Public Interest Law Careers Guide - foreword

Foreword - Castan Centre

It has been a pleasure for the Castan Centre to be able to partner again with the Progressive Law Network (PLN) to launch the third update of this online guide to assist students and lawyers interested in pursuing a career in public interest law.

The guide was originally developed with the PLN and a fund from the Victoria Law Foundation grant in 2013. Since then the feedback received was interest in a PDF format. The PLN have answered that call, and have innovatively created this version of the guide. We are sure you will find this resource useful alongside the original web page format.

When the guide was first developed we focussed on featuring Victorian organisations. Since its inception the PLN updated the guide in 2016 and expanded it to include some interstate organisations. In this third instalment we are excited to see the inclusion of new areas of public interest law such as non-governmental organisations, legal start-ups and the Australian Government. As the guide illustrates, public interest law is a “broad church”, and there are many ways in which students with an interest in working for the public good can make a positive contribution.

The Monash University Clinical Legal Education experience is also represented in this guide. This year, Monash Law Clinics featured the inaugural Castan Centre Human Rights Clinic. This is an incredibly exciting initiative as it provides Monash Law students with the opportunity to engage with clients and work on practical human rights issues to achieve a real-world impact. We are so proud to be able to provide this tangible human rights experience to help set students up for a future career in human rights.

We must thank the PLN volunteers Esther Khor, Sarah Sulivan, Joanna Cookson, Binari Almeida, Sonja Boon, Joe Okraglik, Annie Ward-Ambler, Catherine Pagliaro, Laura Woodbridge and Stephanie Zhu for their enthusiasm and generosity in working on updating the guide. This included contacting all of the organisations featured and organising the launch event. We also acknowledge and thank the many organisations who volunteered their time to share information about how we can get involved with them as a secondary student, undergraduate, graduate or practising lawyer.

As promised the Castan Centre and the PLN continue our commitment to keep the guide relevant and up to date so it can remain an inspirational resource for those interested in this field.

Dr Ronli Sifris
Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law

President's Welcome - Progressive Law Network

As a young sixteen-year-old, I decided that I wanted to study law. Not because I wanted to slay the corporate world as Jessica Pearson does in Suits, but rather because I recognised something special: That the law can be such a powerful force for change.

Yet amidst the competition, pressure and rigours of law school, it is easy to be swept up in pursuing the well-trodden, ‘traditional pathway’: five years of law school, clerkships and then a grad job at a big firm. There is nothing wrong with this pathway. But it is not for everyone. It is definitely not for me. The ‘traditional pathway’ is structured and straightforward, just like our responses to legal problem scenarios. The ‘nontraditional pathway’ is less clear. Indeed, there have many been times when sheer bewilderment has led me to view an ‘uncomplicated’ career in corporate law as the easier option. This is exactly why the Progressive Law Network exists. The PLN is a space where students interested in social and environmental issues can connect and explore the (immense) potential of the law to bring about positive change. We host panel discussions with professionals and community advocacy organisations. We encourage the exchange of progressive legal ideas. Most importantly, we support students who are interested in pursuing ‘non-traditional’ legal careers. Students like you!

In this regard, the Public Interest Law Careers Guide is an invaluable resource. Spanning some 26 fields including law reform, human rights and family law, the Guide connects students with organisations with which they can get involved. In doing so, we hope that law students will better appreciate the multiplicity of options that are available to them. Take the time to read the Guide thoroughly. Seek out volunteering and work experience opportunities with the organisations that spark your interest. Don’t settle for the easier option. Find a way to pursue a career that reflects your interests and commitment to positive change!

I would like to extend my gratitude to the 2020 PLN Careers team. Updating a careers guide of this magnitude is challenging at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic when many organisations are difficult to reach.

Thank you to Esther Khor (PLN Careers Officer) for your leadership and to the PLN Careers Subcommittee for your many hours of work: Binari Almeida, Joanna Cookson, Joseph Okraglik, Sarah Sullivan and Sonja Boon. In addition, special credit goes to Janice Hugo, Professor the Hon Kevin Bell, Dr Ronli Sifris and the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law for your continued interest, mentoring and support of this project.

Catherine Pagliaro
President, Progressive Law Network

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