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Meet the 2018 YL President, Brendan Lacota

Meet the 2018 YL President, Brendan Lacota

By LIV Young Lawyers

Young Persons 


The 2018 president of the LIV Young Lawyers (YL) is Brendan Lacota from Moonee Valley Legal Service. We spoke with Brendan about his career and to learn more about his vision for YL this year.

Where did you start out in your legal career? 
After clerking for Russell Kennedy in late 2010 I then completed a graduate position with them in 2012/2013. The graduate program provided a great understanding of many different parts of legal practice, from litigation to environment and planning. While I didn’t realise it at the time, this introduction to a variety of different practice groups was essential to working in a generalist community legal centre.

How did you decide to focus your career towards enhancing access to justice in the community legal sector? 
It was more serendipity than choice. Despite volunteering with the Footscray Community Legal Centre throughout law school I had never considered the community legal sector as a career option. After graduating from law school I had simply followed what I thought was the only option for young lawyers, the commercial law path. Then, in 2013 when I had completed my graduate year, I thought more carefully about what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I took the opportunity to travel and spent a short time studying at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California. Stanford opened my eyes to the many opportunities to make a real impact in the law, opportunities that are not always available as a commercial lawyer. At the urging of the principal of the Footscray CLC I ended up taking a role at the Moonee Valley Legal Service as a lawyer and community legal educator and have never looked back.

You are the co-founder of a range of digital legal solutions and services initiatives, can you explain what these services are, and where the inspiration for these projects came from?

Every year 160 000 people around Australia are turned away from community legal centres, usually because the CLC doesn’t have the resources to help them. What if we could use technology to better help those who have the capacity to help themselves and, at the same time, free up resources to spend more time helping those who need more intensive casework and support? That is the premise behind both and FineFixer.

The first digital legal product I developed was with my co-founder, Jon Hourigan, this kit is designed to help people make a will who would otherwise be unable to afford legal services or who only need a simple will.

In 2016 I was lucky enough to manage the development of FineFixer. FineFixer was originally devised by three students as part of the RMIT Fastrack Innovation Program and, in less than six months since launching, has now helped over 14 000 people understand their fines and take action.

This year the Moonee Valley Legal Service, alongside two other CLCs and Victoria Legal Aid, has been funded to develop and pilot Streamlinefines – a project which will use technology and human centred design to improve the way that health practitioners and lawyers help people in in-patient facilities.

You are Principal Lawyer at the Moonee Valley Legal Service. At times, community legal work can be challenging both personally and professionally, and also highly rewarding. What do you enjoy most about community legal practice? 
Community legal practice is both diverse and incredibly rewarding. As a community lawyer you are expected to think strategically and find systemic solutions to common legal problems. If clients keep coming in with the same problem, then we have to ask ourselves “What is going wrong and how can we fix it?” In my opinion, it is this capacity to help entire cohorts of the community that give community lawyers the drive to continue their work in an often challenging environment.

What do you aspire to achieve as YL president in 2018? 
The practice of law is changing, to be a good lawyer it’s no longer enough simply to know the law. The modern lawyer must be T-shaped, having a broad understanding of interpersonal relationships, finance, and technology as well as deep knowledge of the law. As YL President I hope to work with students, new lawyers, the profession, and educators to advocate for changes in how we teach new lawyers. To ensure that new lawyers are prepared for the modern practice of law. What is the best career advice you have received so far?

While perhaps not the most inspirational of quotes, the most helpful advice I have received was from a straight talking senior partner in my first few weeks at Russell Kennedy. He told me there are only two things you need to remember to survive as a grad “One, always carry a notepad and pen. Two, never talk about cases in elevators.” To this day, that advice has never steered me wrong.

What is your number one message to LIV Young Lawyers members for this year who might want to get involved with the work of the section more? 
Get in touch with me or the chairs of any of the committees you are interested in, the LIV YL has lots to offer all new lawyers and we would love to have you with us in 2018.

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