Q: What are you hoping to achieve as Joint Directors?
A (Linda and Sue): We’re just about to publish our new strategic plan with a focus on deeper engagement with our member law firms and barristers, ensuring client-centred services and maintaining LawRight as a reliable and valued voice in the access to justice space. Caring for staff with limited resources is also a priority. Demonstrating an effective joint leadership model will also be a valuable personal achievement.
Q: What effect has the cease of emergency funding from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General at the end of September had on LawRight?
A: LawRight is receiving approximately $400,000 less of annual government funding. We have had to shut down some effective services, such as our Townsville office and our LegalPod program.
It is frustrating to lose staff and the pro bono resources leveraged by these services, to the detriment of our clients, but we have taken the opportunity to rethink and restructure our services.
Funding community legal services needs to be a whole-of-government responsibility, as health, housing and community budgets benefit from our services, not just the “justice” budget. We also spend a lot of time explaining that legal problems are clustered and you can’t effectively address disadvantage by cherry-picking one legal issue or one client type and funding that in isolation.
Although pro bono is a small part of the solution to unfairness in our community, it is a vital and extremely cost-effective one.
Q: What do you wish other people knew better about LawRight?
A: LawRight is proof of how community-minded lawyers actually are. The generous, thoughtful and committed work of pro bono lawyers through LawRight services is humbling and brings real change to people who need it most.
Q: What is the future of pro bono legal services in Queensland?
A: It makes so much sense at every level of the profession. Improving the lives of vulnerable people is what many students “sign up” for at Law School.
Law students consistently preference clinical opportunities with LawRight, young lawyers benefit from the practice development offered through LawRight services, experienced and retired practitioners enjoy the satisfaction of “giving back”, and the judiciary are highly supportive. It will be the legal profession that keeps pro bono strong, growing and relevant.