What to expect
PLT students receive on the job legal training and supervision. Responsibilities include taking instructions from clients (individuals and not-for-profit organisations), assessing matters for referral, legal research, drafting letters, memorandums and briefs, referring matters to lawyers acting pro bono, and follow-up on referred matters. Students are exposed to a broad range of legal sector participants. There are some limited opportunities to provide legal advice and to conduct substantive casework. You may also assist in policy and law reform work.
Please note that the areas of law covered in a PLT placement vary between our Melbourne and Sydney offices. These are unpaid positions.
"I undertook my PLT placement at Justice Connect in the Self Representation Service Team. At Justice Connect I was able to develop skills and gain a better understanding of law. I was also exposed to the court process, I was able to see how the law was applied in court which was really valuable. Our service relies on volunteer lawyers, during appointments I was able to see the different approaches to giving advice which helped me to reflect on what type of lawyer I wanted to be.
The program gave me the opportunity to participate in facilitated training sessions which helped me to further develop skills and work with other people in the organisation. One of the most valuable aspects of my placement was how my communication skills developed. I was able to speak with clients daily and learn techniques on how to deal with each individual.
The culture was unbeatable. I felt welcomed and comfortable, not just in my team but within the whole organisation. The organisation creates a supportive learning environment, I would highly recommend Justice Connect to any PLT students"
- Richelle Thompson - Self-Representation Service PLT, May 2018
"I spent a great 3 months at Justice Connect in the Referrals team to complete my PLT and would strongly recommend it to all PLT students. I was attracted to the organisation as I saw it as an opportunity to experience and be involved in a broad range of legal issues. There is no typical workload at Justice Connect and this is one of the unique benefits of undertaking the PLT here. I have learnt an incredible amount about the Australian legal system from my time here and for those students who, like myself, had a desire to learn about all areas of Australian law then Justice Connect is the perfect place to consider.
On top of the professional benefits Justice Connect provides, you will not find a better group of people to work with and to learn from. Justice Connect has an amazing group of committed individuals that make a real difference to the lives of those who need it the most. Wherever I go in my legal career, I will always remember my time here.”
-Peter Knespal, Public Interest Law Service PLT (formerly Referrals Service), April 2017
"PILCH provides a unique perspective on legal practice. It is the link between the private legal sector and marginalised and disadvantaged individuals, and the community organisations that assist these individuals. I am gaining insight into many areas of law, and different ways to provide access to justice. This includes the provision of legal information and training, direct provision of advice over the phone and through clinic models, referrals to law firms and barristers and, importantly, advocacy and law reform work. I have also had wonderful supervision - considerate, inclusive and achieving the right balance between providing some challenging work and a supportive introduction to being a lawyer."
- Tarni Perkal, PLT student at Justice Connect (formerly PILCH), 2012
Legal Practice Areas & Policy Work
PLT students in our Sydney office have the opportunity to work with our Public Interest Law Service, Not-for-profit Law service and Self Representation Service.
PLT students in our Melbourne office have the opportunity to work with our Public Interest Law Service, Not-for-Profit Law service, Self Representation Service, Homeless Law and Seniors Law.
1. Public Interest Law Service
Public Interst Law casework is a central part of Justice Connect's practice, and provides PLT students with an opportunity to develop practical and procedural legal experience and skills across diverse practice areas. Justice Connect makes referrals to barristers and lawyers on behalf of individuals and organisations that cannot obtain or afford legal assistance elsewhere, and where access to justice considerations apply, for example, marginalisation, discrimination, or the public interest.
Public Interest Law casework exposes PLT students to:
- taking instructions and communicating with clients;
- legal research, analysis and problem solving;
- providing (limited) supervised legal information and advice;
- file management (maintaining accurate client files and databases);
- facilitating referrals to barristers and law firms, including drafting correspondence and referral memoranda;
- communicating with legal service providers (including courts, government agencies, community organisations and community legal centres) in order to complete referrals or advocate for clients' interests; and
- participating in conferences and team meetings.
Public Intererst Law casework focussed on access to justice and does not typically involve the provision of ongoing legal casework.
Find out more about the Public Interest Law Service.
2. Not-for-profit Law
Our Not-for-profit Law service aims to 'help the helpers' by providing free and low-cost legal information, advice and training to not-for-profit community organisations. Not-for-profit Law’s advocacy is focussed on improving the legal framework and reducing red tape for the not-for-profit sector.
PLT students within Not-for-profit Law will have the opportunity to participate in:
- the intake of new Not-for-profit Law enquires, including initial client interview and assessment;
- legal research and drafting for Not-for-profit Law’s Advice Service; and
- assistance in the preparation of legal information materials for the Not-for-profit Law webportal.
