The PIAC secondment offers a unique opportunity to work across the civil and criminal practice of a busy non-profit legal centre. During my six month secondment I was primarily based in the Homeless Persons' Legal Service (HPLS), which is PIAC's largest project. My work for HPLS ranged from interviewing clients in prison, preparing evidence for hearings, negotiating with the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and instructing counsel during litigation.
A highlight of my secondment was the chance to appear and advocate for clients in various courts around Sydney. I spent a lot of time on my feet in the Local and District Courts, representing clients in a wide range of criminal matters. I also ran a number of civil matters, including litigation in NCAT and the Supreme Court. In one particularly complex piece of civil litigation, we faced an unusually hostile opposing party, an uncooperative expert witness and numerous procedural hurdles. One of my proudest achievements was overcoming these obstacles in order to represent a highly disadvantaged client, who would not otherwise have been able to defend herself. It was very satisfying to use my legal skills in a way that has a lasting impact on clients' lives.
Outside of the courtroom, I thrived on the challenge of conducting difficult negotiations. In one serious criminal matter, I successfully negotiated an alternative plea and more favourable set of agreed facts with the DPP. This enabled my client to obtain the best possible outcome during his sentencing. It also allowed me to develop my skills in advocacy, negotiation and persuasion.
This kind of experience is invaluable in the early stages of your legal career. That's why it's fantastic that MinterEllison offers the PIAC secondment to junior lawyers. Having seen first-hand the impact of our pro bono partnership with PIAC, I am grateful to have been able to contribute to the firm's corporate responsibility program while on secondment and in my ongoing role as a HPLS Coordinator.