Where are they now? - Barwon Community Legal Service

Where are they now?

“The best thing about PLT at BCLS is that it is an organisation that could use me. Other placements just find something to keep you occupied, while BCLS immediately puts you to work contributing to the team and the community”.  – Luke McGowan

At BCLS we love to see where our volunteers, students and lawyers end up after working with us. Recently, we got in touch with some of our past Practical Legal Training students to see where they are now and how their time at BCLS has assisted them in their current roles. The overarching response was that BCLS was an invaluable experience that taught a vast variety of skills relevant to future positions and that employers think highly of time spent in a community legal centre.

According to James Silcock, the breadth of work at BCLS provided some great examples of relevant experience to use in job applications for both traditional and non-traditional law firms. A placement in a private firm with a focus on a sole area of law wouldn’t provide the same experience. James is currently working for an Energy Regulator as an Analyst in Canberra (part of the ACCC) and is responsible for monitoring compliance for the wholesale electricity market. James said his time at BCLS “made the transition from PLT to employment seamless” and doesn’t think it would have been possible without BCLS as we were a great reference for landing his first job. This sentiment was mirrored by Vanessa Mantella who completed her PLT with BCLS in 2014 and has been with the Fair Work Commission ever since. She states that her employers were really interested in her work with BCLS and that it has provided a solid foundation for her career progression and development.

Involvement in our community legal education programs also provide skills and benefits for future roles. Our previous PLT, Charuka Samarasekara, uses his experience in presenting to communities in his current role as Child Rights Governance Officer of the Centre for Rural Development in Vietnam. He is responsible for building the Centre for Rural Developments competency to promote Child Rights Protection and Child Rights Governance. He said he “learnt to distribute knowledge through outreach presentations and events at the BCLS” and that this is specifically helpful in his current role.

The majority of our feedback related to the chance that a PLT placement at BCLS gives law graduates to communicate directly with clients and run their own files. Tamara Splatt is currently employed as a personal injury lawyer for Slater and Gordon and Luke McGowan is a solicitor and branch manager at First Class Legal and they both appreciate the value of face-to-face interaction with our diverse range of clients. Luke noted that once you have learnt strategies to manage BCLS clients that can present to the office with a range of experiences from serious trauma to anger about their situation, there isn’t anything in his current role that he isn’t equipped to deal with. Tamara specifically valued the ability to develop her letter writing skills to ensure she explained legal issues in a concise and easy to understand manner, and uses this repeatedly in her current position.


If you need work experience hours as part of your Practical Legal Training and are keen to gain hands on experience in a wide range of areas of law give the office a call on (03) 5221 4744 or email mandi.hyland@barwoncls.org.au.

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