While you’re a law student you can build real-world skills by volunteering at a community legal centre (CLC) or other community organisation. Volunteering will allow you to contribute your skills to the community, and help you stand out from the crowd when you’re looking for employment in the future.
STUDENT PRO BONO GUIDE
This Guide, created by the Australian Pro Bono Centre, sets out how you can volunteer as a law student (and also participate in pro bono legal work after graduation). The Student Pro Bono Guide:
- defines pro bono and explains how it fits into the broader legal assistance landscape
- maps available options to students, including providing links to key opportunities and resources
- suggests a timeline for law students about how to strategically get involved in pro bono throughout their degree
- provides tips on self-care while working in social justice
- includes a set of recommended pro bono questions for students to ask prospective employers.
VOLUNTEERING AT A COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE (CLC)
What is a CLC?
CLCs are non-profit community organisations that provide legal assistance and advice to the public. Their work may also include providing community legal education, and lobbying for law reform.
Broadly, CLCs are classified as generalist or specialist. Generalist CLCs provide general legal assistance to those living in a defined geographic area. Specialist CLCs provide legal assistance in relation to specific areas of law, social groups or interests. However, some generalist CLCs also feature specialised units and clinics. You can find more information about CLCs here.
Click here to view a list of some of the major CLCs across Australia.
Volunteering at a CLC
As a law student volunteer at a CLC, you could be tasked with:
- answering calls for assistance from clients
- conducting legal research and drafting documents to support clients’ cases
- assisting in the development of submissions to government about law reform
- booking clients into advice sessions
- accompanying clients to court, to provide support with the court process.
Volunteering usually caters towards various employment circumstances. Most CLCs, for example, have night clinics which operate outside of standard business hours.
- If you’re passionate about volunteering with a particular client group (e.g. asylum seekers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples), this list provides you with the names of the major specialist CLCs in Australia that work with each client group.
- If you’re looking for a CLC in your local area, you can search the website of your state/territory CLC association – list available here.
VOLUNTEERING AT A NON-LEGAL COMMUNITY ORGANISATION
By volunteering at a community organisation in a non-legal role, you can demonstrate your genuine enthusiasm for altruistic work and gain valuable interpersonal and administrative skills.
What type of community organisation do I want to volunteer at?
Start by thinking about issues that are important to you, and then find community organisations that work in those fields. You can browse websites such as Ethical Jobs or The Centre for Volunteering for information on current volunteering opportunities.
Examples of volunteering opportunities at non-legal community organisations include:
- volunteering at a homeless shelter
- visiting refugee detention centres with outreach programs
- providing homework support to recently arrived migrant
If you are interested in social justice within an international context, you can apply for unpaid internships and volunteer opportunities at international organisations.
There are a diverse range of causes you can get involved in, from development and health to diplomacy and human rights.
Volunteering overseas in a social justice environment is usually open to all students. Some universities may also provide clinical programs for undergraduates or formal internship programs for graduate law students.
While selection criteria differ between organisations, you will generally need to demonstrate a genuine interest in the relevant subject area and have a strong academic record. For some positions, it is advantageous to have knowledge of the working languages of the organisation (or of the languages of the country in which the internship is based).
Examples of international internships/volunteering opportunities for law students and early-career lawyers include the following:
- Undertaking an internship at one of the various organisations associated with the United Nations (click here for more information)
- Volunteering with the Capital Punishment Justice Project, fighting death penalty cases in the USA and throughout Asia
- Undertaking an internship at Lawyers Without Borders in the USA
- Volunteering at International Bridges to Justice
- Volunteering as a Legal Advocate with Asylum Access
- Volunteering or undertaking an internship at the Geneva International Centre for Justice, an independent organisation dedicated to human rights.
Page last updated November 2023