Friday, January 25, 2013

TAAS is good for tenants. We're good for students, too.

An article in 'The Australian' today profiles community lawyer Jacqui Swinburne, formerly of the Inner Sydney Tenants' Advice & Advocacy Service, and chronicles her career with Redfern Legal Centre.

Swinburne pays tribute to the value of TAAS, by sharing her own account of accessing a tenancy service when in need of advice, which lead to her ongoing interest in legal work:
It struck me that there I was, an educated person who had no idea about the laws and protections for tenants. I realised how difficult it would be for other people and I got really interested in the area.
She recalls her time as a volunteer, and later as a tenants' advocate, and taking those experiences with her into her studies in law:
Working for tenancy services is a great way to get experience, as you can give advice without the need for a law degree, and support clients by going along to the relevant tribunal as an advocate.
Working in a legal field while studying was a huge help. You can put things into context quite quickly.
We couldn't agree more with Ms Swinburne, and her comments in the paper today have got us thinking  more broadly about the contribution TAASs make to the legal profession in New South Wales.

There are many examples of law students taking up residence in a Tenants' Advice & Advocacy Service, and gaining vital experience of the law in full swing - while providing a service to tenants that makes a genuine difference by putting their interests above all else.

Some of these students have gone on to become great lawyers for community legal centres and Legal Aid, or to do fantastic pro-bono work with major law firms and barristers' chambers. Some have moved into government roles, where their experience and understanding of justice helps to inform policy. Many keep in touch, and remain friends of the TAASs (and, for that matter, the Brown Couch) to this day.

Then again, some never see the need to move on - there are some great lawyers currently working as tenants' advocates in New South Wales as well...

Of course, not all tenants' advocates are lawyers, and we'd be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn't acknowledge the breadth of experience and interests that makes our network so strong. But, for today at least, with thanks to Jacqui Swinburne for kicking off the conversation, we tip our hats to the lawyers, past and present, of the Tenants Advice & Advocacy Services.

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