What Do You Stand For? – Part 3


[Music] Why do you choose to work for Legal Aid rather than a private firm? I did have a look around at private firms and I just didn’t feel it, it wasn’t me. Um, and then at the very end of my law degree a solicitor from a community legal centre came in and spoke to us about the work she did, and I was like, I want to do that. I work for Legal Aid because I want to leave the world a better place then before I came into it. Yep, that’s what I was going to say. The involvement in policy um, the involvement in moving forwards in terms of law reform and being able to service our most vulnerable clients is why I work for Legal Aid. Because I really wanted to make a difference, making a difference was far more important to me than making money. It feels like it’s important work. It does. And if you’re not making things better for somebody, then you’re at least making them a bit less worse. It always bothered me that somebody might get, um, a worse outcome at court. Like they might be convicted or get a longer sentence just because they didn’t have as much money as somebody else, and I have always wanted to work for Legal Aid because I thought if I can be the best lawyer I can be at Legal Aid, maybe that would go some way to kind of even things up. It means a lot, to work for Legal Aid. I feel like I’m doing more than I was doing in private practice. I think the work that we do is less focussed on billable hours, and it’s more focussed on what the needs of the client is when they come and see us. I love working for Legal Aid. Working for Legal Aid gives me the opportunity to represent clients, do the work that I love to do without really having to focus on money and people having to fund the problem they have and go to court. I can just feel like, ah if someone has a need, A genuine need and we can assist them, then I can go and do it, and I think that’s a great freedom that you don’t have in private practice. The job’s hard, you know, and it’s not because it would be easier in private or be harder, it’s because I go home and even if it’s been a very bad day, in the sense that, you know, you’re overworked and you didn’t get the result you wanted, you still feel like you have made a difference and um, that keeps me there. Ready? I think it’s your go, I think it’s your go. This is a very common question that I get. Have you ever defended a client in court when you knew in your heart that they were guilty? Yes, absolutely. But really, it’s about what the prosecution can prove. They’ve got to put their case forward, they’ve got to do it. Beyond any reasonable doubt. Otherwise, if we had any doubt that someone was in prison when they shouldn’t be that would be terrible. As trite as it sounds, it’s not my job to know whether or not they are guilty. My job is to put the prosecution to proof, and to believe the system will do its job. My role is to make sure people have a fair process, um, and imagine how unfair it would be if I just met a client, I decided that they were guilty and then I decided that I wouldn’t act for them or I wouldn’t um, make sure their process was fair, um, and I was wrong. The legal system needs and requires and necessitates for all voices to be heard and for the defence case to be put forward and that is as valuable and as important as the prosecution. I think, um, what the community would want to think about is if they were ever charged with something like this that they didn’t do could they imagine what that would be like if they didn’t have a representative fighting for them. It’s a really hard job having to represent someone like that. But if I’m not going to do it, and I’m not going to do it with passion and gusto because this person, who else have they got? Does Legal Aid just work in criminal matters? No, Jane’s worked for a very long time in family law matters. We’ve also got Civil lawyers, We don’t cover every single area of law. But we try to cover most of the areas where there is the most significant need. One of the great things is that when I started working with Legal Aid, I started in Family, and then I did my training in Crime, and then I went to Civil, and then I am back in Family. Our paramount principle is best interest of the children always. I consider myself like a Legal Aid lifer, because I’m just so committed to the work. For so long as I continue in law, it will probably be at Legal Aid. [Music]

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