Western's legal education program offers free services to the community
Did you cop a traffic fine? Are you having a neighbourhood dispute? Have you been unfairly dismissed? Free legal advice is now available to the western Sydney community, offered by Western Sydney University’s legal education program, the Parramatta Community Justice Clinic (PCJC).
As part of the program, Western Sydney University students work side-by-side with practicing solicitors which is an important training ground for law students who have the opportunity to get experiential, first-hand, on-the-job experience.
Susannah Coles who is a solicitor with PCJC said that the service helps give legal advice to residents who cannot afford it.
“There is a misconception that you need to be a criminal, or a really bad person, to need legal assistance – but the reality is that normal ordinary people do often find themselves in legal situations that are stressful and require professional advice,” said Susannah.
“People in awful predicaments trust you with these integrally important parts of their lives and part of our role is to provide a service that helps take the fear out of legal disputes and going to court.”
Western Sydney University students gain valuable experience helping vulnerable people while fulfilling the University's mission for social justice and equality.
A clinical placement with PCJC is available to students in their third, fourth and fifth years of a Western Sydney University Law degree. PCJC has taken on students like Deng Adut who has now become a prominent defence lawyer and was nominated as 2017 NSW Australian of the Year.
As part of their assessment, students complete a 35 hour work week at the Clinic, assisting with client work by sitting in on appointments, conducting research and they also have access to the children’s court, drug court and police prosecutors. The placement gives students the opportunity to get an insight into ‘ethical law’ – careers where they have an opportunity to make a difference in the community.
“We deal with the everyday person’s legal problems— very frontline and very real, which is great for our students to learn the strings in an organisation that does a lot of good,” said Susannah.
To be eligible for the legal service, clients must live in the Western Sydney region, be a low income earner and have a meeting with Susannah to assess the case before it is taken on.
PCJC specialises in civil and criminal matters such as the following:
- Discrimination complaints
- Consumer disputes against big businesses
- Traffic and drink driving offences
- Minor criminal matters in the Local court
- Car accidents
- Neighbourhood disputes
- Legal issues for older people
- Employment issues, such as contract disputes, unpaid entitlements, unfair dismissal.
For more information, please visit the Parramatta Community Justice Clinic webpage(opens in a new window).
17 October 2018
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