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University of Newcastle’s School of Law & Justice Legal Centre: Pillar of justice & pillar of our community

View of Newcastle of University's City Campus. Sandstone wall with silver metal university logo and name, with the top four floor windows and a verandah in the background.

Ben Collison examines how the University of Newcastle’s real-world experience provides opportunities for students and the community.

A major drawcard for undergraduate applicants to the University of Newcastle is the real-world experience offered during their studies. Across a broad range of disciplines, each faculty of the university has asserted itself as a world leader by offering its undergraduate and postgraduate students access to hands-on placement experience.

Image by Ben Collison.

Each faculty has achieved this and have also strengthened the bonds shared with the local community. Community outreach has long been one of the core tenants of the university, which has ultimately made the university as iconic in Newcastle as our beaches and our Newcastle Knights.

Sitting at the heart of its ethos for the university’s School of Law and Justice (SLJ) is the established and renowned University of Newcastle Legal Centre (UNLC).

Legal matters can be daunting, stressful, and costly. When you need legal help, it’s difficult to know where to start.

Alleviating some of the stress, UNLC has provided expert legal advice to the Novocastrian community for over 30 years while providing the next generation of legal practitioners with invaluable hands-on experience.

I caught up with the Legal Centre to talk about the benefits it provides and the impact it has had on the Hunter region.

Opening in 1994, with a core objective of promoting access to justice whilst providing real-world experience for our students, the Centre has produced life-changing results for its clients and students alike.

Under the guidance of lawyers from the School of Law and Justice, 140 undergraduate students undertake 105 hours of practical legal training through the Centre each year. Per annum, the Legal Centre provides legal services to over 1,000 members of the public.

Whilst clients range in age from 17 to 100 years old, a majority of its clients are aged over 60.

Director of the Legal Centre Sarah Breusch said, “there exists a huge gap within society for clients who are eligible for Legal Aid and or who can afford private legal services and that is where we fit in”.

Real peoples legal cases are far more challenging and complicated than what an exercise can provide. It gives students real life exposure

Covering a broad range of matters, Students from the School of Law have consulted the community on criminal, consumer, commercial, property, estate and wills just to name a few throughout the years.

Image by Ben Collison.

Legal Centre Placement Co-Ordinator, Ingrid Barnes, said “Employers who employ our students; notice the difference in our students compared to students from other universities.

UON students who have spent time undertaking placement hours at the University’s Legal Centre are much more confident in interacting with clients right from when they start their external placement”.

Feedback from Clients have highlight the value of such a service being available for the Novocastrian community.

“Having access to the [Legal] Centre has been a tremendous help to my family. The students are attentive, respectful and shown real compassion and support towards me” said a client of the Legal Centre.

UoN SL&J Student A said “I feel that this placement experience increased my confidence by putting me into situations I had not experienced before and that I was perhaps uncomfortable with, such as interviewing clients. This experience has developed me both professionally and personally”.

To find out more about the Legal Centre, click HERE

If you are interested in studying law at the University of Newcastle; for more information about the School of Law and Justice click HERE

*Disclaimer – The names of Students and Legal Centre Clients have been withheld either to preserve their privacy and or are in relation to matters which may have been or currently are, before the court.

Featured image by Leanne Elliott, Staff Writer.

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