We sat down with Solicitor, Clare Ashley, to talk about her experience working in the Pro Bono team.
I started working at Colin Biggers & Paisley (CBP
) in 2020 as a paralegal. I found CBP to be a very supportive workplace with a strong culture of leadership, so when the opportunity to apply for CBP's graduate program arose in mid-2021 I didn't waste any time.
Each graduate in CBP's graduate program completes three five-month rotations. My first rotation was with the disputes and investigations team, my second was with the Pro Bono team and my final rotation was with the property team. I am settling full time in our disputes and investigations team.
My experience as a Graduate in CBP's Pro Bono Team
As a graduate in the Pro Bono team, I worked on a number of interesting matters including several Victims Services referrals from Women's Legal Service NSW, as well as on pro bono matters with lawyers nationally. This provided me with an opportunity to work across practice groups on a variety of matters, assisting individuals and not-for-profit/charity clients who are working to assist vulnerable communities.
The work I undertook on Victims Services matters assisted clients who were victims of a violent crime. I worked to secure counselling as well as financial support and compensation so that our clients could continue to recover from the physical, psychological and financial impacts of the crimes that they experienced. It was incredibly rewarding to assist these clients who would otherwise have struggled to navigate the legal system.
My experience on secondment at Marrickville Legal Centre
I spent three days per week on secondment at Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC
), which presented me with unique opportunities to practice skills that will serve me well throughout my career.
At MLC, I would regularly advise clients in person and over the telephone. The matters that I dealt with would range from traffic matters, to employment, to criminal law, to civil claims. On Wednesday evenings, for example, as part of MLC's Youth Legal Service Advice Clinic, I would make several advice calls to clients who had booked in to discuss their legal matter. Before each call I would prepare an advice note based on the instructions and documents that the client had provided. I would then discuss this advice note with MLC's experienced lawyers before calling the client to provide the advice.
I was also regularly involved with MLC's Duty Lawyer Service at Sutherland and Burwood Local Courts. The Duty Lawyer Service aims to provide legal advice about criminal matters, domestic violence orders and traffic offences to people attending court. As part of the Duty Lawyer team, I would explain the court process to the client and, if necessary, help the client prepare documents for their court appearance. If the client so instructed, I would appear before the Magistrate on the client's behalf to seek procedural orders or make sentencing submissions.
Tips for incoming Graduates
I am grateful for my time as a graduate in CBP's Pro Bono team. I learned useful advocacy and legal drafting skills and made great friends along the way. If you are interested in sharpening your communication skills and helping people who may not otherwise have access to legal advice, then I highly recommend CBP's Pro Bono graduate rotation.