Public Interest Law Careers Guide - foreword

Foreword - Progressive Law Network

This project has its origins in the earliest preliminary meetings of the students at Monash University who founded the Progressive Law Network. We felt overwhelmed by career information that was chiefly focused on the ever more-elusive graduate clerkship in a commercial firm. Some of us were wondering if we should even bother to finish our law degrees if careers that reflected our true interests were not available. Yet we had all heard of amazing lawyers who had done amazing things. What we didn't know was how to get there.

We decided that a careers guide that focused on public interest law was needed, as there was no such dedicated resource of that kind available to Victorian students. We chose to frame ‘public interest' widely, to encompass any legal work that carries a benefit to the community, be that through the public service, an NGO or the provision of legal services to disadvantaged members of society. As it was a huge project, requiring many hours of research and networking, and all of us were studying full-time and working part-time, things moved slowly at first.

When I took over as careers officer in 2011, I suggested we seek funding, so that we could employ some of our members to do the necessary research. Myself and co-founder Jenna McConnachie approached the Victoria Law Foundation, who had supported us with a grant for our inaugural Legal (r)Evolution Conference in March that year. They advised us to apply, but to first seek a partnership with an established organisation that could mentor us, and offer us the necessary financial structure to administer such a grant should we be successful.

We were successful, and the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, as our partner organisation has been a wonderful source of support, both practical and professional.  In the process we have been able to produce a guide that we hope will be useful not just to Victorian Law students, but to secondary school careers counsellors and practising lawyers looking for a change.

We would like to thank the Castan Centre and the Victoria Law Foundation for their encouragement and assistance, without which this project would not have been possible.

The PLN Careers Guide team

  • Penelope Swales
  • Katia Lallo
  • Alice Bewley


Foreword - Castan Centre

As a university-based human rights centre, we have always felt a strong commitment to providing support and opportunities to students interested in human rights. Naturally, Monash students have the opportunity to study human rights subjects, but we have always tried to support and inspire students in other ways, particularly through mentoring, advice and internships - both with us at the Castan Centre and with like-minded organisations overseas through our Global Internship Program.

For many years, we have also provided information for students interested in human rights careers, principally through our annual careers series and our web page with information on volunteering and internship opportunities. However, we have always wished that we had the resources to produce something more comprehensive for students wanting to work in the field.  We were therefore understandably delighted when the Progressive Law Network approached us with their idea of a comprehensive public interest law careers guide funded by the Victoria Law Foundation. 

From the start, I was impressed with the PLN representatives and was confident that they would hold up their end of the partnership.  Since receiving the grant earlier this year, the PLN - and especially Penelope, Katia and Alice - have more than done that, putting in an enormous amount of work to produce a comprehensive and informative resource.

We have also been delighted to have the support of the Victoria Law Foundation, which has a strong commitment to improving the legal profession and has been a supporter of ours for a number of years.  Without their financial support, this project simply would not have happened.

Over the coming years, the PLN and the Castan Centre are committed to keeping the guide up-to-date and, perhaps just as important, we hope that it may inspire similar guides for other states around the country. 

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