Welcome to the April 2015 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:
Sarah Morton-Ramwell is an advocate for using pro bono as a catalyst for social change. In fact she recently wrote a dissertation about catalytic pro bono as part of a Masters degree at Cambridge University.
This week saw the announcement of her appointment as global pro bono partner for Ashurst after spending the past seven years in London managing the pro bono and corporate social responsibility program for Reed Smith in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Sarah hails from Sydney where she grew up and obtained arts/law degrees from Sydney University. She will be returning to live in Sydney later this year after spending the next few months at Ashurst in the UK.
As a student, Sarah went on exchange to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and was involved in the Innocence Project. She then started her career as an advocate for gender rights and reproductive rights, having worked at the Centre of Reproductive Rights in New York and at International Planned Parenthood Federation in London. She says, “I have always been very passionate about social justice and knew from a young age I wanted to work in this area”.
She trained at Freshfields in London and also worked in the firm’s pro bono team going on secondment to Liberty, one of the UK’s leading human rights organisations. She was named as Qantas Australian Woman of the Year in the UK 2014. Last year she was also closely involved in the development of the collaborative plan for pro bono in the UK, that incorporates an aspirational target of 25 pro bono hours on average per fee-earner in the UK each year.
Ashurst managing partner, James Collis said:
“Having a world-class pro bono programme of sufficient scale is a clear priority for the firm. Pro bono is an integral part of Ashurst and appointing someone who is so highly regarded internationally and understands the differing needs of pro bono around the world will be a significant boost for our practice.”
Sarah Morton-Ramwell added,
“Ashurst’s commitment to developing a market-leading global pro bono program made this a compelling opportunity. Pro bono legal practice areas are rapidly growing in major international law firms and there is far more that we can all achieve. Ashurst is already a pro bono leader in Australia and I look forward to the challenge of further developing this programme as well as creating leading local programs across the other offices in Ashurst’ s network. What is considered leading differs in each jurisdiction as a result of different national pro bono cultures, regulatory obstacles, flow of pro bono work and legal aid systems. Pro bono is a core part of business at large firms, and Ashurst is demonstrating best practice and a true commitment to pro bono by structuring pro bono as a legal practice.”
We look forward to welcoming Sarah as a panellist at the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference being held in Sydney on 18-19 June 2015.
From 4-6 March 2015, 300 pro bono professionals from around the world converged on the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington DC to attend the 2015 Pro Bono Institute Annual Conference.
The PBI Annual Conference draws together pro bono professionals from law firms, corporate in-house legal teams and public interest organisation to explore emerging developments in the delivery of pro bono services. The event also offers continuing professional development opportunities for pro bono programs and practices at various stages of development, and cross-sectoral networking opportunities. Fittingly, a strong theme running through the event was the concept of effective collaboration between cross-sectoral stakeholders.
Of interest to Australian pro bono professionals, particularly in-house corporate counsel, was an analysis of the development of corporate in-house pro bono culture in the United States. Pro bono services by corporate in-house teams is ever-growing in the United States. Some in-house programs have been running for as long as 20-30 years but the most significant development has occurred over the past 5-10 years.
Representatives from the Pro Bono Institute, Bank of America Corporation, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) and PNC Financial Services Inc hosted a panel discussion on their respective corporate counsel teams’ pro bono experiences. Their collective experiences ranged from a grassroots movement established in 1980 which has developed into an established formal pro bono practice comprising a pro bono committee of 20 people (Freddie Mac), to the challenges of a recently established pro bono practice associated with building cultural participation within the team and overcoming barriers that have previously prevented an organisation from developing a thriving pro bono program (PNC Financial Services).
The lessons shared by the corporate in-house counsel were valuable for corporate and law firm pro bono lawyers alike, particularly those with emerging practices, or those wishing to build the pro bono culture within the organisation. Mark Gittelman, Chief Practice Counsel of the PNC Financial Services Group Inc highlighted that in the early stages of development, consultation with internal stakeholders was critical. This enables the organisation to identify misgivings about the ability to undertake pro bono work, such as insurance considerations and reputational risks, and address them at the outset. Also critical was a clear communications strategy designed to foster a strong pro bono culture. A very important part of this is developing clear messaging that the program is backed by the support of a champion within the organisation’s senior leadership, as well as the commitment of upper-middle management being visible at all levels of an organisation’s hierarchy.
