Dual role delivers double the benefits

Dual role delivers double the benefits

Monday, 28 May 2018

Broadmeadows Lawyer Nadeesha Mapa discusses working in a dual jurisdiction role and the benefits it delivers for both herself and her clients.

Wh​at was your motivation for getting into law?

As a child of immigrant parents who fled a civil war in Sri Lanka, I have heard and witnessed numerous accounts of inequality and oppression. Consequently, I developed a strong sense of justice and wanted to make the most of the opportunities I was lucky enough to have been provided to me.

My parents made enormous sacrifices to provide a better life for my brother and I. They left behind their loved ones, careers they had spent years studying and working towards and started again from scratch. Throughout my childhood I felt immensely privileged and I knew I had a duty to give back to the community.

As a consequence, I strived for an education and career that afforded me the opportunity to create change and make a difference to the world around me. Even if it was minor, I wanted to directly experience the impact I made with my work.

How long have you worked at Victoria Legal Aid and what w​as your previous role?

I have been at Victoria Legal Aid since September 2014, which makes nearly four years with the organisation.

Prior to this I was working as the Associate to His Honour Judge Meredith at the County Court. The majority of my work during this time was in the General Crimes List and the Sex Offences List.

Broadmeadows Lawyer Nadeesha Mapa
Above: Lawyer Nadeesha Mapa

What attracted you to work for Vi​ctoria Legal Aid?

Given my upbringing, I have always been passionate about social justice and providing a voice for vulnerable and disadvantages members of our community.

Additionally, I was keen to be a part of an organisation that was committed to not only resolving immediate legal issues, but more broadly pursuing improvements in law and policy.

I also felt as a new lawyer, there was comprehensive training opportunities and exposure to advocacy.

What does​​​​ your dual jurisdiction role involve?

I currently work a five-day fortnight in the Mental Health Disability Law team in Melbourne and the other alternative five days I work in our Broadmeadows office.

My work at Broadmeadows is primarily concerned with child protection. Every second Thursday I am also rostered on at Seymour Magistrates' Court where I take on a variety of matters ranging from summary crime (mentions/cells), intervention orders, youth crime, infringements or child protection.

In Melbourne, my work encompasses advice and appearances at the Mental Health Tribunal at various hospitals. I also run guardianship and administration files and Crimes Mental Impairment supervision order matters ranging from extended leave applications, major reviews and revocations.

What are the benefits of working under the dual jurisdiction model – how does it benefit clients, spotting issues and st​aff wellbeing?

The primary beneficiary of the dual jurisdiction model is our clients.

As most practitioners within the organisation are already aware, our client's problems are often complex and intertwined. Our role involves not only providing a solution for the immediate legal problem, but aiding in a more holistic way. Having a broad exposure to various practice areas allows this to occur more effectively.

For example, recently I was allocated a mother in child protection proceedings who had been charged with various offences and was bailed to the Northern Hospital where she was receiving compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act.

In this instance, I could assist this client with her Children's Court proceedings, appear in her Mental Health Tribunal hearing and assist with her criminal charges.

Additionally, having the knowledge allows practitioners to identify issues at the early stages and prevent further setbacks for our clients.

From a personal perspective, infusing variety in my work has kept me motivated and intellectually challenged. Knowledge is power, especially in the jurisdiction of child protection where you spend a significant time negotiating with parties.

Having a good understanding of how the other relevant areas operate in a practical sense is a considerable advantage.

What are the challenges of working under the dual jurisdiction model?

The challenges I face are familiar to all practitioners who work part-time, including:

  • excessive file load or workload pressure. Whilst this has not been a concern for me so far, I did perceive that it potentially could be an issue and put safeguards in place at an early stage. For me, the key to this was being super organised, using technology to my advantage and thinking of innovative time saving processes that aren't commonly utilised within the organisation
  • not having the physical file or being in the office to answer phone calls. I have overcome this obstacle thanks to my trusty Surface Pro laptop and Skype which allows me to work from any location. I have also moved towards a system where most of the correspondence is saved on the H drive and easy to access. Thankfully, the administration team have also been wonderful and have made arrangements to work with my strange schedule
  • working around conflicts of interest and the information bubble.

​Anything else you would like to add about working in you​​r dual jurisdiction role?

This model would not have been possible without my​ manager's unstinting support. I am very grateful to Broadmeadows Managing Lawyer Tom Munro, Mental Health Disability Managing Lawyer Hamish McLachlan and Mental Health and Disability Advocacy Program Manager Sonia Law.

The benefits that flow to our clients from embracing this model are significant.

Having managers who are open to innovative ideas and supportive of change is important, and I am grateful to them for trusting me to work in my dual jurisdiction role.​

As an organisation, it's also important to have systems, policies and practices that can adapt to a model like this. I have worked with Information and Communications Technology to have dual access on ATLAS and Winscribe to multiple locations.

Hopefully this model progresses, giving other practitioners the opportunity to experience its benefits.

More information

Read more about Careers at Victora Legal Aid.

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