Community legal clinic on campus
by Alex Doudy
and Stuart Hinchliffe with Supervising Solicitor
UniSA has launched a community legal clinic staffed by final year law students who will offer free legal advice to the public under the guidance of a supervising solicitor.
The Legal Advice Clinic, located in UniSA’s law building, will be seeing clients two days a week for the first university term (until May), with opening hours and the number of students involved expected to grow as the client base builds.
To start with, four law students will work at the clinic as part of the professional placement component of the Legal Professional and Community Service Experience Course.
Participating student Stuart Hinchliffe said the chance to put theoretical skills into practical action was his motivation for taking part.
“I think we never know what we’re going to get from this experience so that fact that we’re part of the first group of people that are going to be thrown in the deep end, I think that’s the most exciting part about it all, it’s that you don’t know what you’re going to get next and that’s exactly what the real world is like,” Stuart said.
“We haven’t experienced the real world of law yet but that’s what we’re going to get through this experience.”
The students will interview clients in pairs before researching each case and formulating advice with the help of supervising solicitor Matthew Atkinson.
If required, clients may then schedule a follow-up appointment with the students to discuss their legal options.
Final year participating student Carly Manuel said the supportive environment would come in handy.
“We’ve never done this before so it’s all new for us and it’s really reassuring to have someone to help us,” Carly said.
UniSA’s Director of Professional Programs Rachel Spencer, who has spearheaded the project from inception to opening, said the encouraging environment was a key feature of the learning experience provided by the clinic.
“The idea is that students have very close supervision so that they feel that there’s always someone helping them,” she said.
“So unlike some other placements where they might be left on their own to sink or swim, we would never let anyone sink, so they’ll constantly be having these learning opportunities but they also constantly have supervision which is quite intense.
“It’s great from a risk management perspective as far as the clients are concerned but it’s also great for the students because they get fabulous mentoring and supervision,” Spencer said.
Final year participating student Caitlin Keage said it was a great community project.
“I was really excited to be part of a new clinic that provides the opportunity for diverse people to come in and feel comfortable about speaking about legal matters which they might not have otherwise been able to resolve,” Caitlin said.
The law clinic is currently taking appointments from the public. To find out more or to book an appointment visit the website or call 8302 7436 during business hours.