Public Interest Law Careers Guide - pitching yourself as a volunteer to community legal centres

Volunteering in CLCs is a valuable way for students to gain experience, and offers lawyers in private practice a way to contribute to social justice. CLCs often need qualified lawyers to oversee student volunteers or graduates that do not yet have a practising certificate. Having student volunteers on board to interview clients, research issues and type file notes allows the supervising lawyer to attend to many more clients that they otherwise could

The well-known, city-based CLCs are immensely popular with students who live in town or want to gain experience in areas with a mixed urban demographic. Securing a volunteer position in these CLCs can be highly competitive. Outer-urban or regional CLCs on the other hand, may be under-staffed. They may appreciate the extra help, but be short of resources with which to supervise volunteers.

The CLC Volunteers website is a useful resource that will tell you which CLCs are looking for volunteers. Click on the state where you are looking. You will notice that many of the organisations listed have an orange dot beside them. This means they are not actively recruiting volunteers, but may be accepting applications.

If you can present yourself to these CLCs as an asset and someone who can work effectively with minimal supervision, you may be able to find a volunteer position. Note that any giving of legal advice must be supervised by a lawyer with a practising certificate.

If you have a friend or relative that lives in rural or regional Victoria consider asking to visit for the holidays. If you call the local CLC and offer to commit to full time volunteer work for a few weeks your chances of acquiring a position may be greatly improved.      

Are you fluent in another language? Many CLCs are situated in areas with a high migrant population, therefore being able to communicate directly with clients who have poor or no English language ability gives you an advantage.

Maybe you have worked in community or disability service in a past career? Some specialist CLCs only look for volunteers experienced in client contact with at risk people or people with disabilities.

Identify what skills, attribute or personal knowledge you have and be pitch yourself to specifically targeted CLCs. Scan through the generalist and specialist lists of CLCs, look over their websites and see what you can offer to their organisation.

Good luck!

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