Some of our legal team are looking forward to celebrating 40 years of Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL) at the Melbourne Town Hall this evening.
Formerly the North Melbourne Legal Service, Melbourne Community Legal has been providing free legal advice and assistance to our community since 1978. It changed names in 2013 to better reflect the community it serves.
Like many lawyers, my legal journey began as a volunteer in a Community Legal Centre. I volunteered for North Melbourne Legal Service (NMLS) whilst completing my undergraduate law degree at Melbourne University.
I was living locally in North Melbourne at the time and found working at the NMLS to be a rich, rewarding and sometimes eye-opening personal and cultural experience. The NMLC was in a wonderful old office at the corner of Victoria and Errol Streets with a creaky staircase. There were not too many cafes serving good coffee around North Melbourne at that time though – how times have changed! I thoroughly enjoyed my time volunteering with the NMLS and really admired the work that they did. My time there certainly fostered a desire very early on in my career to focus on social justice.
When I joined Ryan Carlisle Thomas in 2016, I was delighted to learn that the firm had strong and established links with IMCL. Throughout my time at RCT, I have sought to strengthen and enhance this relationship through assisting clients on a pro bono basis within our Family and Relationship Law Department.
Beyond our Family and Relationship Law Department, as a firm, we have been able to assist many IMCL clients on a pro bono basis in a diverse range of legal and quasi-legal matters. We have assisted IMCL clients in a number of our practice areas, which include personal injury, wills and estates, sexual abuse matters (through our institutional abuse department), family law, criminal law and VOCAT.
IMCL and RCT have an authentic pro bono relationship, and one that is really organic. Both services complement each other very well and as a firm, we look forward to continuing that relationship for many years to come.
Maintaining a connection with community
Although my department focuses on Family and Relationship Law, all of the staff in my department, and indeed most of RCT, have worked at community legal centres on a volunteer basis throughout their undergraduate and trainee year careers. This involvement with the community gives us a breadth of experience and knowledge in dealing with people from all walks of life, in all facets of the law. This has allowed us as a team to be able to take a generalist approach in dealing with clients’ legal matters, with a focus on Family and Relationships Law.
The benefits of pro bono work for law firms
I am all too aware of the operational difficulties community legal centres can face, particularly in terms of finance. When funding is such a struggle for community legal organisations, it’s important that firms can step in and assist as it makes the legal fraternity (and sorority) so much stronger.
As a firm and particularly for our staff, we benefit enormously in assisting community groups such as IMCL. I encourage all firms to support Community Legal Centres and undertake pro bono work.