Published on Wednesday 27, June 2018

Natasha and Charley - VGSO 

Managing Principal Solicitor Natasha Maugueret and Senior Solicitor Charley Brumby-Rendell, VGSO secondees

The Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office (VGSO) is one of IMCL’s committed pro bono partners, providing its lawyers with an opportunity to give back  to the community through a 10-year secondment partnership with IMCL. IMCL spoke with former Secondee VGSO Managing Principal Solicitor Natasha Maugueret and VGSO Senior Solicitor and current Secondee to IMCL Charley Brumby-Rendell.

The secondment partnership - a unique model

IMCL and the VGSO pro bono partnership sees a VGSO lawyer placed on secondment at IMCL for one full year. 

“Pro bono work is an opportunity within your ordinary work environment to still contribute to another organisation, and we’re really lucky that the VGSO has committed to that with IMCL,” explains VGSO Managing Principal Solicitor Natasha Maugueret.

"It is quite a unique model," she explains. 

"Often there are partnerships with private firms, but they won’t be able to commit to providing someone for a whole year. I think what VGSO does is amazing, because they really have an opportunity to be embedded in the  organisation, to understand how it works, and then to really contribute."

For Ms Maugueret, the chance to do a secondment to what was then North Melbourne Legal Service, was one of the reasons that she remained at the VGSO. 

"I was considering other opportunities at the time, but the opportunity to do that secondment made me stay, because it was very important to me."   

Ms Brumby-Rendell is currently on secondment at IMCL, and the secondment opportunity was also what attracted her to a role at the VGSO. 

"My experience at IMCL will make me a better government lawyer at the VGSO," explains Ms Brumby-Rendell. 

"The secondment involves being embedded in the organisation, and I have really enjoyed working with the team at IMCL. They are really committed to assisting vulnerable members of the community; they take the time to reflect, find  ways they can do their work better, and engage with the most vulnerable members of the community."

"I think that I’ve learned a lot about myself and other members of the community, and how the law really affects people in practice. I definitely think that I can take that experience and apply it to my work at the VGSO." 

A change in approach to lawyering

Working on secondment at IMCL, explains Ms Brumby-Rendell, has shaped her practice, as she can see how the law affects vulnerable people on the ground.

"It is definitely a different role, having that direct client relationship – it’s their legal problem, it’s often something that causes them stress in their life – so it’s very different from advising a government client.

“A lot people come to [VGSO] because they care about working in the public interest and they care about improving the world we live in. Some people want to do that up close and some people want to do that from a distance. At  VGSO, you get to do that from a distance, and here at IMCL you definitely get to do that up close, and I’ve learned a lot from that experience.” 

Ms Maugueret notes that it takes a special kind of person to be a community lawyer.

"It’s so much more about who you are, how you empathise with people, but also so much about how you pull back and establish boundaries."

The importance of CLCs 

"CLCs are uniquely placed to understand the issues going on in the community, and with individuals at an early level – they can pick up on them and advocate more broadly," says Ms Maugueret. 

Ms Brumby-Rendell sees the role of CLCs as filling in the gaps in the justice system, stepping in where some other services are unable to provide for people. 

"It was definitely a learning experience when I started at IMCL, realising just how many people fall through the system."

Ms Brumby-Rendell notes that as well as providing support to vulnerable community members at IMCL’s office in North Melbourne, IMCL finds ways to make sure that it is engaging with the community outside of the four walls of the legal service. 

"IMCL has quite a few partnerships with different community organisations in the Inner Melbourne community, the most obvious one being the health justice partnerships with the hospitals."

Ms Maugueret recalls one of the most fulfilling parts of her role when on secondment was working with Ozanam House, CASA House, the health justice partnership with the Royal Women’s hospital, as well as delivering community legal education to high schools. 

"I loved that more holistic attitude, that opportunity to plug into people in a non-legal setting so that they would feel more comfortable coming to you in a legal one," says Ms Maugueret. 

"It helps to give you context to a client's legal problems, to what else is going on in their lives and being connected with the workers or the people that are assisting them with their non-legal problems," adds Ms Brumby-Rendell. 

A typical day for a secondee at IMCL 

Every VGSO secondee’s year at IMCL is quite different, depending on IMCL’s need, as well as the secondee’s own interests. 

"I’ve been in the family violence duty lawyer role," explains Ms Brumby-Rendell. 

"Often once a week I go to Melbourne Magistrate’s court and I am the duty lawyer on the family violence list, and I very much enjoy that role. The rest of my caseload is mainly fines files. Fines really affect vulnerable members of the community. I assist them to either have their fines waived or reduced. It is never-ending work, but also very rewarding."

Ms Brumby-Rendell has also been involved with the health justice partnership that IMCL runs with the Royal Melbourne Hospital and regularly attends the outreach clinics.

s committed pro bono partners,

providing its lawyers with an opportunity to give back to

the community through 10-year

partnership with IMCL. IMCL spoke with former Secondee

VGSO Managing Principal Solicitor

Natasha Maugueret and VGSO Senior Solicitor and current

Secondee to IMCL Charley Brumby-