Sometimes as students we find ourselves in sticky, stressful situations. Whether it's tenancy troubles, uncertainty about contracts, or a dispute with an employer, we can sometimes feel out of our depth and unsure about where to go.
Luckily, Community Law Otago can assist with all of these issues, providing free legal information and assistance to those who need it. At the forefront of the organization is some of Otago’s very own Law students. Tessa, Thomas, Lauren and Anna are part of the Community Law team. They provide legal education and advice to a broad range of people across Dunedin.
“Community law is an organisation that gives free legal advice and runs workshops about common legal issues that people may have,” says Tessa, who is part of the Legal Education Program.
“People come in and make appointments to see students like us, then we work with qualified lawyers to do research and formulate advice and run the client through what to do,” says Anna, who does both legal education and gives advice. The problems which the team works through can be complex and confronting, or simply mundane problems that pop up in everyday life, such as taxes or tenancy issues. Despite the sometimes confronting issues, Anna says that “it’s the most awesome experience helping people.”
Lauren agrees, saying “we are out in the community dealing with real issues. To be involved in the community gives you more perspective, you have to be open minded and you can’t judge anyone, you just need to help them.” Alongside being involved in the community, the volunteers say that the experience helps them to develop their own skills. “In law, we don’t learn practical skills or how to bond with clients. This is the perfect way to do it,” says Thomas.
The law is something which can often be inaccessible to many for a variety of reasons, whether its cost, resources or time, forking out to see a lawyer isn’t always an option for most people. Community Law Otago ensures that help and legal advice is available to everyone no matter their scenario. “Law should be accessible to everyone, and everyone should know their rights,” says Tessa.
“It really breaks the barriers down,” says Anna, “and it makes [the law] everyday, so everyone can understand it.”
If you are in need of legal help, or are just wanting to seek advice, Community Law does walk in or arranged appointments. Alternatively, you can look at the online Community Law handbook online at communitylaw.org.nz or phone (03) 474 1922.