Issue 87: April 2014
Welcome to the April 2014 edition of National Pro Bono News, from the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas – please email [email protected].
In this edition, read about:
On National Pro Bono Day (13 May) the 7th annual Walk for Justice will be held in a record nine locations – Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, the Sunshine Coast, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns. Join in to support QPILCH, Justice Connect and JusticeNet SA!
Held every year on the Tuesday of Law Week, everyone from attorneys-general to judges, lawyers and law students will be taking part in Walks to celebrate pro bono and support their local pro bono referral organisation.
Below you will find more details on each of the Walks, and also links to register yourself or your team. You can also like their Facebook pages (see Justice Connect, JusticeNet SA and QPILCH) for the most up-to-date news, and to keep track of other events in your area throughout the year.
JusticeNet’s legal referral service connects some of the most disadvantaged in South Australia with volunteer lawyers willing to help pro bono. The Walk for Justice in Adelaide is JusticeNet’s flagship fundraiser and they hope to raise $50,000 this year.
Registration is free and the team that raises the most funds will be presented with the Walk for Justice Cup by the Honourable Chief Justice Chris Kourakis QC at the post-Walk breakfast at the Adelaide Hilton. The highest individual fundraiser will receive an iPad mini, donated by Telstra. Visit the dedicated Walk site to register and start fundraising.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Kate Chapley on 08 8313 5005 or [email protected]
In NSW and Victoria, the Walk for Justice aims to highlight awareness of two important issues and the work pro bono lawyers do in assisting some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our community.
In Sydney and Newcastle the Walk for Justice is dedicated to Justice Connect’s Migrant Outreach Service, Advice Information and Community Education (MOSAIC) program and its work in assisting refugees and newly arrived migrants.
In Melbourne the Walk for Justice will focus attention on the work of Justice Connect’s Homeless Law program and its new service which aims to prevent women and their children from becoming homeless.
Walk with Justice Connect to show your commitment to the cause in your city. Walk and support its work to improve access to justice through pro bono and the creation of a fairer society.
You can support the Walk in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle by registering to walk, sponsoring a walker or donating.
The Queensland Legal Walk (formerly known as the Walk for Justice) will be held in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns and will celebrate the legal profession’s commitment to equal access to justice through the work of QPILCH and Community Legal Centres in support of pro bono and public interest matters.
Register yourself or your team and start fundraising today! Great prizes for the top fundraisers have been kindly donated by sponsors including Mitchell Ogilvie. Patron of the Queensland Legal Walk, the Honourable Paul de Jersey, Chief Justice of Queensland, will again lead the Walk in Brisbane. Join your colleagues and show your support of this important social issue.
Registration: $30 adults, $20 students – the last day for registering is Wednesday 7 May. Breakfast will be kindly provided by sponsors including the Queensland Law Society.
For more information or to register for a Walk in your area in Queensland please click here.
In the wake of the recent decision by the Australian Government to cease funding the Immigration Application Advice and Assistance Scheme (IAAAS), Law Council of Australia President, Mr Michael Colbran QC, said in a media release:
“Without this funding assistance, many vulnerable people will be left to navigate a legally complex system on their own”.
“The Law Council is concerned that the Government’s decision to cease funding to the IAAAS will place an unreasonable and unjustified burden on the Australian legal profession to provide pro bono assistance for the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who will otherwise be without help to make one of the most significant legal applications in their lives.”
“While the legal profession has always demonstrated great generosity in providing advice to those most in need on a pro bono basis, it cannot be expected to underwrite the threatened failure of the Australian Government to meet this most basic need for assistance.”
“The consequences for further delays in processing claims are obvious – as is the increased social and economic cost of further prolonged detention.”
“The Law Council calls upon the Australian Government to reconsider its position and maintain IAAAS funding,” he said.
The full media release is available here.
The Centre presented its paper on The use of video conferencing technology to provide pro bono assistance to self-represented litigants in regional, rural and remote Australia at the recent Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration conference on Assisting Unrepresented Litigants – A Challenge for Courts and Tribunals, held in Sydney.
The conference brought together people from around Australia and internationally with a wealth of experience to share about the challenges for courts facing increasing numbers of self-represented litigants, including judges, tribunal members, court staff, academics and representatives from pro bono clearinghouses sharing their experiences of providing assistance to self-represented litigants, including QPILCH and JusticeNet.
The Centre’s paper drew on its experience managing one of the National Broadband Network Regional Legal Assistance Program pilot projects, as well as lessons learned from the pilot projects run by other successful NBN funding applicants and innovative self-help model services for SRLs in the USA and UK, to examine the benefits and potential pitfalls of using video conferencing technology to provide pro bono legal services to self-represented litigants in regional, rural and remote areas.
It provides practical tips on the issues that should be considered by anyone interested in using video conferencing technology to provide pro bono legal assistance, including:
All the Conference Papers should be available from the AIJA website from the beginning of May 2014.
[UPDATE] Many papers can now be found via links in the Program on AIJA’s website.
The 2013 National Census of Community Legal Centres, undertaken by the National Association of Community Legal Centres, indicates that 50,859 hours of assistance were provided to CLCs through pro bono partnerships during the 2012/13 financial year.
