Issue 65: April 2011
Welcome to the April 2011 edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas – please email [email protected]. In this edition, read about:
|1. EVENT: Join Us in the Walk For Justice on National Pro Bono Day|
Now is the time to get your walking team together for this year’s Walk for Justice. The Walk will take place in Brisbane, Townsville, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide on Monday 16 May 2011 starting at about 7.30 am. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with others and start the week on a healthy note.
The Walk is now in its fourth year and the number of walkers has increased every year. It is the opening event of National Law Week. Monday 16 May is also National Pro Bono Day and members of the legal profession are encouraged to think of activities that they can do to raise the visibility of their pro bono legal work on this day.
Importantly it is a fundraiser for the work of pro bono clearing houses. The focus this year is on raising money to cover disbursements associated with delivering pro bono legal services such as interpreter’s fees, filing fees, cost of expert’s reports, travel and accommodation for regional and remote area work.
The Lead Walkers of the Melbourne Walk include:
Other cities and towns are encouraged to organise a Walk for Justice in their town. Contact the Centre if you want to organise the Walk in your town. Plenty of support materials exist.
In light of the recent disasters in Australia and overseas, the National Pro Bono Resource Centre has developed a resource to assist the Australian legal profession in each State and Territory to prepare a disaster response plan in readiness for any disasters occurring in their jurisdiction. It consists of a research paper and a guide to preparation of a disaster response plan.
In preparing this resource, the Centre has drawn on the experience of those who organised and delivered legal assistance in response to the 2009 bushfires in Victoria, and the more recent flood and cyclone emergencies in Queensland and fires in Western Australia.
The key recommendations contained in the paper are:
Some of the key issues which have been identified through the Centre’s research are:
The Centre will be releasing the final version of the resource shortly. If you would like to comment on a copy of the draft, please contact the Centre.
Maddocks is a mid tier commercial law firm of about 400 people, 300 in Melbourne and 100 in its Sydney office. It has 54 partners nationally and a productive pro bono scheme.
The firm has provided pro bono services for most of its 125 year history. Presently, the pro bono scheme is coordinated by a national committee led by partners, Paul Woods (Victoria) and Peter Meades (New South Wales) who both have busy commercial practices.
The pro bono scheme operates across all of the firm’s areas of practice. Clients are assisted with respect to corporate governance, commercial, tax and structuring advice, DGR applications, industrial relations, FOI as well as contract, property and estate disputes as well as complex and sensitive complaints and decision review processes.
Paul Woods says the participation rate of lawyers across the firm is good, and constantly improving. Last year the firm averaged about 19 hours of pro bono legal work per full-time equivalent lawyer, and expects to improve on that figure this year. The firm encourages all lawyers to become involved in pro bono work. Maddocks provides full billable credits to its lawyers for their pro bono work.
Maddocks is an active member of PILCH in Victoria and is grateful for the support that PILCH provides. Woods says, “We work closely with PILCH and other referral organisations to ensure that the needs of our pro bono clients are met quickly and professionally. Our lawyers have assisted community and not-for-profit organisations such as the Mental Health Legal Centre, Kids Under Cover and the Victorian Women’s Housing Association, as well as a number of individuals who could not otherwise afford access to justice.”
Maddocks fosters the involvement of its new lawyers in the pro bono scheme, viewing it as providing excellent experience in their development. Many of its lawyers have developed their skills in advocacy through the pro bono program, such as through client work for the Mental Health Legal Centre.
Maddocks’ pro bono program is supplemented by the Maddocks Foundation that provides annual grants to Australian charitable organisations to support projects and programs in communities where they conduct their business. Grants are awarded by the Maddocks Foundation in June each year in the following five priority areas:
More than 50% of the total number of lawyers in the firm have worked on pro bono matters since July 2011. Woods says “We’d like to increase that figure to 75% in the short term, but our aim is to have all lawyers and support staff involved in some form of pro bono or charitable work each year.”
Decision has been reserved in the case of Pat Eatock v Andrew Bolt and the Herald And Weekly Times under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 after two weeks of hearings in the Federal Court in Melbourne.
The case has been generating substantial publicity that seems to be far from over. What the news articles omit to say is that all the legal services for the applicants have been provided without charge to the applicants, and that includes senior counsel Ron Merkel QC, Herman Borenstein SC, supported by junior counsel, Claire Harris and Phoebe Knowles and the services of Holding Redlich as solicitor on the record.
