Students explore legal issues in the media spotlight

This semester, four UQ law students undertook a clinical legal education placement with Caxton Legal Centre through its Consumer Law Advice Clinic. Under close supervision, students assisted clients in an area of law currently under a media spotlight due to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.  Three of the students describe their experience working at Caxton in this context.

L to R:  Sean McBurnie, Mandy Wang, Erin Littman, Rohan McPhee

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was a significant factor during my time at Caxton Legal Centre. Many clients reported that they were prompted to contact the Consumer Law Advice Clinic after seeing media coverage about the Royal Commission and the dodgy dealings of the banks. Unfortunately, the media is not an excellent source of legal information. This caused many clients to possess unrealistic protectionary expectations of the current law. Therefore, as student volunteer, I regularly worked to provide clients with information about their basic legal rights and obligations when seeking credit by providing Fact Sheets or explaining relevant legislative provisions in plain English. Indeed, in these troubling times, the Consumer Law Advice Clinic plays a vital role in providing legal education to everyday consumers. – Erin Littman

One of the most interesting aspects of participating in the Consumer Law Advice Clinic was the diversity of the matters to which we were exposed. Black-letter consumer law under the Australian Consumer Law was not nearly as prominent as I would have thought it would be coming into the clinic, and I, along with my fellow students, had opportunities to provide advice not only in relation to standard consumer law matters, but in relation to debt issues, housing foreclosures, and a variety of unscrupulous activities across the funeral benefits, pawn, and motor dealing industries. Learning to navigate through a broad variety of industry-specific statutes was eye-opening with respect to understanding the difficulty faced by everyday consumers in dealing with the intricacies of their individual matters. This affirmed in my mind the essential role that the Consumer Law Advice Clinic provides to the community, particularly when consumers so often occupy less powerful positions than the corporate counterparties with which they deal. – Sean McBurnie

With the Commonwealth Government’s Banking Royal Commission in full swing, the first half of 2018 was a unique and exciting time to volunteer at the Consumer Law Advice Clinic.  The widespread media coverage of the proceedings drove an increased number of calls and appointments about consumer credit and personal loans matters, as people sought to pursue their financial services providers for perceived dodgy practices.  The substance of the matters varied—many were vexatious or ill-informed, while some involved genuine misconduct—but the continued feeling of angst by consumers provided a fascinating of the interaction between politics and the law.  In addition to building our substantive legal knowledge and practical skills, the experience highlighted the challenges faced by legal practitioners as political circumstances change. – Rohan McPhee

Last updated:
4 July 2018