The panellists also agreed that in addition to fostering a strong pro bono culture within an organisation, project managers or co-ordinators can be key ingredient to the success of a corporate pro bono program. They can progress ideas and monitor the status of tasks allocated to pro bono committee members between meetings. Where the size of an in-house legal team does not justify the resources of a full-time project manager, this strategy has also been successfully implemented by groups of companies jointly funding shared consultant resources, engaged to perform this role across a number of in-house pro bono practices.
Other topics canvassed at the PBI Annual Conference included workshops on collective impact; strategic litigation; the art of storytelling to enhance engagement; best practices in knowledge management and the commoditisation of services to transform the delivery of pro bono services; and developments in pro bono metrics to track pro bono impact.
by Rebecca McMahon, Manager of Pro Bono Relationships, Justice Connect
This month we caught up with Paula Stirling, Senior Solicitor at the Crown Solicitor’s Office in South Australia, about her commitment to JusticeNet SA and the pro bono legal work being done by her and other solicitors at the Crown Solicitor’s Office.
The pro bono legal assistance that Paula, and other Crown Solicitor’s Office lawyers provide to individuals referred by JusticeNet SA is covered by the Centre’s National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme (Scheme). The Scheme provides insurance for lawyers and paralegals working on pro bono projects approved by the Centre.
Firstly, we asked Paula to tell us a bit about herself:
I started my legal life at Finlaysons in commercial litigation in 2000. In 2004 I moved to the Legal Services Commission (Legal Aid) where I provided a range of general advice but primarily worked in refugee and migration law. In 2008 I moved to the Crown Solicitor’s Office where my practice has been mostly in administrative and criminal law litigation.
I’ve served on the management committees of JusticeNet SA and the Welfare Rights Centre and I am a past Chair of the Law Society’s Justice Access Committee.
How did you come to be involved with JusticeNet SA and how have you assisted the organisation?
The seeds for JusticeNet SA were planted in 2007 when a few Adelaide lawyers got together and decided that we needed a pro bono clearing house in South Australia. Over lots of dinners and glasses of wine we gradually developed a plan for such a centre, incorporated an association and applied for pilot funding. JusticeNet SA was launched in 2009 with the help of a grant from the Law Foundation and support from the University of Adelaide. I have served as the President of JusticeNet SA since its inception. It has been a fantastic opportunity to work with a group of amazing and generous people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
I also coordinate the pro bono legal work of the Crown Solicitor’s Office. The CSO permits its solicitors to undertake pro bono legal work in their own names up to the Centre’s National Pro Bono Aspirational Target of 35 hours per year. I act as a referral conduit between JusticeNet SA and the solicitors, and support the solicitors’ work through training and buddy systems. I also provide pro bono legal advice to individuals who are referred by JusticeNet SA.
A lot of our solicitors’ work is done in the refugee area. It’s a good fit for our solicitors as it’s a Commonwealth area of law so there are very few possibilities for conflict with our work for the state government. We also have solicitors with a lot of expertise in administrative law so we can put those skills to good use.
How did you find out about the Scheme?
I think it was through our good friends at the Centre. John Corker gave JusticeNet SA a lot of support in the early days when we were setting up the organisation.
If the Scheme had not been available to you would it have been possible for you to obtain PI insurance to enable you to take referrals from JusticeNet SA?
Not as far as I’m aware. I, and other solicitors who wanted to assist with referrals from JusticeNet SA, would have had to take out insurance at our own cost which would have been prohibitive.
What advice would you give to other lawyers interested in getting involved in pro bono legal work?
It can be daunting to take on work that you are not used to, but there is lots of help available. People generally do pro bono legal work for all the right reasons and I have found professional colleagues to be very generous with their time. If you’re not sure how to do something, just ring someone who does and ask them to help you. You might be surprised how helpful they are, and how much you can learn.
It’s also a fantastic experience, both professionally and personally, to use your skills to help someone who really needs it. There can be real satisfaction that comes from pro bono legal work over and above your usual practice.
