Establishing a climate justice clinic in collaboration with a university.
The Pro Bono Practice at Russell Kennedy Lawyers has partnered with Monash Law School’s clinical program in running a new Climate Justice Clinic (CJC). Russell Kennedy Lawyers have seconded supervising lawyers to the clinic and assisted in preparing the reading and seminar program. The firm has worked alongside clinical supervisors and senior environmental lawyers Ariane Wilkinson (of Environmental Justice Australia) and Hubert Algie (of Kellehers).
A pilot clinic ran from August-October 2019, and its success has meant that the CJC is now featured within Monash Law School’s In-House Clinical Placement unit. The CJC gives students the opportunity to expand and apply their knowledge of climate law, develop practical lawyering skills, and contribute to legal interventions that mitigate climate change. Importantly, the clinic also engages students with the ethical and political dimensions of climate justice. In the words of CJC founder, Professor Adrian Evans of Monash Law School, a climate justice clinic is a perfect means of targeting our future lawyers, and should “play a part in strengthening the political and social consciousness of the law students who pass through it.” Students are divided into project teams and assigned a “real client” such as a non-governmental organization, a grass-roots organization, and an Indigenous-led organization. They are also working on developing a client base among some Pacific Island states. They attend seminars with specialist presenters, and carry out research and prepare legal advice for their clients, under close supervision. Projects have included advising on opportunities for climate litigation, and strategic policy and legislative analysis to advance climate justice in policy and government practice. It is hoped that some of the CJC research will convert into strategic litigation, perhaps co-initiated by firms such as Russell Kennedy Lawyers.
Rahul, a past student of the CJC, said, “The CJC space is incredible as it marries the energy of University students with the expertise of professionals to create an incredibly powerful force driving action. Prior to participating in the clinic, I didn’t know how to direct my passion towards the climate fight… Through my work with climate lawyers and seminars with other climate professionals, I made tangible contributions and learned how to continue making an impact after my placement concluded.”