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Seeking commitment

Seeking commitment

By Australian Pro Bono Centre

Access to Justice Voluntary Associations/Pro Bono 


An online jobs board operated by the Australian Pro Bono Centre targets law students and graduates. Many lawyers enter the profession with a desire to help disadvantaged people and improve social justice. Many seek opportunities to do this type of work, whether paid or as a volunteer, in the context of a career in the corporate sector, in government or in the legal assistance or not-for profit sector. For legal students and graduates however, these opportunities can be difficult to find. Social Justice Opportunities (SJOpps), an online jobs board operated by the Australian Pro Bono Centre, aims to address this need. The first SJOpps was produced as a paper-based careers guide five years ago and distributed at law student careers fairs around the country. Since then SJOpps has launched online and on Twitter, and lists volunteer roles (and occasionally paid roles) in the legal not-for-profit and legal assistance sectors, targeting law students and legal graduates. SJOpps on Twitter has more than 2100 followers, and in the 2015-16 financial year the website had more than 31,000 visitors. According to the Centre’s CEO John Corker, the success of SJOpps points to a rise in volunteerism as a pathway to graduate employment in the legal assistance and not-for-profit sectors. “In a tightening legal employment market,” he said, “those looking for a career in these sectors find that volunteering gives them a head start, by providing networking opportunities and knowledge of the sector.” Equally, in the commercial sector volunteering experience is well regarded by law firms and corporate employers with established pro bono and corporate social responsibility programs. “Volunteering experience suggests a set of values that resonates with theirs. It reflects a well-rounded and mature candidate.” Volunteering can also provide job-seekers with valuable legal skills and experience. Karen, a law student, followed an SJOpps lead and volunteered at a community legal centre, where she was trained and supervised so she could answer calls from clients and write case summaries. She also helped file case documents and did legal research into clients’ cases. Within months she had developed skills in client communication, case management, teamwork and legal research, and understood how a legal office works. Perhaps most importantly, volunteering was Karen’s first real-life opportunity to apply her legal knowledge practically. By encouraging student and graduate volunteerism, SJOpps helps to foster a commitment to social justice and a pro bono ethos in future members of the profession. In Karen’s case, the chance to make a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged people gave her a new enthusiasm for the law. The Australian Pro Bono Centre updates SJOpps several times a week and is seeking sponsorship to ensure it continues. This column was provided by the Australian Pro Bono Centre. Looking to help? To find pro bono opportunities for your firm see www.justiceconnect.org.au/get-involved, which also manages the LIV’s pro bono Legal Assistance Service. For solicitors: talk to your pro bono coordinator or the person responsible for pro bono work at your firm or see www.fclc.org.au/cb_pages/careers_and_getting_involved.php. For barristers: see www.vicbar.com.au/social-justice/pro-bono.

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