JESSICA Philips, 28, wanted to be a fighter pilot but says that as she gets motion sickness it probably wasn’t a smart idea.
Instead she studied law and works at the Ballarat law Courts. “I did legal studies at school and probably watched a few episodes of JAG and law interested me so I took a year off and then went to La Trobe and did five years of a double degree in Melbourne,” she said in her easy going manner. Jessica comes from a family of farmers and says her granddad always wanted to study law and wanted her father to be a doctor, “but dad became a plumber,” she laughed. “I finished in December 2010 and I had to do a 3 month course in practical legal training before I could be admitted to practice as a lawyer work experience and then I was admitted to practice in December 2011. “I had a bit of trouble getting a job and it’s the same for most law graduates, so I volunteered with the Legal Centre in Ballarat, at the suggestion of my friend, just to get some experience so I could be employable. “They (eventually) created a part time position that I applied for and was successful and eventually it built up to full time work in 2013.” The Central Highlands Community Legal Centre (CH CLC) serves the people of the Central Highlands region who are socio-economically disadvantaged in their access to justice. Services include some legal representation in courts, tribunals and other venues. They also provide advice, information and referral services. “We do outreach to two prisons in the area, we do family violence in Ballarat twice a week and once a month outreach to Stawell and Ararat,” Jessica said. “We see people about criminal matters, family law , family violence, victims of crime, civil debt matters and those sorts of things.” Jessica added that she can see up to 80 people a month. With permission, she gives an example of just one case that she worked on: “A gentleman and his granddaughter went to look at a car to buy for her. The money she had from the insurance from a car accident had been put in a term deposit in a bank,” Jessica explained.
“So they looked at a car, drove it, decided it’s what they wanted and said to the owner they would go and see what they could do about the money and come back. “She went to the bank, who said it would cost her more in penalties etc so they decided not to take the money and went back to the owner and said ‘thank you very much but we can’t get the money’. “He, without agreement from the client, had authorized repairs to be done to the car and said to the client ‘you have to pay $600 for repairs even though you haven’t done anything with it. “The client was in a position where there was another large man between him and the door so he agreed, on the basis to get out the door that he would pay within a month.
“He didn’t pay and the owner rang him and asked why he hadn’t paid and then presented to get a debt collector to pursue the client, who is an elderly man who doesn’t work, for $600 odd dollars and in the meantime the client had found out the car had been sold, as well, so this person was doing a dodgy.
“ He came to see us in a bit of a state so we wrote to the debt collector saying you shouldn’t be pursuing this because your client has sold the car and in any event he agreed under duress. “I saw the client afterwards and he was very relieved with the outcome.” Jessica said she enjoys social justice and while she doesn’t paid as well, she does get job satisfaction.
“When you get a good outcome it’s fantastic so I really enjoy that and that’s why I’ve stayed as long as I have and I would like to continue in that type of vein even if I don’t stay with the Community Centre forever,” she said.
“I have been headhunted a few times but I’ve stuck to my guns and stayed in the Community Legal Centre because the work I was headhunted for didn’t suit the type of work I wanted to do.
“I like court work and advocacy and being on my feet and the work I was asked to do was sitting behind a desk. “I always said I would never do law for the money, it’s about the work and the enjoyment and fulfillment.”