Five things you’ll gain from an internship with the Victoria Law Foundation

Getting experience in the legal sector can be the difference you need to really stand out in the workforce once you graduate. With a Victoria Law Foundation internship, not only will you feel good about working in an organisation that makes a difference, but you’ll expand your networks and get a behind-the-scenes look at a range of alternative legal careers too.

Lizzy Tunnecliff

Lizzy Tunnecliff tells all about her internship with us.

But don’t take just our word for it. We spoke with one of our past interns, Lizzy Tunnecliff, who told us what she got out of her Victoria Law Foundation internship last year.

Lizzy worked mostly in our grants area, looking at the best ways to evaluate the work our grants support, and making recommendations based on best-practice across the philanthropic sector.

So without further ado, here are Lizzy’s top five take-aways from our internship program.

 1.      Adapting skills for the workforce

The internship was fundamental in helping me make the transition from academic to professional writing. I gained a greater awareness of the importance of ensuring your writing meets your employer’s objectives, is reflective of resource limitations or public sector pressures, and incorporates your employer’s preferred style.

 2.      Getting to know who’s who in the legal sector

During my internship I spoke with a number of legal and philanthropic experts from a variety of organisations, including: Victoria Legal Aid, Public Interest Law Clearing House and Deakin University. I really valued their generosity in sharing their expertise and experience in project evaluation within the legal sector. Also, t

he foundation was great at connecting me with eminent members of the legal community. After completing my internship, I began volunteering at an environmental community legal centre which was another great development opportunity.

 3.      Bettering networking skills

My communication skills also developed during the internship. Whether it was attending meetings with potential grant recipients, assisting with the annual Legal Laneway Breakfast, or liaising with legal organisations, I now feel confident when engaging with stakeholders in my current role.

 4.      Dealing with organisational constraints

It was always challenging to hear so many excellent grant proposals from organisations, knowing that the foundation wouldn’t have financial capacity to fund all of the projects.

 5.      Insights into alternative legal careers

The internship program helped me see breadth of career opportunities available in the legal sector in government, not-for-profit and community organisations. After my internship, I was lucky enough to continue working at the foundation in a part time capacity. I had further exposure to the work of the foundation and its impact within metropolitan and rural Victoria. It helped me realise how much I enjoy making a tangible contribution to the community while making use of my legal skills.

 So where is Lizzy now?

After her internship, Lizzy stayed on at the foundation in casual employment; and since finishing her degree she is now gainfully employed in the Australian Public Service graduate program in Canberra. With her experience at the foundation behind her, she’s now working across legislative compliance and interpretation, health and social policy development, as well as having a stint in a Ministerial Office in Parliament House.

How to intern with us

We are now taking applications from current Victorian law students who’d like to join our internship program for 2014/15. To apply, just visit our website or contact us today. Applications close Monday 10 February 2014.

Lizzy’s tips for applying

Aside from academic marks and analytical skills, remember to communicate other qualities such as energy, enthusiasm and an ability to work productively in a collaborative environment, which can be just as important.

To find out more, visit: www.victorialawfoundation.org.au

Good lawyers need training to be good communicators

Victoria Law Foundation Executive Director Joh Kirby on the importance of training law students to be good legal writers and communicators.

Go to Courtoons website This week the New Yorker on their blog published an article on Bryan Garner highlighting his work with US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Bryan Garner is a world renowned expert on legal writing, grammar and style and a collector of antiquarian law books. He has been published widely and is the editor of Black’s Law Dictionary and Garner’s Modern English Usage published by Oxford University Press, both leading American texts in the area. His publications and achievements are so extensive it is impossible to list them all here. Needless to say, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to legal writing.

In the most recent edition of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing Mr Garner published interviews with all the US Supreme Court Justices on their views on legal writing and advocacy. It is worth reading for the insight that it provides into the thinking of US Supreme Court justices and also to reflect on how their views might compare with those in Australia.

I recently heard Mr Garner speak in Washington DC as part of the plain language in law conference, Clarity2012. The part of his speech that resonated with me the most was how being a good legal writer takes time, just like being a professional sports star. It is a learnt skill and one that, unfortunately, in my view we aren’t teaching to our law students. This is a disservice to them as well as the profession.

While it is a given that being a good lawyer requires excellent legal skills, I would argue that a good lawyer must also be a good communicator. You need to have the ability to ensure that a client, whether a CEO of a large corporation or a newly arrived person to Australia with limited English, understands the advice being given and can act on it. The United States has courses in legal writing, including one of the most well-known, run by Garner’s colleague in the redrafting of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Joseph Kimble at Thomas Cooley Law School.

Isn’t it about time that we acknowledged the skill and training needed to be a good legal writer, and gave our law students the skills to excel in this area?

Mr Garner is in Melbourne this week talking at the Federal Court on legal writing and at University of Melbourne on collecting antiquarian law books.