What is Public Interest Law Clinic?
Public Interest Law Clinic offers students an opportunity to develop their practical legal skills by moving beyond the classroom to make a real difference in the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community. Students support lawyers in public interest law organisations and directly assist in the delivery of legal services to clients.
Public Interest Law Clinic combines practical learning with academic support through complementary seminars. The seminars encourage students to consider and reflect on their own level of competence and concepts of their professional responsibility as future legal practitioners. Public Interest Law Clinic offers students the opportunity to engage in dialogue about broader questions pertaining to law and access to justice.
Learning by doing and reflecting
Public Interest Law Clinic provides students with hands-on experience in public interest law environments that will both complement their JD studies and allow them to acquire and consolidate practical skills. For example, students can apply the skills acquired at law school in relation to legal research and writing, but may also have a chance to develop new skills in client communication and advocacy.
Public Interest Law Clinic seminars and assessment tasks prompt students to reflect on their practical experiences, and the relationship between the theory and practise of law.
Employability and pathways
Public Interest Law Clinic endeavours to increase awareness of the broad variety of public interest law career opportunities available to students upon graduation. Through their practical placements, Public Interest Law Clinic offers students the opportunity to interact with a wide range of public interest practitioners.
Public Interest Law Clinic also seeks to provide context for some of the complex concepts and processes that form part of the law school curriculum. The opportunity to work directly with clients, hear their stories and watch their matters progress adds a 'human' dimension to the study of law, which can illuminate and improve the classroom experience.
Through their practical placements, Public Interest Law Clinic students are able to identify the challenges that disadvantaged clients encounter in accessing justice. Students are encouraged to consider and propose the best mechanisms for addressing these challenges, citing their practical experience and relevant literature.
What does Public Interest Law Clinic involve?
Public Interest Law Clinic students complete 12 days of clinical placement at a public interest law organisation. They also participate in an intensive orientation. The placement is complemented by a series of seminars to facilitate incremental learning through simulated activities, and support and encourage students to engage in reflective practice. The seminars also provide an opportunity for students to engage with public interest law scholarship through consideration of relevant literature.
Where can I go?
Our current partners are Victoria Legal Aid, Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre and JobWatch. MLS facilitates a strong nexus with each of these organisations, aiming to guide students through the learning process and offer the optimal level of supported autonomy as they transition from the theory of law to real legal practice.
Civil Justice Clinic
Students who attend Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) complete their placement in the Civil Justice Program at VLA's Melbourne office, where they will predominantly assist clients who experience disadvantage and social exclusion with their infringement problems. Under the supervision of VLA lawyers, students conduct client interviews and take instructions at client advice sessions, and also have the opportunity to appear as advocates for clients in hearings in the Special Circumstances List at Melbourne Magistrates' Court. Students may also assist with casework or undertake research tasks for VLA lawyers in the areas of mental health and disability advocacy, equality, migration or Commonwealth entitlements.
Police Accountability Clinic
At Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre students will provide assistance, referral, support and casework to victims of police misconduct. Students may also contribute to the centre's policy and community legal education work. Through this experience students will be given the unique opportunity to develop a range of practical skills, and to reflect on the merits of civil litigation as a tool for legal and social change.
Employment Law Clinic
At JobWatch students will be trained in substantive employment law and will work with live clients to provide a range of legal services including information, advice, referrals, support and casework. Students may also participate in the centre's community legal education and policy work. Through the Employment Law Clinic, students will be offered direct client contact and will be able to reflect on the role of community legal centres in contributing to legal and social change.
Lawyers who devote their time, in whole or in part, to teaching through clinical methods are called 'clinicians'. The Public Interest Law Initiative was launched in 2012 at Melbourne Law School and has achieved a great deal since then. We now have six clinical subjects and a team of clinicians who are committed to offering a range of innovative, practical subjects.
How do I apply?
Details available on the JD LMS Community.
Handbook details: LAWS50116
Enquiries about the Public Interest Law Clinic can be directed to Subject Coordinator, Kate Fischer-Doherty at email@example.com.