At issue is whether certain articles written by Bolt, that named a number of light-skinned Aboriginal people, and allegedly suggested that they had claimed one element of their mixed heritage background so as to confer certain financial and career benefits on themselves had breached s. 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 by expressing views about them “because of [their] race, colour and/or ethnic origin”.
Holding Redlich have been working on the matter since May 2009 when the case was brought forward to the firm by an Indigenous graduate who has since left the firm. Lawyers Joel Zyngier and Natalie Dalpethado from Holding Redlich have put in a lot of the work on the matter recently, working closely with counsel.
Holding Redlich national pro bono coordinator Linda Rubinstein said, “The lawyers and applicants in this case are all acting entirely in the public interest. This is not an action seeking damages but it does raise very important issues about the protection of racial minorities from discrimination and the way in which legitimate social issues can be discussed”.
Holding Redlich has also just launched another piece of public interest litigation in a acting for three parents on behalf of their children in a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission against the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Education. The complaint alleges that the children are discriminated against on the basis of their parents’ religious beliefs. The children’s schools provide Special Religious Instruction (SRI) on an “opt-out” basis, with those children whose parents opt out being given no alternative instruction or meaningful activity, leaving them feeling segregated, bored and embarrassed.
The plaintiffs are seeking orders either that SRI be provided outside school hours, or that it be on an “opt-in” basis and with a secular alternative offered for those children who do not attend.
Bell Gully is a leading NZ law firm with 147 FTE lawyers and 47 partners as at 31 December 2010. When it came time for New Zealand’s 26 Community Law Centres (CLCs) to re-negotiate their funding agreements with the NZ Legal Services Agency, Bell Gully agreed to represent them all and spent 500 pro bono hours doing so. CLCs were delighted with the outcome in that it provided ‘greater certainty, clarity and national alignment’ for them. In a ‘thank you certificate’ they indicated that they would not have been able to achieve their desired outcome without the expert guidance, sage advice and unwavering commitment of the Bell Gully lawyers.
Bell Gully lawyers undertook a total of 2627 pro bono legal hours in the 2010/2011 which equates to 17.87 hours per FTE lawyer for the year. The participation rate amongst all their lawyers was 62% with 43% of partners participating.
More details of their pro bono and community program can be found in their recently released report available for download from their website.
Macquarie University Students for Community Legal Engagement (MUSCLE) have embarked on a program that seeks to educate their law students about the opportunities and advantages of being involved in experiences that seek to improve social justice.
Their first event was held on 25 March and was attended by over 50 students, all interested in meeting and talking to the presenters from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), Legal Aid NSW, The National Pro Bono Resource Centre, Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH NSW), Maurice Blackburn Pty Ltd, Macquarie Legal Centre, Macquarie University and the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT).
Macquarie University has an existing relationship with Macquarie Community Legal Centre where it places about 40 students in a clinical legal education program each year and has recently commenced another student placement program with the nearby Family Relationship Centre.
MUSCLE is now exploring ways of enhancing community legal MUSCLE organisers Natalie Wong, Lauren Dragicevich and Sach Mathur engagement opportunities for even more Macquarie law students, including creating a student pro bono program.
At an event held at Mallesons in Sydney the Commonwealth A-G Robert McClelland relaunched the Lawstuff website run by the National Children’s Youth and Legal Centre. The service provides legal information and email advice for young people and has been in existence since 1997. The website receives over 4 million hits a year. Mallesons supports the NCYLC by providing a secondee lawyer, and other logistical and legal support including funds for coordination of volunteers who recently include in-house counsel from Telstra and ASIC.
The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia, located in Perth, is looking for a Managing Lawyer for its Civil and Human Rights Unit. The Unit is a unique Western Australian legal practice specialising in human rights and civil law, focusing in particular on complaints of misconduct by police and other State officials, discrimination claims in the Equal Opportunity Commission and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and more recently group litigation with respect to the Stolen Generation and Stolen Wages.
Applications close 15 April 2011. For more information please visit http://www.als.org.au/images/stories/Employment/Managing_Lawyer_-_Civil_and_Human_Rights_Unit_Perth.pdf.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from February – April 2011. Click through to read any news article in full.
30 March 2011 – Lawyers Weekly
29 March 2011 – Business Wire
23 March 2011 – The Star Observer
1 March 2011 – TrustLaw
23 February 2011 – Lawyers Weekly
17 February 2011 – Commonwealth Attorney General [media release]
15 February 2011 – TODAYonline