A new Western Australian training model providing legal graduates with work placements is underway to tackle diminishing government funding for community legal centres within the state.
$36,000 has been crowdfunded by The Piddington Justice Project, a social association comprised of lawyers, to relieve pressure from over-burdened resourced centres by helping law graduates obtain training and experience.
After successfully completing the 1 year course, graduates emerge with the qualifications necessary to be admitted as solicitors.
Legal graduates need to spend about 75 days doing work experience in a law firm, or alternatively fork out around $1,300 to complete further study in order to be admitted as a solicitor.
With Legal Aid, community legal centres, and government departments all enduring state and federal funding cut-backs placements are hard to come by these days, with many of these groups having set-up wait lists, or ceased placement intakes altogether as their resources are stretched too thin to offer training.
1. The new training program is designed to help legal graduates obtain placements and address the funding shortfall problems the state’s legal centres are grappling with.
“The idea is graduates are looking for work experience opportunities and legal centres need help, they need resources and they need more funding. The project puts those things together,” explained Perth lawyer, Nicholas van Hattem, the crowdfunding campaigner and convenor of The Piddington Society.
2. It could also help battle nepotism within the field when it comes to graduate placements.
“If you know a person who knows a person, that might be a way for you to get a job, but if you don’t have those sorts of networks it can be very difficult to find a place,” said Mr van Hattem.
The administrative and financial work of supervising and training around 30 legal graduates will be undertaken by The Piddington Society over the course of 2016.
“There are a lot of costs involved with bringing on a graduate… The community legal centres were saying it wasn’t worth it for them because of the need to supervise the graduates, which meant resources were diverted from their core work… the idea is to remove as many barriers as we can for community legal centres to take on grads,” said Mr van Hattem.
The Society has teamed up with the Australian National University in Canberra, opening a legal training course designed to aid in placing graduates in Western Australian community legal centres. These placed graduates would then be supervised under the Piddington Justice Project.