Public Interest Law Careers Guide - Victoria Legal Aid

Field of Law

Criminal; Family violence; Human Rights; Disability

Stage of Career

Practising Lawyers

Address: VLA has 14 offices in metropolitan and regional Victoria.
Melbourne Office: 350 Queen St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Mailing address: PO Box 4380, Melbourne VIC 3001
Phone: (03) 9269 0234
Visit the Victoria Legal Aid website
Contact person: Jackie Mansie, Resourcing Co-ordinator, New Lawyer Program
Phone (03) 9269 0193 or email nlp@vla.vic.gov.au.

Description of Organisation


Victoria Legal Aid is a state wide organisation that helps people with their legal problems.

VLA protects peoples' rights, and focuses on the rights of marginalised and economically disadvantaged Victorians.

With over 600 staff and 14 offices, VLA is the largest and most accessible criminal law, family law, youth law and human rights practice in Victoria.

In the Criminal Law program,  staff practice in the areas of summary and indictable crime, and provide a prison advice service.  VLA also has a team of in-house advocates, the Public Defender's Unit.

The Family Law Program operates in the diverse areas of family advice and litigation, appropriate dispute resolution, family violence, independent child representation and child support and protection.

The Civil Justice program focuses on civil and administrative law issues affecting human rights and social justice.  This includes migration, mental health and disability advocacy, guardianship and administration, community and financial hardship, Commonwealth entitlements and social security.

VLA lawyers also participate in community legal education projects coordinated through the Access & Equity Program, and in justice and law reform work.

Number of positions within organisation

Over 600 staff and more than 280 lawyers, including over 35 LIV Accredited Criminal and Family Law Specialists.

Indigenous winter clerkships

Up to four winter clerkship positions are offered to law students with an Indigenous background each year. The program is offered over June and July, during the university winter breaks.

The clerkship is unique because:

  • participants are welcome to commence a clerkship at any stage of your law degree
  • participants are able to return in successive years until you have finished your studies
  • placements are available in our Criminal Law program, Family Law program or our Civil Justice program
  • participants may also participate in our community legal education and law reform activities
  • VLA aims to accommodate participants' needs, regarding location and areas of interests.

Graduate program

The New Lawyers Program is a post-admission program offered to first and second year lawyers over two years. See below for more information.

10 positions available in 2013, including 2 for applicants from an Indigenous background.

How to apply

Applications  open in April each year. In completing your application, you will need to:

  • answer questions that relate to  the New Lawyers Program key selection criteria  
  • attach a covering letter of no more than one page
  • attach your resume
  • attach you academic transcript
  • provide details of two referees.

Visit the New Lawyers Program on the VLA website for details

Dates for application

Advertised in April  for September commencement

What are they looking for in a graduate?

Victoria Legal Aid is looking for candidates who:

  • can demonstrate commitment to social justice, human rights and VLA's values
  • have a basic knowledge of civil, family, youth and criminal law and the skills to research, analyse and apply different areas of law as required
  • have the ability to represent legal aid clients and to undertake advocacy in courts and tribunals, and with other relevant agencies
  • can demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with people from culturally diverse backgrounds
  • have the ability to identify and understand legal and cross-cultural issues facing socially and economically disadvantaged clients
  • can work collaboratively with others and contribute to overall strategic objectives of team and program areas.

Qualifications/skills required

Upon commencing the program you will need to have successfully completed the practical legal training requirements for admission in accordance with the Legal Profession (Admission) Rules 2008.

Information for practising Lawyers

The VLA website allows prospective employees to register for notifications of upcoming vacancies.

The New Lawyers Program is offered to first and second year lawyers over two years.

In your first year you will complete comprehensive induction and training while learning on the job through two six-month 'training placements' .

In your second year you will build on your experience and skills through at least two 'practise placements' in our offices across Victoria.

You will spend at least one six-month placement practising in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Horsham, Shepparton, Warrnambool or Morwell. This placement will expose you to a diverse range of legal issues in a fast-paced environment, and help develop the breadth of your legal skills. It is an excellent opportunity to experience life in regional Victoria and the different range of legal issues experienced there.

Comprehensive training and development to best prepare you for practise as a lawyer with us covers a broad range of professional skills. These include:

  • negotiation and alternative dispute resolution
  • client communication
  • advocacy
  • cross cultural awareness and communication
  • mental health first aid 
  • safe and effective client interactions.

You will be supported throughout the New Lawyers Program by an in-house practice that boasts over 30 lawyers who are Law Institute of Victoria Accredited Criminal Law or Family Law Specialists.

Notes

Website contains comprehensive information about employment requirements. It is recommend you read this in full before contacting VLA.

Many prominent public interest lawyers have worked at VLA at some stage of their career. See the entry below for information about their New Lawyers Program, and the testimonials to hear from people who have worked there.

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