By Eliza Barnes
The Law Institute of Victoria was established in 1859. It is the peak body for the Victorian Legal Profession, representing more than 19 000 lawyers working in the legal sectors in Victoria, interstate and overseas. The role of LIV is to promote law reform, initiate programs to support the needs of a changing profession, respond publicly to issues affecting the profession and broader community, deliver legal education programs and provide expert services and resources to LIV members. By representing a vast group of lawyers, LIV is able to gain information about issues within the profession, which they can then help to reform. Frequently, this is done by making submissions to government bodies and other entities detailing why a law or policy should be changed and making recommendations for change.
I am interning once a week for 10 weeks at LIV in the criminal law policy section. I feel very fortunate to be working on issues of criminal law because it is the area of law I most interested in pursuing after the completion of my degree.
So far during my time at LIV I have worked on a submission concerning infringements legislation and another concerning the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Other jobs I have been given include researching, compiling data, deciphering letters from members of the public and attending meetings. I have particularly enjoyed attending meetings held at LIV. I have taken minutes in two meetings to date. One was a meeting of LIV criminal law policy members and high-profile criminal lawyers who met to discuss the LIV and Criminal Bar Association’s joint appearance in court after being asked to submit their stance on two separate issues. The other meeting involved people from a number of organisations talking about Australia ratifying the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture and what this will hopefully mean for offenders in juvenile detention centres. There were some pretty horrifying stories that came out about how young offenders were being treated in Australia, including the use of weighted vests, shackles, masks and the overuse of solitary confinement or “management” as it is often called.
My experience at LIV has had a significant effect on me in the sense that it has made me question whether I am better suited to working in a firm or in policy. Because I want to become a lawyer, naturally I assumed that I would strive to work in a firm. However there are many lawyers working at LIV who don’t represent clients but rather, they work on issues of policy and law reform, which is something I am thoroughly enjoying.
I would highly recommend completing an internship at the LIV. I am so glad that I was given this opportunity.
Eliza Barnes is currently in her fifth year studying a double degree of law and international relations at La Trobe University.