Project launched to combat legal sector in crisis

A new project announced today will match unemployed law graduates with community legal centres starved of funding to restore the legal assistance sector.

Project launched to combat legal sector in crisis
The Piddington Society has announced a crowdfunding project to rectify cutbacks experienced by the legal assistance sector by funding struggling legal centres and creating opportunities for law graduates to work in them.

The Piddington Justice Project will train graduates to work with legal centres in Western Australia, giving them the experience, while the centres will have an extra source of funding.

Nick van Hattem, a Perth-based lawyer and the convener of The Piddington Society, said the society will take responsibility for the training the graduates.

“We'll work with CLCs to supervise the graduates in gaining legal experience and we'll develop policies and guidelines to ensure graduates receive support throughout their placements and exposure to all areas of legal practice,” he said.  “While CLCs will be encouraged to be involved as much as they can be, the Project intends to do the majority of the work, including conducting interviews and training graduates so they can be useful in their placements from day one.  We expect to contribute at least $1000 to CLCs for each student offered a supervised placement.”

Final year law students will be invited to apply for the program from September this year for the initial 2016 intake.

“If the pilot project is successful, we hope to expand to other jurisdictions.  We think this has the potential to make significant impact in the years to come.  PwC has conservatively estimated that every dollar spent on legal aid generates a return of $1.60-$2.25. The National Association of CLCs estimated that the return on investment is $18,” said van Hattem.

act., a new division of Community Sector Banking, is working with The Piddington Society to launch the crowdfunding project, which needs $30,000 to get up and running.

Amanda Watt, head of act., said the project is a win-win.

“The Project will re-invest the $30,000 start-up funding into CLCs by contributing at least $1000 per student to each participating CLC,” she said.  “The Project will also provide some 15,000 hours of pro bono legal service, help 5,000 individuals who might otherwise not receive legal assistance and it will create new pathways to employment for 30 law graduates, who may otherwise pursue careers outside of the law.”

The English Family Foundation has already made a pledge to contribute $10,000 once the crowdfunding has already reached that amount. 

“This generous and significant pledge will help effectively raise two-thirds of the $30,000 target,” said Watt.
The Hon Chief Justice of Western Australia Wayne Martine AC will officially launch the project at the annual Perth Winter Ball this evening.

 “It will provide places to young lawyers who wouldn't otherwise be able to achieve the practical experience necessary to enter the profession, but at the same time support the CLCs in their important work meeting unmet legal need within our community,” he said.

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