The result is based on 154 CLCs responding to the survey with 92 CLCs or 60% of respondents indicating that they had a pro bono partnership.
A pro bono partner was defined in the Census as “a professional or firm that, as a business, has formally committed to allocating resources and making a contribution to a CLC and/or its clients, free of charge.”
This figure therefore excludes individual volunteering by lawyers and contributions made by lawyers sitting as members of Management Committees for CLCs.
Of the 50,859 hours reported in the 2012/2013 year 41,459 hours were provided by lawyers for direct service delivery to clients. Another 4,613 hours were provided by lawyers for advice or assistance to the centre and another 1,468 hours by specialist lawyers advising centre lawyers.
The Productivity Commission released its Draft Report on Access to Justice Arrangements on 8 April 2014. Many of the measures suggested in the report support areas of reform advocated for by the Centre and others to remove constraints and barriers to pro bono legal work being done by Australian lawyers.
The recommendations of the Productivity Commission include entitling parties represented on a pro bono basis to seek an award for costs, granting protective costs orders to parties involved in matters of public interest against the government, allowing holders of all classes of practising certificate to work on a volunteer basis, and introducing free practising certificates for retired or career break lawyers providing pro bono services either through a Community Legal Centre or a project approved by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
The draft report reflects many of the issues that were raised in the Centre’s initial submission to the Productivity Commission, importantly recognising that “pro bono plays a small but important role in bridging the gap” and expressing a preference for promoting the advantages of undertaking pro bono work to lawyers rather than using compulsion as a means of bolstering pro bono efforts.
The report recognises the difficulty of matching legal expertise with needs, given that many lawyers have little exposure to ‘poverty law’ in their day to day work, and the important role that partner organisations (such as CLCs or referral bodies) play in coordinating, training and supervising pro bono lawyers. The report recognises that the bulk of pro bono work is undertaken for not-for-profit organisations rather than disadvantaged individuals.
The report also makes recommendations in relation to the role that government can play in encouraging the legal profession to undertake pro bono legal work. It suggests that governments have a ‘pro bono coordinator’ (as exists in Victoria) who coordinates requests from firms for clearance of conflict of interest matters, and that other governments follow the Victorian and Commonwealth government’s lead in including a pro bono aspirational target as part of the requirement for firms to tender for government legal work. These arrangements have certainly worked well to encourage firms to engage in pro bono work and the Centre supports the recommendation that they should be closely considered by other governments.
The Centre encourages interested parties to comment on the Draft Report by providing a submission to the Productivity Commission by 21 May 2014, and/or by attending a public hearing.
Public hearings will commence on 2 June 2014, with venues to be advised. The final report is due with the Australian Government by 21 September 2014. For more information, please refer to the Productivity Commission’s website.
The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW has released two new reports on its Review of Legal Aid NSW outreach legal services. The first provides a statistical overview of services. The second focuses on best practice in outreach as drawn from insights gained from experience.
While recognising that there are a range of different models of outreach practiced by Legal Aid NSW, the second report was able to identify characteristics of outreach that appear to be critical to the success of these services in reaching and assisting high needs disadvantaged clients.
The features of good outreach practice suggested by the interview analysis in the report included:
Many of these insights echo the lessons on best practice that were drawn from the experiences of those involved in providing pro bono legal assistance within pro bono partnerships using the outreach model in the Centre’s resource Pro Bono Partnerships and Models: A Practical Guide to What Works.
What Works identified the primary challenge of providing outreach services in the pro bono context as the difficulty in finding pro bono providers and individual lawyers who are willing to devote resources to outreach, especially where long-distance travel is involved. It explains how it is essential to form relationships that will be strong enough to overcome the barriers of distance and encourage the provision of assistance in situations where it may not be so convenient, and the planning and support that pro bono lawyers need to ensure the outreach service works effectively.
For more information on the common features of successful and effective pro bono outreach projects identified in What Works, please refer to the interactive PDF file that you can download here.
For more information on the Foundation’s review, the reports can be accessed here:
The interest in pro bono in the region is increasing with dedicated pro bono conferences to be held this year in May, in Hong Kong and in October, in Singapore.
On 23 May 2014, PILNet will host their Inaugural Asia Pro Bono Forum in Hong Kong. The Forum is a platform for providing an international comparative perspective on pro bono practice in Asia, with a particular focus this year on new developments in Hong Kong and mainland China. PILnet are an NGO based in New York and organise the European Pro Bono Forums that have been held annually since 2007. PILnet have offices in London, New York, Budapest, Moscow, Hong Kong and Beijing. Further details about the forum, sponsorship opportunities and registration are available here.
From 2-4 October 2014 the 3rd Southeast Asia/Asia Pro Bono Conference & Workshop will be held in Singapore. The theme for this year’s conference/workshop is “Creating vibrant pro bono ecosystems to strengthen access to justice”. This three-day event aims to builds on the success of the 1st and 2nd Southeast Asia/Asia Pro Bono Conferences & Workshops held in Vientiane, Laos in 2012, and in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2013 and is hosted by the Singapore Law Society, and BABSEA CLE Singapore