A number of your colleagues are now also providing pro bono legal assistance through referrals from JusticeNet SA. What do you think are some of the key factors in fostering a strong pro bono culture within a legal team?
Having support from the top is important, so that people know that their pro bono legal work deserves the same attention as their usual work. Supporting people with new areas of practice is also important. We have found that buddy systems and discussion forums have been very useful in encouraging people to take on work in a new area, such as refugee law. There is also a great sense of unity to be had when practitioners know they are working for a good cause and are willing to support each other with their work.
Where can lawyers find out more about doing pro bono work through JusticeNet SA?
Visit www.justicenet.org.au or call us on (08) 8313 5005.
On National Pro Bono Day every year (Tuesday in Law Week) lawyers, law students, the judiciary and everyone else have a chance to show their support for social justice and pro bono by participating in the Walk for Justice (or Queensland Legal Walk in Queensland) and helping to provide much needed funds to their local pro bono clearing house. This year the Walks will take place on Tuesday 12 May.
In our last issue we talked about the themes of each Walk and gave you a taste of the special events that mark the occasion in each state (fancy a breakfast cooked by the Chief Justice and Maggie Beer, Adelaideans?) but now time is running short. There are less than three weeks until the Walks take place in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Mackay, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast, Sydney, Toowoomba and Townsville. It’s time to register and help Justice Connect, JusticeNet SA and QPILCH with their invaluable work.
Find more information on the Walk for Justice in Adelaide and sign up by clicking the banner below, and then see who else you know is going by checking out the Facebook event page that JusticeNet SA has set up.
If you’re in or near Brisbane, Cairns, Mackay, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba or Townsville you can sign up for the Queensland Legal Walk by clicking below. Keep an eye on QPILCH’s Facebook page for details as the date draws closer.
Justice Connect is holding Walks for Justice in Melbourne, Newcastle and Sydney. Information can be found by clicking below, where you can also sign up, and then let them know you’re coming on Facebook.
This month we caught up with Alexandra Longbottom, a recently admitted solicitor with Fatches Lawyers, a small firm located in Raymond Terrace, NSW, who became a signatory to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target (Target) – to achieve at least 35 hours of pro bono legal services per lawyer per year – in February this year. Alex has a long-running interest in the legal needs of women and children, spending her work experience with the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Belize focusing on juvenile justice. She is currently providing legal assistance to individuals at Carrie’s Place, a local women’s refuge.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested/involved in pro bono legal work.
I was admitted as a Solicitor in July 2014. I commenced employment in 2010 as a Law Clerk with Fatches Lawyers while undertaking my degree through the University of Newcastle.
I first became interested in pro bono work during my work experience with UNICEF in 2008. This experience highlighted the difficulties individuals and communities face in accessing legal assistance. In Belize, those who required help were destitute and simultaneously had extremely complex legal issues requiring specialist knowledge.
On a domestic level, my interest in pro bono work arose out of the legislative amendments made to the Victims Support Scheme in mid 2013. Prior to the amendments, I assisted my Principal Solicitor with Victims Compensation Claims. The effect of the amendments in 2013 essentially excluded solicitors from acting in new claims. In August 2014 I commenced pro bono work with Carrie’s Place, a women’s refuge which predominantly works with women affected by domestic violence and homelessness.
What does your work at Carrie’s Place involve?
My work at Carrie’s Place involves attending the Resource Centre once a fortnight where I meet and take instructions from clients of the Refuge. The consultations usually involve completing Victims Compensation Applications to access counselling and/or financial assistance. The Refuge provides assistance for women throughout the Hunter Valley, which covers a large geographical area. Given the volume of work, the appointments are one-off information sessions. If there are other legal issues, such as bankruptcy, tenancy, family law, personal injury or criminal matters, I also work with the clients to resolve those matters.
The work I undertake with Carrie’s Place is separate and independent from my employment at Fatches Lawyers.
How did you find out about the National Aspirational Target and the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme run through the National Pro Bono Resource Centre?
