Law students should remember their potential to contribute to a more just and equal society, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Australian National University (ANU) law student society social justice dinner, McClelland said law students are full of enthusiasm, ambition and insight into emerging issues and challenges in the community.
"I hope that your exposure to date has highlighted not only the opportunities but the responsibility and privilege that come with being part of the profession," he said.
McClelland reminded students that the law in practice is very different to the academic exercise undertaken at university.
"As a recent law student described to me, in talking about her work at a community legal centre: 'It's so different here - at university we focus on cases where the court has made the decision, whereas here we have to find the answers. We have to assess the information the client gives us, consider the relevant legal framework and then identify solutions which will work best for the client'," he said.
Law students could help advocate for social justice, both domestically and internationally, and generate support for systematic change, through volunteering at community legal centres or via membership to non-government organisations such as Amnesty and Red Cross, McClelland said.
"I believe that the human dimension of the law and the responsibility which comes with advocating for others contributes to a strong social justice ethos within the legal profession," he said.
- Sarah Sharples