I came to this position expecting to be inundated by calls and complex paperwork, however, I was pleasantly surprised to be working in such a supportive and manageable team. I primarily worked alongside Charmaine who knows everything there is to know about the service and very happily showed me the ropes. In the event Charmaine was not available, I felt comfortable calling, emailing or going up to any of the other staff for assistance at any time. Of course, there were times where I felt lost or unsure, however, the reliable support I had behind me created a relaxed atmosphere where I knew every issue would have a resolution.
The work primarily consisted of handling client appointments, incoming calls and file management which at times can be like an impossible juggling act, however, the challenges I faced were interesting and exciting. The phone calls were by far the most interesting aspect, as you can never tell what kind of person will be on the other end or what type of legal problem they have. Many people had been referred to Barwon by another person such as a support worker, doctor or private legal practitioner and were all in need of some further direction or assistance. People who called requiring advice in matters that Barwon could not assist were given referrals to other firms in Geelong and Colac.
At times we received calls from people who were highly distressed or who were simply confused about what to do and who to speak with about their matter. With the help of Charmaine, I quickly developed my own system of handling each person then taking the best action based on that information. I really cannot emphasise enough that the administration officers at BCLS do such an interesting, complex and important job because they just don’t know what they will be dealing with every time they pick up the phone.
Everyone is extremely friendly and approachable. At no time did I feel intimidated or that I could not ask questions, everyone is helping everyone and no-one’s office door is closed. I was also lucky enough to participate in staff meetings and training sessions such as the Too Hard Basket ran by Sam Hawkins and the general meetings which made me feel like a true staff member. Even with the seriousness of meetings and daily tasks, the staff take time to communicate with each other, celebrate each other’s wins and have a laugh. In my short two weeks we celebrated a birthday, the departure of Deakin Legal Interns and welcomed a new social work student, every occasion marked with cake, of course.
Overall, my experience here has been an educational one as well as an enjoyable one. I learnt just how integral front of house staff are at helping people find who they need to speak to for assistance, whether it is BCLS or another agency. I will take the broader understanding and knowledge I have gained of the different types of services that exist in Geelong and Victoria that provide legal and other assistance to members of the public, into my future legal career.