Law students supporting the community
In partnership with Whittlesea Community Connections, La Trobe University law students are providing legal support and helping vulnerable communities better plan for the future, as part of the university’s innovative work integrated learning program.
Operated by law students, the Wills and Wishes clinic provides support on everything from will writing and appointing powers of attorney, to appointing a Medical decision maker and how to provide detailed instructions about notifying loved ones and dividing assets.
The clinic has been operating as an outreach service at Whittlesea Community House for around two years and has helped more than 200 people in the local community alone.
Professor Sue Marshall, Director of Clinical Legal Education at La Trobe University, said the clinic is a fantastic community initiative that also provides strong learning opportunities for students.
“It provides students with invaluable, practical legal experience and exposure to a diverse client group,” Professor Marshall said.
“Students do everything from managing the files to liaising directly with clients – a type of experience that is unmatched when it comes to legal education.
“It’s a safe and supportive learning environment that builds confidence and prepares students to thrive in other placement settings, and in the profession once they graduate,” Professor Marshall said.
Ms Nipuni Barandiwattage is final year law student that enjoyed her experience in the clinic so much that she continued to volunteer her time beyond her second-year placement.
“I was thoroughly enjoying the work, and I could see there was a significant increase in the demand for the services we were providing,” Ms Barandiwattage said.
“Plus, the experience is invaluable. It was my first real practical experience in executing legal documents and has inspired the direction of my career.”
Ms Barandiwattage said the Wills and Wishes Clinic highlights a really personal side to legal work.
“I feel fulfilled knowing that my work is giving vulnerable people legal protection and peace of mind,” Ms Barandiwattage said.
“We have some of the most diverse and interesting clients, so the work is really engaging.”
Ms Mary-Lynn Griffith, Manager at Whittlesea Community House said the clinic is a much-valued community resource.
“Our community is located on the rural fringe of Melbourne. Many of our residents are poor and socially isolated and unable to access services financially or physically,” Ms Griffith said.
“The clinic is a much-needed service and one that continues to positively impact the community.”
The Wills and Wishes Clinic was established in 2019 as a joint initiative of La Trobe University and the Whittlesea Community Legal Service.