New Zealand Law Society - It definitely helped develop her as a lawyer

It definitely helped develop her as a lawyer

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

Being involved with the Wellington Community Justice Project (WCJP) “definitely” helped Emily Bruce’s development as a lawyer, she says.

Now working for Melanie Baker in Lower Hutt, her practice is a mix of criminal defence and family law work. “It’s mostly legal aid in our practice.

“Law school set me up for this,” she says.

Ms Bruce was one of a group of around 10 law students who established WCJP in 2010 while she was in her fourth year at university.

“It was the idea of a law student called Helena Cook”, Ms Bruce says. Ms Cook gathered together a group of like-minded law students to develop the programme, a group that included Ms Bruce.

The aims of the WCJP when it was being set up was to improve access to justice, and giving law students the opportunity to be involved in programmes that enhanced that access.

Just as it has now, the WCJP was established with the four streams: advocacy, education, human rights and law reform.

Over the six years it has been operating, these areas have continued developing.

“They are doing all sorts of really cool things now,” Ms Bruce says. “It’s doing pretty well for itself.

“There are definitely some committed law students out there, that’s for sure, which is really cool.”

Did you find being involved with WCJP was helpful?

“Yes definitely. I think it’s really good at connecting people to community organisations.

“You get to see where all the gaps in the community are, and it makes you want to get out there and get involved.

“I was more involved in co-ordinating and organising things, but I know that some of the people who volunteered in projects – for a while we had students helping in restorative justice – I think some of them in particular, it’s connected them to the whole world of court and community legal work, which is really good I think.

“I think it definitely connects people to that sort of work. Quite a few of us have gone down that path.”

Quite a bit of criminal lawyering is about helping people with the issues that have caused the offending. Is that right?

“Absolutely. Definitely. Without a doubt often the issues that drive the offending are non-legal ones. I think things like WCJP help people who are going to become lawyers to see what the services are that we can give people and what the services are that we can connect people to.

“I think that’s probably the most important thing – helping people with housing or benefits or anger management or drug and alcohol counselling. All of that kind of information, it’s really important to know where it is and what it’s all about. I think that community volunteering helps you to see that and learn who those people are who can help your clients.”

So it’s about being there for your clients in a fairly holistic sense?

“Absolutely. You can’t do a lot of that yourself because you’re not a professional [in those areas] but knowing where to refer people is really important.

“And just being alert to what somebody’s needs might be is really important too,” Ms Bruce says.

Lawyer Listing for Bots