PLT students may also have the opportunity to attend and participate in Not-for-profit Law’s seminar series and training for not-for-profit organisations, and to assist Not-for-profit Law lawyers with law reform and policy work.
Find out more about Not-for-profit Law.
3. Specialist legal services
Justice Connect operates two specialist legal services in Melbourne: Homeless Law and Seniors Law.
Homeless Law provides free legal assistance and advocacy to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Seniors Law is a specialist legal service designed to respond to and prevent elder abuse and to assist clients with other issues associated with ageing.
Legal assistance is provided by pro bono lawyers at homelessness assistance services and health services to facilitate direct access by clients and to provide a service that works closely and collaboratively with other allied service providers.
Our Homeless Law and Seniors Law services also undertake significant law reform, advocacy and community development activities to promote and protect the fundamental human rights of older people and people experiencing homelessness.
- referral work (as described above);
- support of the legal clinics and pro bono lawyers; and
- the provision of direct client legal services.
4. Self Representation Service
The Self Representation Service is a service established to provide unrepresented litigants in the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court with discrete legal advice and assistance. The Self Representation Service empowers individuals experiencing disadvantage to pursue and enforce their rights and duties at court. PLT students will have the opportunity to:
- Undertake legal research relevant to client matters;
- Communicate with clients (for example to schedule and confirm appointments);
- Review and organise client documents;
- Observe and review court proceedings of Self Representation Service clients; and
- Assist the Service to expand into new areas of law by developing precedents and legal information factsheets.
Find out more about the Self Representation Service
Policy & Law Reform
Justice Connect undertakes law reform, advocacy, policy and legal education to:
- address disadvantage in the community,
- effect structural change to address injustice;
- foster a strong pro bono culture in Victoria; and
- to increase the pro bono capacity of the legal profession.
PLT students may have an opportunity to assist with campaigns, law reform and legal education. Scope for this work will depend on factors such as our current policy agenda and workflow considerations.
What you can expect from Justice Connect
1. Supervised legal practice
PLT students will work at the Justice Connect office in either Sydney or Melbourne, under the supervision and direction of a manager and supervising principal lawyer. You will be exposed to and participate in a dynamic CLC legal practice.
You will work with a professional team and develop practical legal skills in one or more of our legal practices.
You will have opportunities to participate in external and in-house training and seminars and excellent opportunities to engage with other legal service providers.
2. The workplace
Staff at Justice Connect are energetic, professional, focussed and enthusiastic. Justice Connect has a positive workplace culture, subject to Policies and Procedures that are available on request and on induction.
Students will be covered by Justice Connect for professional indemnity insurance, public liability insurance and voluntary workers insurance. Justice Connect will provide students with a safe and healthy system of work during the placement.
PLT placements are not paid positions and students accrue no salary or other employment related entitlements or benefits. Any absences from your placement are subject to negotiation with your manager/supervising lawyer.
Before or at the start of your Placement, you will:
- receive an induction into Justice Connect's structure, policies and procedures;
- meet with your manager and supervising lawyer who will talk you through this document and answer any questions you might have;
- receive training on the use of the Justice Connect database and the share drive;
- review some sample case files; and
- observe the inquiry intake process.
4. End of placement and feedback
You will be asked to complete the following documents prior to completing your placement:
- Workload handover memo;
- PLT exit checklist; and
- PLT exit interview form.
Your manager/supervising lawyer will schedule an exit interview in your final week in order to ensure handover of your work, and so that you and Justice Connect can provide constructive feedback about your placement. Please ensure that you complete these forms ahead of the exit interview and that you plan your last week's activities to allow for a smooth handover.
Justice Connect will complete all necessary PLT Feedback Reports, which will be sent directly to your PLT provider. It is a matter of individual PLT provider protocol whether they choose to share this with you. Justice Connect will also provide a Statement of Duties Completed.
What we expect of you
Justice Connect recognises the importance of professional development, supervision and training for PLT students. We similarly expect professionalism and initiative in our PLT students.
We expect that you:
- participate in regular meetings with your team manager/supervisor;
- initiate a meeting with your manager/supervising lawyer if you wish to discuss a confidential issue;
- regularly update your manager/supervising lawyer about your workload and the progress of your casework, giving realistic timeframes;
- share feedback and ask for assistance or guidance when you need it;
- maintain accurate files and database entries;
- speak to clients with sensitivity and tolerance and report any concerns or problematic clients to your manager;/supervising lawyer
- be proactive about seeking work and looking for ways to add value to our casework, for example by drafting case studies, contributing to Justice Connect publications, monitoring the media and considering how your casework interacts with Justice Connect’s campaign objectives; and
- adhere to Justice Connect’s policies and procedures, contributing to a safe a respectful work environment for staff and clients.