HER friends call her "Saint Jane". Her clients, homeless people 25 and under often needing urgent legal advice, see her as a saviour.
Jane Sanders, who for 15 years has been the principal solicitor running the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre in Darlinghurst, believes small increments are a measure of success in her area of the law: the opportunity for clients to be heard, given a sense of dignity or just having the feeling that someone cares.
Last night, she was given the Law and Justice Foundation's 2008 Justice Medal, recognising her contribution to improving access to justice in NSW.
In her Law and Justice address at the award ceremony, the Supreme Court's Justice Virginia Bell, a former legal-aid solicitor and public defender, related the precedent of an Aboriginal man, convicted of the murder of a white police officer in the Northern Territory, who was freed in 1934 when the High Court ordered his acquittal after an unfair trial.
"It is a mark of our civilisation that courts are insistent on the fair treatment of the accused even if the content of a fair trial seems to some [modern day] commentators to be a costly and unnecessary luxury."
Justice Bell also cited the introduction of evidence via closed-circuit television, better waiting facilities, witness assistance and changes to the law that disallow questions during cross-examination that are intimidating, offensive or humiliating, as examples of changes that have lessened the ordeal of a court experience for complainants and victims' families.
Colleagues of Ms Sanders say that when she goes to court to represent clients - many charged with offences linked with past traumas including sexual assault, domestic violence and emotional abuse - she returns with more clients than she started with.
Her "personal bravery and integrity" made her a worthy award recipient, said Annette Bain, executive director of the Freehills Foundation, which operates the legal centre with Mission Australia and the Salvation Army. The centre has provided not only legal advice but meals, phone cards to call relatives, even clothes and shoes for clients appearing in court.
Ms Sanders was committed to advocacy on behalf of homeless youth, writing papers and presenting submissions to legal educators, parliamentary inquiries and law-reform bodies "focusing not only on the individual but also on systemic change", Ms Bain said.
Others recognised last night included James Condren (who received the Justice Volunteer Award), Bernadette Alas(Law Society President's Award for pro bono work) and Norman Laing and Ruth Simon De Costa (Aboriginal Justice Award).