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UWA student intern shows great resilience in completing Legal Aid WA internship from home

26 June, 2020

McCusker Centre for Citizenship student intern Matthew Bryan has shown “remarkable skill” in adapting to working from home during the pandemic, according to his Legal Aid WA (LAWA) internship supervisor.

For his 100-hour community service internship, the University of WA Business Law student researched and summarised case law for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) disputes and built a database for solicitors and disability advocates.

Because he did not have physical access to the LAWA’s library of case files while working from home, Mr Bryan instead accessed already-published cases through an online database.

“Hopefully once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, I’ll be able to continue on with the unpublished decisions,” he said.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Appeals (Civil Law Division) Solicitor Margaret Irvine said her intern was unphased by the challenges of COVID-19.

“Matt has demonstrated a positive work ethic throughout his placement and has worked diligently and consistently throughout the lockdown,” Ms Irvine said.

“He has continued his learning journey and extends his capacity to assist our team wherever possible. 

“The NDIS is a developing area of law and a reliable database of case law can be invaluable.  This is a practical resource which can be of great assistance in matters.”

Bicton resident Mr Bryan said he felt very lucky to be matched with LAWA.

“Ultimately, I hope that my project will help people with disabilities to receive the funding that they need to lead included, happy and meaningful lives,” he said.

“Beyond the general satisfaction that is inherent to helping disadvantaged people, I’m thankful for the exposure that working in a functioning legal office will give me.”

In addition to his central project, Ms Irvine invited Mr Bryan to shadow him in several cases she was working on.

“As part of this I have been drafting memos, conducting paralegal research and sitting in on conferences, all of which provides a degree of learning that is difficult to obtain in a classroom,” he said.

“As many other law students would know, it’s this experiential learning that proves to be the most valuable when you’re working in graduate law jobs, so I’m very keen to continue with this.”

The McCusker Centre for Citizenship recently received almost double the expected number of student applications for its upcoming winter (June-July) round of internships. 

Centre Director Michelle Scott said the “overwhelming” number of applications was a sign that young people were increasingly seeking opportunities to engage with and give back to their communities.

“It is clear UWA students have a great appetite for internships with a social purpose,” Ms Scott said.

“They have seen the very practical way that their peers contributed, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, and want to do the same.”