By Paul Goddard
My summer holidays had been largely uneventful, but for my volunteering at Fitzroy Legal Service.
Volunteering at Fitzroy Legal Service, notably the night service on Thursday nights, is truly a worthwhile experience. I start my day at 6:00pm with the paralegals and solicitors waiting for files to come in. Each day varies in workload, but I enjoy the activity and the ability to help others. While I have been reluctant to consider Family and Criminal Law for future practice, I was able to learn more about family arrangements, infringements, affidavits and intervention orders. If a volunteer was still uncertain about an area of law, ‘copies of the Fitzroy Legal Service (FLS) handbook were available’.
It was wonderful to look at all these issues and to be able to see how each solicitor approaches a problem. Some solicitors like to cut to the chase, addressing the heart of the problem. Others prefer more detail in case they have missed something. I usually err on the side of more information in case I have missed something.
When the day is particularly busy, Adrian, night service coordinator, encourages me to consult the clients and take down instructions. Initially, I was nervous, but it usually vanished when I engaged with the clients and wrote down necessary information for a solicitor to consider. There were also times where I needed to call in an interpreter as well.
My tasks have involved typing up letters and file notes, as well as seeing clients and taking instructions. I have also had one case where I took a client to a nearby police station regarding a car accident issue because she was unable to acquire to full details of the person who crashed into her. Every time a client thanks you, you feel that you have made a difference.
Clients at Fitzroy Legal Service come from a diverse range of backgrounds and ethnicities. Our volunteers are also diverse. This is especially valuable because each volunteer usually focuses on the issues that they have prior experience in.
The service accepts no more clients by 8:30pm, but the service continues for another hour. This is to ensure that volunteers do not feel compelled to work overtime from 9:30pm. The volunteers type up file notes to place into the client folder for future reference and they finish up for the night.
I strongly encourage my fellow students to try out volunteering to boost their legal experience. The client experience will certainly be valuable for future employment.