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On the job as a lawyer at Justice Connect
Geraldine Menere studied finance and property valuation and law and is now a lawyer with the Not-for-profit Law service at Justice Connect.
What is your current role?
I currently work as a lawyer with the Not-for-profit Law service at Justice Connect.
What did you study?
I originally studied finance and property valuation and worked in the finance sector for a number of years before returning to university to complete a law degree, which I finished in 2013.
What drove you to enter the community sector?
While studying law I completed a placement with a community legal centre assisting refugees and asylum seekers with immigration matters. I was always curious about human rights and social justice issues, but the experience I had through the placement was so significant and meaningful, it really cemented my choice to continue working in the community legal sector helping disadvantaged and vulnerable clients with their legal issues.
Going back to university as a mature age student was a tough decision to make, but definitely the right one. I really enjoy being a lawyer and love working in the community legal sector – it’s incredibly rewarding, both on a personal and professional level, and my colleagues make coming to work every day a breeze!
What does Justice Connect do?
Justice Connect helps people facing disadvantage who are ineligible for legal aid and cannot afford a lawyer by providing them - and the community groups that supports them - with access to free legal assistance.
What can Justice Connect offer graduates?
Justice Connect regularly recruits law graduates for our Practical Legal Training (PLT) placements in the following services:
- Referral Service
- Self-Representation Service
- Not-for-profit Law
- Homeless Law, and
- Seniors Law.
What does a typical day at Justice Connect look like for graduates?
Law graduates completing their PLT placement with Justice Connect will have an opportunity to experience a varied, interesting and challenging array of tasks and responsibilities. It sounds cliché, but no two days are the same. On a daily basis, PLT students assist Justice Connect lawyers and staff with:
- taking instructions from clients
- attending off-site legal clinics
- assessing legal enquiries
- conducting legal research
- referring matters to Justice Connect member law firms and barristers
- drafting advice, letters, memorandums and briefs, and
- policy and law reform work.
Justice Connect is a charity and a not-for-profit legal service so unfortunately we do not offer paid PLT placements.
How would you describe an ideal candidate?
We don’t really have an ideal candidate at Justice Connect – all our PLT students have such diverse backgrounds and experience. With that said, we look for law graduates that display professionalism, initiative and above all, a demonstrated commitment to social justice and the work that we do.
What do graduates get out of the program?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful PLT students during my time with Justice Connect. They have all left with a strong desire to continue helping those in need and making a real difference in people’s lives - it’s contagious around here!
PLT students say their placement with us has:
- developed their client interview skills
- increased their confidence in dealing with clients and doing legal work
- given them a greater understanding of the legal issues affecting vulnerable clients, and
- improved their time management skills.
Justice Connect provides training to PLT students, including:
- an induction to Justice Connect and its various services
- difficult client training
- working with interpreters
- cultural awareness training, and
- training on various specific areas of law.
Are there any limitations to the position?
Justice Connect is a charity and a not-for-profit, so unfortunately we are unable to provide paid PLT placements. Placements are therefore suited to PLT students who are able to dedicate a minimum of 60 days (preferably at least 3 days a week) on a voluntary basis.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a law student?
- Clerkships might be a great opportunity, but don’t forget about all the amazing experiences you could have volunteering with legal services that help those most in need in your community.
- Try and choose an area of law to work in that really interests you. If you are not curious and keen to learn, it’s going to be tough to keep motivated at work.
- Never underestimate what a walk around the block and five minutes of sunshine and fresh air can do for you when you are stressed out.