Providing free legal services to vulnerable members of the community does not sound like core business for lawyers, but that’s how UQ Law students are championing the public good.
Student Zoe Brereton already has formidable experience in international humanitarian law, having supported human rights in Uganda and helped abused women in India, but it was volunteering at a small, suburban, Brisbane community legal service that changed her life.
The UQ Pro Bono Centre in the TC Beirne School of Law places students like Zoe with professional lawyers at community legal centres, to assist disadvantaged and marginalised groups such as asylum seekers, refugees, people with a disability and vulnerable housing renters.
“I realised I didn’t have to be overseas or at the apex of a big legal career to fight for people who can’t afford to use the legal system,” Ms Brereton said.
“I love working with senior social justice lawyers who've dedicated their careers to the public good, easing people's fear and arguing for their right to justice.”
UQ Pro Bono Centre Director Monica Taylor described the student placements as a ‘win—win’, as students gained valuable skills, insights and passion for the public good, while providing legal help to those in need.
“Access to justice is difficult for people in need. Our students make a real difference and are highly valued by the community groups with whom we partner,” she said.
“They develop a keen sense of social responsibility, a commitment to ethical legal practice, and a commitment to help make the legal system more accessible. These are core professional values UQ seeks to instil in its students.”
Ms Brereton is thankful to the UQ Pro Bono Centre and its donors for helping set her on a rewarding career path.
“Senior lawyers and barristers do contribute to social justice work, and in 50 years I want to look back and know I stood up for the rights of others and was part of the solution, not the problem,” Ms Brereton said.