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Summer Clerk Diary: Francis Wong, Cancer Council Legal and Financial Planning Referral Service

Francis Wong

I have always wanted to apply the skills I developed at university at the community level in the not-for-profit sector, so when I discovered that there was a Cancer Council Summer Clerkship Program, I leapt at the opportunity to become a part of it.

The Cancer Council Legal and Financial Planning Referral Service assists cancer patients and their families to access legal and financial planning services. We help clients receive advice on issues including wills and estates, powers of attorney, early access to superannuation, consumer credit hardship, employment and discrimination.

Work I have done

As a summer clerk, my main responsibilities have included taking instructions from clients in order to assist them with legal or financial matters, and drafting written reports to brief external lawyers and financial planners. I then communicate directly with lawyers and financial planners to follow cases from the client interviewing phase all the way to the delivery of legal or financial advice to our clients.

I have also been asked to do some legal research for a policy paper, which involved comparing tobacco licensing laws in a variety of jurisdictions.

What I have learned

I was surprised at the amount of trust my supervisors had in me as I had began interviewing clients from an early stage in my clerkship and have spent significant time taking instructions from them independently. The hands-on experience has enabled me to develop my skills in interviewing and communication, and my interactions with clients, lawyers and financial planners have helped further my legal research and legal drafting skills.

More importantly, my experiences at the Cancer Council have opened my eyes to how we law students can apply our skills and contribute to the not-for-profit and community legal sector.

Challenges and highlights

Each individual case presents a new set of challenges as our clients come from a diverse range of backgrounds, are faced with different prognoses, and every person responds differently to the effects of cancer and the difficulties it presents. The main challenge has been adapting my interviewing techniques to different situations, while dealing with a range of emotions and trying to obtain the necessary information to complete a referral.

The most memorable moment of my time at the Cancer Council was when I received a call from the son of a client who we had assisted in drafting a will and with financial planning. He informed us that sadly, his mother had passed away, but he wanted to express his appreciation and gratitude for the work that the Cancer Council had done for his mother and his family at such a difficult time. It was really moving to know that, despite the sad circumstances, the Cancer Council had played its part in helping give the client and her family some peace of mind, and that the services we provided were appreciated.

Francis is a fifth year International Studies/Law student at the University of New South Wales.

Read more clerkship stories from our 2012/13 Summer Clerk Diary series:

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