Lawyering for Change: new research on the value of strategic advocacy by community legal centres and how to do it

Access to justice is not as simple as the provision of free legal services according to a new report. Strategic advocacy is often the missing ingredient to ensure that justice is done.
The new report, titled Lawyering for Change, considers the value of strategic advocacy and public interest litigation by community legal centres (CLCs), and proposes a best practice framework for strategic lawyering.

The report, by 2014/15 Victoria Law Foundation CLC Fellow and Consumer Action Law Centre Senior Solicitor, Ms Agata Wierzbowski, undertook interviews with 100 community lawyers, international human rights organisations, peak bodies, academics, researchers and public interest law organisations.

She found that strategic advocacy is a resource-effective way in which centres can both assist their clients and community, and support a fairer and more just legal system.

“By processing people through an unfair legal system we risk simply perpetuating injustice through our work” said Ms Wierzbowski. ”With over 150 thousand clients turned away from community legal centres in 2014, it is clear that we cannot meet the high demand for our services going case-by-case.”

“Strategic advocacy can help bridge these gaps. The Lawyering for Change report proposes seven best practice principles of strategic advocacy. This may assist legal practices to achieve more effective justice for those most in need,” said Ms Wierzbowski.

Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody said that the new report offers practical guidance for community legal services.

“The report identifies that effectively fighting systemic injustice requires a broad range of skills and capabilities,” said Mr Brody, “Partnerships, communication, media and evaluation bolster our legal work and mean we’re helping many more people than those that knock on our doors”

Victoria Law Foundation Executive Director Joh Kirby said Ms Wierzbowski’s report epitomises the depth of knowledge that exists within Victoria’s community legal sector.
“The research that Agata has undertaken contributes to a growing pool of research, funded through the Community Legal Centre Fellowship,” Ms Kirby said. “The quality, breadth and passion evident in it will ensure that it will have an impact on the work of the sector.”

Running from 2003 until 2015, the CLC Fellowship was established to coincide with 30 years of community legal centres in Victoria, and were awarded each year to one CLC lawyer to carry-out an in-depth study examining a legal issue facing the community.

Media Contact:
Agata Wierzbowski, Senior Solicitor, Consumer Action Law Centre on 0431 975 770 or agata@consumeraction.org.au or
Chloe Adams, Communications Manager, Victoria Law Foundation on cadams@victorialawfoundation.org.au / 0421 254 161

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