Uni-Based Law Firm Offers Low-Cost Services and Graduate Pathways

Apart from legal aid, legal advice can be expensive. And as anyone going through a divorce well knows, finding a low-cost family law firm is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Wallumatta Legal, created by Macquarie University and international law firm DLA Piper, may not consider itself a needle. But the academics and legal professionals behind this low-cost, not-for-profit family law firm agree that its establishment heralds a new day for legal services in Australia.

Daniel Ghezelbash of Wallumatta Legal with law student and articling student Perri Hutchings.Credit:Rhett Wyman

Located in Macquarie University’s new Arts District, the firm will provide family law services to the “missing middle” – parents who are not eligible for legal aid or other free services but who cannot easily afford the fees charged by most commercial lawyers.

“The missing link covers most essential aged care workers, as well as nurses, teachers, cleaners and delivery drivers. They are very capable and they are the people we have relied on to get through the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Daniel Ghezelbash, associate professor at Macquarie Law School and board member of Wallumatta Legal.

“They have full-time, part-time, or casual jobs and can afford day-to-day expenses, but they just don’t have the savings to deal with things like marriage breakdown and marriage issues. potential indebtedness that may arise,” says Ghezelbash.

The new law firm also offers several wins for Macquarie University law students. Six students are currently interning with Wallamutta Legal as part of their studies, a number that will grow as nonprofits scale.

For law student Perri Hutchings, the articling experience was eye-opening. She has participated in meetings with clients on divorce proceedings, property settlements and domestic violence protection orders.

“It was amazing to finally be able to see the law in practice and to see client interview techniques and how attorneys actually interact with clients,” Hutchings said.

According to Hutchings, the ability to help people who don’t qualify for legal aid was a highlight of the role. It’s a sentiment that Ghezelbash says many young lawyers will understand.

Laura J. Boyer