Hear what our students have to say about being part of Macquarie Social Justice Clinic.
During our first days at the Social Justice Clinic, we were asked to research a case where a client in Western Australia believed they were being unjustly detained after the expiration of their prison sentence.
We worked to find the history of their offending and researched the Western Australian Government’s legislative framework applicable to their situation. Based on our findings, a draft letter of advice to the client was prepared. We revealed that the client had a history of violent offending and an ongoing sentence extending for a number of years into the future. The client had, however, been paroled at some stage but had violated the parole terms. We also found that while there is a scheme allowing for prisoners to be detained after the expiration of their sentence where they may still constitute a threat to the community, this requirement did not apply because our client had only violated parole conditions. We drafted a letter advising the client of the misunderstanding and provided it to our supervisor. From our involvement, we learned an important lesson about social justice lawyering; for example, while clients should always be treated with the utmost respect, the information they provide should always be verified to the greatest extent possible and advice should be tailored accordingly.
Student, Social Justice Clinic National Justice Project Placement (Session 2, 2017)
As part of our placement at the Social Justice Clinic, we worked on a variety of real-world cases. One was a litigation case concerning an alleged breach of privacy before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
We were given the opportunity to help prepare for the case by developing questions to be used in cross-examination of the witness. Each team in the group was assigned a different witness. Our starting point was the police statement and affidavit of one of the witnesses to be examined. We read our side’s submissions and created a list of open-ended questions to understand what information our side would need to draw out during cross-examination. The process of writing the questions was based on the principles of courtroom advocacy, including the use of leading questions. This technique is designed to railroad the witness into simple yes–no answers so that the examining counsel can tell the story that suits their case theory. After finishing a list of questions, the groups came together and conducted a series of mock cross-examinations role-playing as the witness, counsels for the plaintiff and defendant, and the judge. At the end, our supervisor gave us feedback on our individual styles as advocates. This allowed us to test the quality of the questions we had prepared and get a better understanding of how the process would play out in practice. It also gave us a chance to develop our own personal advocacy skills, which will stand us in good stead in our future careers while making a meaningful contribution to social justice.
Student, Social Justice Clinic National Justice Program Placement (Session 2, 2017)