Marking a 20-year pro bono partnership
This year Allens and the Fitzroy Legal Service (FLS) celebrate a pro bono partnership that has seen Allens fund the only ongoing graduate lawyer position across Victoria's Community Legal Centres.
'For the past 20 years Allens has funded an annual, fulltime graduate position to join our team and experience the work of a community legal centre. The position provides a fantastic start in community legal work for a passionate graduate,' said Claudia Fatone, Fitzroy Legal Service's Executive Officer.
The FLS provides legal advice and legal representation to the community covering areas such as family law, drug and alcohol outreach legal services, family violence outreach, travellers employment law and representation for people dealing with the justice system.
'With many people simply unable to access services such as Legal Aid, the need for legal assistance in the community is high.
'We try to understand where the need is and provide as much access as we can. For example, we schedule 20 family law advice appointments of an evening each fortnight. These appointments are always fully booked out weeks in advance,' Claudia said.
In addition to gaining work experience across the full spectrum of community legal work, the graduate position also rotates through the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) in Collingwood. The NJC brings together various courts and tribunals with access to support services and community initiatives with a focus around addressing the underlying causes of harmful behaviour and tackling social disadvantage.
'What I love about the graduate position is that many of the graduates become really passionate about community legal work and pursue careers in the community legal sector. Ella Crotty, former FLS graduate, is now a Senior Lawyer with FLS, working across family law and family violence, including, contributing to various working groups in response to the Royal Commission on family violence,' said Claudia.
In addition to our support for the graduate position, we assist the FLS with pro bono legal representation on important social justice matters. For example, in 2016 FLS teamed with Doctors for Refugees to successfully exempt health professionals from the secrecy provisions of the Australian Border Force Act 2015 (Cth). Those provisions banned people – including doctors and nurses and other healthcare providers – from speaking out about what they saw in Australia's on- and off-shore detention centres.
'Our partnership with Allens gives us access to talented lawyers able to support us with representation on challenging matters. And the graduate position helps train the next generation of passionate, community lawyers ensuring there is a pipeline of lawyers committed to providing access to justice for all,' Claudia said.