under supervision to assist asylum seeker and refugee clients with a range of legal casework and advice, as well as contributing to the Centre’s policy and law reform work.

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (current partner)

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) provides legal advice and representation for the Koorie community. Students work primarily in the Civil Law section at VALS and assist with intake, information and casework. Students may also have the opportunity to contribute to policy and law reform work.

Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre – Police Accountability Clinic (previous partner)

Students provide information, advice and casework assistance to victims of police misconduct. Students also contribute to the Centre's policy and community legal education work in the area of police misconduct.

Victoria Legal Aid (previous partner)

Victoria Legal Aid is a statutory body that provides free legal services to eligible Victorians in the areas of criminal, family and civil law. Students at VLA work in the Civil Justice – Economic and Social Right Program team to assist clients and help resolve problems that would otherwise lead to entrenched disadvantage.

Where will this take me?

Public Interest Law Clinic equips students with direct hands-on experience in a public interest law organisation while developing their practical legal skills. The skills and experience gained in PILC are directly transferable to future legal practice across a range of areas, as well as broader career paths within the public interest legal space including policy, advocacy and campaigns.

In addition, the placements and the seminars – including guest lectures from a range of professionals working in the public interest legal field – allow students to explore their future options and build networks for future volunteering or employment opportunities.

The subject is taught by a lawyer and academic with extensive experience and expertise in public interest lawyering and involves guest lectures from a range of professionals working directly in the public interest legal field, allowing students to further develop networks and professional contacts they may wish to explore pursuing beyond this subject.

How do I apply?

Melbourne Law School Clinics recommend that students interested in the Public Interest Law Clinic attend one of our information sessions aimed at providing key information and answering any questions students may have about the subject.

Information sessions and application details will be announced on the Canvas LMS JD Community.

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