I found out about the Target through the NSW Law Society Journal. After signing up to the Target, I discovered the Professional Indemnity Scheme (Scheme) available through the NPBRC. Access to the Scheme allows me to undertake my pro bono work with Carrie’s Place. Without the Scheme, it would be extremely difficult for me to undertake the work I do. I am extremely appreciative for the support offered by the NPBRC.
What made you decide to sign up to the Target?
It is my view that, as a Solicitor, I have a responsibility to facilitate and provide legal assistance to those in the community who cannot afford it. The target of 35 hours per year was something I felt I could achieve without impeding on my employment.
As a newly admitted Solicitor, I was also influenced by the emphasis at University and through the College of Law to undertake pro bono work once admitted. I am fortunate this was supported by my Principal Solicitor who recognises the importance of pro bono work in the wider community.
It is my opinion that the amendments to the Victims Support Scheme in 2013 have made it increasingly difficult for unrepresented women to access entitlements available to them including counselling, relocation expenses and even the costs of replacing locks. We are becoming more aware as a society of the devastating effect domestic violence has in the long term and the importance of accessing resources to assist almost immediately.
What advice would you give to other young lawyers interested in getting involved in pro bono legal work?
I would encourage newly admitted Solicitors not to be deterred by the restrictions placed on us in NSW for the first two years of practice following admission.
If you are interested in undertaking pro bono work, I encourage you to speak to your supervising Partner and/or Principal Solicitor about becoming involved with community organisations. Due to substantial budget cuts and legislative amendments, many community organisations could benefit from assistance, no matter what area of law you practice in. It is my opinion that a collaborative approach to the law can only improve the quality of the assistance provided to those who are disadvantaged.
I have found the pro bono work I have undertaken at Carrie’s Place has allowed me to expand and develop my legal understanding and advocacy skills across a wide range of areas and has greatly assisted my legal skills in private practice. Further, pro bono work has afforded me the opportunity to network and gain new contacts and has been invaluable to my long term professional development.
The Centre is proud to be a co-founder of the Annual Asia Pro Bono Conference & Legal Ethics Forum, and for its Director, John Corker, to be Chair of the Program Committee for the 4th Conference, which will be held in Mandalay, Myanmar on 3-6 September 2015.
The theme of this year’s Conference is “Pro Bono and Ethics Build a Noble Legal Profession,” the program is now available, and papers are now being sought – for more information click here. The purpose of the Conference is to not only bring together lawyers from across Asia with a common interest in social justice, but also to foster the development of socially aware, ethical lawyers and non-lawyers who can then actively participate, advocate and lead pro bono initiatives in their local areas as a means of strengthening access to justice for the disadvantaged and vulnerable across the region.
Registration for the Conference is now open, and sponsorship packages are also available, which can help lawyers from small firms and law students across Myanmar and Asia to attend. For information of the Conference please go to www.probonoconference.org.
TrustLaw is looking for an Asia Pacific Programme Manager, to be based in Singapore. This is a new role that will manage TrustLaw across the Asia Pacific, including Australia.
TrustLaw is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal programme that connects NGOs and social enterprises with legal teams offering free legal assistance in over 170 countries, as well as producing legal research and providing training courses. TrustLaw is:
… seeking a highly skilled and dynamic lawyer to expand its award-winning TrustLaw programme across the Asia Pacific region, and support us with scoping legal projects and research programmes across all of Asia more broadly. We have a growing presence in the region already but recognise a huge potential for expansion of our services there and plan to run a number of high profile programmes and events in the region.
For more details and a job description click here. Applications close Monday 11 May 2015.
In the most recent National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey of Australian firms with fifty or more lawyers, twenty-eight of the 41 respondent firms (68%) had either worked with the in-house counsel of one or more corporate clients on a pro bono matter or project in the 2014 financial year, or had discussed with clients the potential opportunities to do so.
This was most pronounced in the larger firms. Five of the eight largest firms in Australia had worked on a pro bono matter or project with a corporate client, and the other three firms had discussed opportunities to do so. The Centre looks forward to seeing if there is growth in these collaborative projects when we next undertake the Survey, in 2016.
