The Deakin Law Clinic Geelong has been officially opened by Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin in a ceremony at the Waterfront campus.
The opening ceremony took place at the Law Clinic’s Waterfront offices, with a welcome given by Deakin Law School Dean, Professor Jenni Lightowlers. Attendees included members of the Geelong legal community and the Deakin Law School Advisory Board, Deakin Law School staff and Law Clinic students.
Opening the Clinic, Professor Martin noted Deakin’s commitment to Geelong, and the South-West region.
‘We are so pleased to be able to provide legal help to the Geelong community – a need that has been exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic. The clinic will provide an opportunity to work with the Geelong legal profession – many of whom are alumni,’ he said.
‘This – like many of our other local initiatives and partnerships – is a long-term commitment and investment, providing legal help now directly through the clinic, and through creating a highly skilled graduate workforce for the future.’
Introducing the work of the Law Clinic, Principal Solicitor Michele Tucker said that since 2017, 670 students have completed a placement at Deakin Law Clinic and have provided legal assistance to clients in approximately 630 matters.
‘We find in all practice areas, our students are really engaged, focused and invested in the outcomes of the client’s matter and there is no doubt that this is a result of the empathy and understanding our students demonstrate for our client’s difficult circumstances,’ she said.
‘Many students continue on as volunteers after their clinical placement, until the next intake commences.’
Practising lawyer and former Law Clinic student Phoebe Lawless-Pyne spoke of her clinic experience.
‘It can be difficult as a student to understand what is required of a lawyer in real life, but the clinic provides the perfect environment to learn how to apply the knowledge and skills learnt in our studies to actual situations with clients,’ she said.
‘At the clinic, we learnt how to manage files, how to take instructions from clients and work out how we could best assist them, how to provide advice to clients, and the importance of managing client expectations – especially when they may not like the advice we had to provide.
‘The most important thing I learnt at the clinic was the value of ensuring that every person in the community has access to legal support. Many people who need lawyers are dealing with some of the most stressful and difficult experiences of their lives. No one in that position should also have to worry about whether their economic position will impact their ability to access legal support when they need it most.’