Sun, Sand and Legal Advice
The sand, surf and laidback vibe of a Newcastle beach is surely worlds away from the professional, and occasionally intimidating, environs of a legal practice. It’s hard to imagine a way that the two could ever come together.
Achieving that, however, is exactly what the University of Newcastle Legal Centre’s Law on the Beach program has been doing for the past eight summers – bringing the law to the people in a way that makes it much more accessible than usual, in a setting that is more relaxed than what you would find in the typical legal office.
The free clinics have been running every January and February since 2004 with the aim of helping young people to gain better access to quality legal advice, but they are also available to general members of the community who are at a disadvantage when dealing with the legal system and not otherwise able to afford private legal services.
Law on the Beach is staffed by law students from the University of Newcastle, who work under the close supervision of practising lawyers from the University’s Legal Centre. This allows the clinic to function not only as a legal practice, but also a teaching facility where students can gain experience in applying the skills they learn in the classroom to cases for real clients.
In 2010, a record 110 clients sought advice from the clinic. Their cases ranged from tenancy disputes to discrimination to family law to workers’ rights.
Director of the Legal Centre, Shaun McCarthy says, “By offering free advice at the beach, we are particularly trying to target young people by taking the law to them.
“They can often face difficulties in their housing and financial support and unfortunately may not get advice until it is too late.”
Imogen Thomas a student who worked at the clinic says that Law on the Beach has been a fun and rewarding experience.
“I made new friends and developed my skills while working in a positive atmosphere...all while spending time at the beach!”
The Law on the Beach clinics will run again in January and February 2013. For more information, you can contact the University of Newcastle Legal Centre.