The Centre and the pro bono community have worked to encourage the pro bono work of in-house counsel, which has seen significant growth in the last five years. In 2009 DLA Phillips Fox (now DLA Piper) produced The Australian In-House Legal Counsel Pro Bono Guide to help in-house teams find effective ways to undertake pro bono work while avoiding many of the pitfalls. The Guide was updated in 2012 and 2013.
At the same time, the Centre launched the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme. The Scheme allows in-house counsel, government lawyers and others who are not covered by an employer’s PI insurance an opportunity to provide assistance.
For a comprehensive breakdown of these figures, including by size of firm, please refer to page 47 of the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey of Australian firms with fifty or more lawyers. For all individual response refer to pages 96.
Social Justice Opportunities (www.sjopps.net.au) is not only a practical guide to the steps you need to take to find a job or volunteer position in the social justice sector. It also includes a listing of current employment and volunteering opportunities, in the ‘Latest Opportunities’ section.
Whether you are a student, new lawyer or anyone else looking to volunteer or work in the sector, you can keep abreast of all the latest opportunities by visiting the site regularly, or by joining more than 1,700 people following @SJOpps on Twitter or more than 1,400 liking us on Facebook.
If you would like to advertise a social justice job or volunteer position on the site, particularly one aimed at law students or new lawyers, please email us for details. It’s easy and free!
Please also contact us with any feedback you have, or let us know how the site has helped you!
Here’s what’s going on in the Twitter feed right now:
Articles of interest to the pro bono community since Issue 96 of National Pro Bono News (March 2015). Click through to read any news article in full.
20 April 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
Corporate law is more often associated with cut-throat negotiations than helping the needy. Yet for Salvos Legal associate William Kontaxis, the two go hand-in-hand. In just a few years, his career has taken him to the boardrooms of big-name clients and a processing facility on Manus Island. William is a commercial lawyer with a twist – his work with banking and finance clients directly benefits people unable to afford legal representation.
16 April 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
A senior lawyer at Reed Smith in London and last year’s Australian Woman of the Year (UK) will relocate to Sydney to lead Ashurst’s pro bono practice. Sarah Morton-Ramwell has managed Reed Smith’s pro bono and corporate responsibility projects for Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA) for the past five years. In that period Reed Smith EMEA recorded its best pro bono and CSR results to date.
15 April 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
5 April 2015 – The Age
2 April 2015 – SBS News
1 April 2015 – ABC News
1 April 2015 – Australiasian Lawyer
27 March 2015 – Clayton Utz
8 April 2015 – The Globe and Mail
21 April 2015 – Daily Trust (Abuja)
… the [Nigerian Bar Association] has decided to setup a National Pro Bono Centre to address all issues relating to pro bono work/services rendered by lawyers … “The NBA National Pro Bono Centre will serve as a clearing house and coordination point for all pro bono Work. The Centre would develop an up to date database of all pro bono work being done by various persons and bodies to … streamline the work in a way that ensures efficiency and effectiveness”.
15 April 2015 – The Law Society Gazette
15 April 2015 – Stowe Family Law LLP (blog)
26 March 2015 – Law Careers.Net
23 April 2015 – The Legal Intelligencer
… Many of the large firms encourage, or even require, lawyers to do pro bono work. Indeed, some firms go so far as to expect attorneys to perform a certain number of pro bono hours per year and even give attorneys billable-hour credit to make the expectation attainable. Nevertheless, among some young lawyers, there is a whispered fear that pro bono work is not viewed as “real” work within their firms. Without clear policies, written and practiced, many young lawyers are left wondering how their service is truly viewed by firm decision-makers.
21 April 2015 – The Legal Intelligencer
… Pennsylvania is one of 29 states that have no pro bono reporting requirement in the yearly attorney registration process. Only eight states require annual pro bono work, and the rest have a voluntary reporting process. Many of us take on cases without charging a fee each year for various reasons. After hearing Kacie’s story, one can only hope that more of us will take time out of our daily lives of representing our clients who have been victims of negligence or charged with civil responsibility to handle a pro bono case outside of our comfort zone.
10 April 2015 – The Akron Legal News
10 April 2015 – ILW.com
4 April 2015 – JD Supra
1 April 2015 – ABA Journal