Inspiration at Asia Pacific Conference Leads to Life-Changing Pro Bono Clinic in New Zealand
On Saturday 7 June 2014, members of the Hamilton New Zealand Chapter attended the 2014 J. Reuben Clark Law Society Asia Pacific Conference in Auckland. International Chair Jeremiah Morgan addressed the delegates and invited us to use our professional skills for good and to find opportunities to actively serve others.
This inspired our chapter to commence the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Free Legal Advice Clinic which opened its doors on Saturday 28 June 2014. With the support of our local JRCLS practitioners and senior law students from the University of Waikato School of Law, the clinic provides free legal advice to members of the community at its clinic held at the LDS O'Neil Street chapel. The clinic is held once a month on the last Saturday and runs for approximately 3 hours.
Hamilton Chapter Student Chair Mandy Smiler coordinates the running of the clinic including the receiving of initial referrals, student roles, and the facebook page. Based on the nature of the enquiries, volunteer practitioners are then invited to attend under the coordination of Hamilton New Zealand Chapter Chair Soraya Barker.
During the Clinic, the interview is carried out by the senior law student and the facts are relayed to the lawyer for the advice. This process enables the law student to gain interviewing and advising skills, whilst allowing the practitioner to mentor and provide guidance for practical interviewing skills. Clients receive full legal advice at no cost to them. The highest standards of confidentially and professionalism are practiced at all times. The majority of the referrals are received by word of mouth, from LDS leaders, the Citizens Advice Bureau, and most importantly from the local community law office who are unable to assist as the area of law may be outside their legal expertise. Most clients are low income earners who are not otherwise in a financial position to afford legal assistance.
The clinic aims to meet the unmet legal need in our community including legal issues ranging from relationship property, powers of attorney, consumer, Maori land, wills, commercial disputes, insurance, accident compensation, local government policies, day to day care disputes, to minor criminal matters and property.
With the continued support of our member practitioners and students, the clinic has been a great success. Albeit slow in gaining clients, we have assisted in approximately 50 queries to date.
The goals for 2015 are to increase the number of students involved to not only allow for more appointments to be made, but also to continue to foster the critical mentoring relationships between students and practitioners and continuing quarterly training of our law students in interviewing skills and clinic duties. We also are in the early stages of building a website for our clinic with the online ability for clients to schedule appointments. We also aim to have other JRCLS pages linked to both our website and our current Facebook page, as we often get Facebook queries from LDS members throughout the world trying to find legal advice in their area.
So please - if your chapter has a Facebook Page please visit us at <www.facebook.com/LDSLegalAdviceClinicHamilton>
and like our page so we can like yours and build a network that will enable us to help each other to provide this legal service throughout the world. You are also welcome to join our closed chapter group - find us at <https://www.facebook.com/groups/273297056169907/?ref=browser>
By Mandy Smiler
Posted: March 10, 2015