How long have you been with BCLS and what drew you to the community legal sector?
Shane: I started with BCLS as a PLT student in June 2017, then a volunteer, and then I was employed as a Community Lawyer from December 2017. I have always been drawn to working in the community sector, I love working with different people in our society and helping them tell their story – the community legal sector seems like the best way to do that.
Megan: I started volunteering with BCLS in 2004, I was in the 2nd year of my degree. Aside from a 12 month period when I was working in Ballarat I have volunteered with BCLS either as a student or when I was admitted, then as a night service volunteer lawyer since 2004. I started working as an employee for BCLS in Dec 2017. I was drawn back to community legal service work as I enjoy the challenge of duty lawyer work and the flexible working arrangement offered by BCLS.
What experience do you bring to the role?
Shane: I worked for Consumer Affairs Victoria as an Investigator for 4 years doing community campaigns, investigations, witness interviews and statements and court cases. I even organised and executed search warrants. It really felt like being a detective at times, very fun. After that, I worked in public housing estates in Melbourne for a few years as a Housing Officer and also doing some community development projects like running the community facilities. My most recent job before BCLS was working in transitional and crisis housing for young people with Barwon Child Youth & Family in Geelong.
Megan: I completed my Articles at a Geelong Family Law firm in 2008, following this I have worked at the Central Highlands Community Legal Service as a Family Violence Lawyer (back when the Family Violence Division was still in the pilot phase). I then returned to private practice as a family lawyer in Geelong before joining the Transport Accident Commission in 2011 where I stayed until I went on maternity leave in late 2016.
What is the best aspect of your role and what is the most challenging?
Shane: The most challenging issues are the broad areas of law we cover, the emotional trauma some clients have suffered, and the limited time or resources we have to help. The best aspect is when a client gives you a problem they have been living with, that is weighing down on them, and you can find a simple and practical solution – when that happens it is quite magical!
Megan: The best part of my role is also the most challenging. My role is court based, triaging intervention orders on Monday morning and duty lawyer on Thursdays. The work is always ‘off the cuff’ and you never know what kind of matter you will be dealing with next. It keeps the job interesting and keeps me on my toes!
Tell us one of the highlights of your time at BCLS so far.
Shane: I had one client who had an intellectual disability, but was one of the kindest and most patient people I have met. He was granted the Disability Support Pension after a long time, and it really helped him feel listened to and able to afford the support he needs. That is just one of many, but he has stuck in my mind.
Megan: Getting back into duty lawyer work and getting to some rather ‘unusual’ client stories.
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
Shane: I graduated from Law in 2007 and only decided to become a lawyer in 2015 after doing some volunteering at a CLC in the Northern Territory. I guess in Melbourne or Geelong there are lots of law students and lawyers, but when in a regional area you become aware of the important role you can play as there are so few resources out there. I realised then I should become a lawyer because there was a need for it in many parts of our community.
Megan: I have no idea!
What do you wish other people knew about working in a CLC?
Shane: There seems to be an enormous scope for creativity, in how to approach individual clients, in doing community education or campaigns or law reform work. So, in the years to come perhaps I could end up in the Geelong Mall dressed as a giant lemon talking to people about used cars, or dancing in the streets wearing a RESPECT T-shirt, or running a community legal trivia quiz – who knows! I just like to know the wacky and creative is possible even when talking about difficult or ‘boring’ topics, it is the best way to get the message out there.
Megan: I wish people knew how varied and interesting the work is.
If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?
Shane: Community development, youth work, social work would be other areas I’d like to work in. Or if I didn’t have to earn a living, I’d focus on art or writing.
Megan: Probably a school teacher.
When you’re not at the office where can we find you?
Shane: Staying in my renovated campervan, Bruce, by a beach or forest and going for walks.
Megan: Chasing after my 20 month old son Hamish!
What book can you read over and over again?
Shane: I am reading ‘In the Buddha’s Words’ which is a collection of early Buddhist Texts. I’ve been reading it for twelve months and it is still fascinating and perspective shifting.
Megan: Tell me I’m here – Anne Deeveson.
If you had $1,000,000 to donate, who would you give it to?
Shane: I’d put aside about $100,000 to give to family members and friends if and when they need it, quite a bit to the Wilderness Society and UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) then perhaps the rest on valuable local projects in Australia.
Megan: Zoe’s Flight – Children’s brain cancer research.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Shane: Keep coming back to kindness.
Megan: When something makes you angry before you respond ask yourself if it is something that will still bother you in 20 years?
If you were going to write a book about BCLS what would you call it?
Shane: I’d just write the first page and ask the clients to write or draw a chapter each. We can call it Barwon Legal Dreaming.