Queensland has 34 not-for-profit community legal centres (CLCs) dotted across the state.
They have a long, established history of harnessing volunteer support and providing pro bono legal advice and assistance to society’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people and communities.
Volunteering Queensland – the state’s chief non-profit volunteer and community engagement organisation – estimates that as many as 700,000 of the state’s 5.18 million people give freely of their time each year to make an extraordinary impact on the people, communities and environments in which they live.
Many of these are lawyers.
As part of this week’s Queensland Law Week (May 18-24) and National Volunteer Week (May 17-23) celebrations, QLS Proctor is featuring some of the many selfless members of the profession who regularly give back to their local communities.
Shaun Chng –corporate lawyer and pro-bono coordinator Clayton Utz Brisbane
What motivated you to become a CLC volunteer?
As a young adult, I volunteered with various community organisations back when I was in Malaysia and also when I moved to Sydney in 2013. Through my volunteering experience, I recognise the value and impact giving one’s time can have on someone in need of help. When I moved up to Brisbane, I wanted to continue staying connected with the community and utilise my skill set to help make a difference.
What does your volunteering role involve?
I volunteer with various community legal centres, including with Caxton Legal Centre where I have been a regular volunteer lawyer in the Employment Law Clinic since 2019. I also volunteer with LawRight and also remotely with Redfern Legal Centre in Sydney where I used to work and volunteer at. I am also a volunteer management committee member at the LBGTI Legal Service.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
There are too many things I enjoy about volunteering at CLCs. However, I would say the one thing I enjoy the most is being able to stay connected with the community. Working in the legal profession daily, we sometimes forget how privileged and fortunate we are to be in this profession. Volunteering really allows us to ground ourselves and allows us the opportunity to help disadvantaged individuals in a way that others who are not in the same profession can.
What have you gained – personally and professionally – from volunteering at a CLC?
Professionally, I continue to learn and increase my knowledge in the areas of law that significantly affect disadvantaged individuals, such as employment exploitation among migrants/refugees or discrimination among minority groups. Volunteering at CLCs also helps me improve on my communication and interpersonal skills which I utilise in my everyday practice. On a personal level, volunteering is a great reminder to myself to embody compassion and empathy every day.
Do you find volunteering work significant, impactful or rewarding? If so, why?
100 per cent. One of the three core personal values I embody in my everyday life is compassion. An act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wasted and makes a big difference to our community and the world. Volunteer work is impactful and rewarding as not only does it give you an opportunity to help someone in need, it also teaches you a lot and contributes to your personal growth as a lawyer and as a person. CLC clients I’ve helped out are always grateful and say that they’ve derived a huge benefit from having access to free legal services, however, I believe the benefit and impact it has on me is even more valuable.