Demand for free law service skyrockets

By Jade Cooper

Canterbury University students are volunteering their services at community law offices. Photo / Geoff Sloan
Canterbury University students are volunteering their services at community law offices. Photo / Geoff Sloan

Post-earthquake demand for free legal service at Community Law Canterbury has skyrocketed, making the legal centre the biggest of its kind in the country.

The Canterbury University law school has a close relationship with the Community Law Centre, with about 100 students volunteering for the service.

Dean of the law school Chris Gallavin said the need for basic legal advice had increased dramatically since the earthquake, with problems arising that had never been addressed before.

"It's not just the basic earthquake problems like: 'Will I get paid if I can't go in to work after a quake?'"

Mr Gallavin said there were bigger issues.

"Gap filler issues, schools closing, resident zoning issues; these are areas we are finding there is real need for in the community."

Community Law Canterbury solicitor Lara Prince said that there has been a significant increase in demand since the earthquake, and Community Law has added services to deal with this.

"There are now advice clinics out at Avondale Golf Club, and we also see a lot of earthquake-related issues through our general advice services."

Miss Prince said that law students played an invaluable role in the service.

"We can see many more clients thanks to the student volunteers. Students provide legal information over the phone, interview clients, research, and advocate for school students at school board of trustee hearings," Miss Prince said.

Mr Gallavin said that as well as providing support for the recovering community, volunteering for the legal centre was also a fantastic opportunity for law students.

"Having some practical experience is a real strong point of difference when they graduate, the fact that they have dealt with real people, with real problems will be impressive to employers."

Canterbury University law student and Community Law volunteer Hester Moore said she had gained some "indispensable practical experience" working for the free legal service.

"Whilst providing an obvious outlet for socially conscious students' interests, it's really satisfying to have identified, researched, and communicated an often previously unknown area of the law to another person."

- Christchurch Star

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