Welcome to the August 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:
5. PROFILE: A new way to encourage social justice in students – the UTS Brennan Justice and Leadership Award
A research report prepared by the Centre has called on Australia’s state and territory legal communities to adopt disaster response plans to deal with emergencies such as those which decimated parts of Queensland and Victoria earlier this year.
The research report Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Planning for the Legal Profession in Australia is endorsed by the Law Council of Australia, and includes a step by step guide on how to create a disaster response plan.
The research report includes extensive input from the experiences of people who organised and delivered legal assistance responses to the Victorian bushfires of 2009, the flood and cyclone emergencies in Queensland, and the Western Australian bushfires.
Some key findings in the report include:
“The Insurance Council of Australia figures show between 7500-10,000 people had their insurance claims rejected in the past twelve months, but less than 1000 of these have sought a review by the Financial Ombudsman Service. “There are probably a lot more people out there who just don’t know they have a right of review or how to pursue it,” Mr Corker said.
Law Council of Australia President Alexander Ward added the legal profession was an essential part of the emergency response process to any disaster.
A copy of the media release can be found here.
The Attorney-General for England and Wales, the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC sought out the Centre at UNSW for a visit whilst in Australia for the Commonwealth Law Ministers and the Quintet of Attorney’s-General meetings.
The Attorney enjoyed a presentation that compared the development of pro bono in Australia as against that in England and Wales with some references to key dates in the US pro bono development. Some of the key differences observed were:
England and Wales
It was noted that in Australia the 2010 national survey of 25 largest law firms showed an average of 29 hours/FTE lawyer pro bono legal work per annum and a 59% participation rate of lawyers whilst informal figures from England and Wales (Legal Business Oct 2010 -15 firms) showed an average of 13.7 hours/FTE lawyer.
Whilst at the UNSW Law Faculty, the Attorney was also able to discuss prison policy with a number of leading academics in criminology and criminal law.
Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC, Attorney-General of the United Kingdom,
with Brendan Edgeworth, Head of School of Law at the University of NSW
and John Corker, Leanne Ho and Peter Stapleton from the Centre
Over the past 15 years, pro bono practice has become an important part of many Australian law firms. Recently we were asked what are the key characteristics of the leading pro bono firms. With the help of some leading firms we have produced 14 defining characteristics:
1. The pro bono practice addresses unmet legal need, in matters where Legal Aid is unavailable.
2. Decisions to accept pro bono matters are made in accordance with a coherent pro bono policy.
3. The firm has a dedicated professional leading its pro bono practice.
4. Pro bono work looks and feels like other areas of practice. It is integrated into the firm’s other practice procedures, including engagement letters, time recording, risk management, precedents, continuing legal education and induction.
5. Pro bono work has a meaningful role in lawyers’ performance and assessment. It is treated as or equivalent to billable work, is recognised as part of the assessment process, is a criteria for consideration in promotion or for calculation of incentive payments.
6. More than two-thirds of lawyers in the firm participate in pro bono work as part of their legal practice each year.
7. All parts of the legal practice – departments, practice groups and offices, with lawyers at every level – are involved in pro bono work at roughly equal levels.
8. The firm is a signatory to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target and/or performs pro bono work at least at a level of 35 hours per lawyer per year.
9. There is real knowledge of the issues involved in the areas which are the focus of the pro bono practice.
10.There is a willingness to conduct matters outside of the firm’s usual areas of practice, and the firm provides or organises training to build capacity for partners and lawyers to enable them to provided pro bono representation in legal areas and for clients outside of the firm’s usual legal practice.
11.There are deep relationships with a range of pro bono clients, and a broad range of legal services are provided on a pro bono basis, including:
· Legal advice and representation for both individuals and non-profit organisations
· Legal research
· Training and legal education
· Submission writing and law reform
12.There are strong project and referral relationships with pro bono clearing houses, community legal organisations, Legal Aid and ATSILS, which may include secondment arrangements.
13.The firm is recognised externally for expertise in areas in which it is involved through pro bono practice.
14.The firm promotes pro bono throughout the profession, and is involved in policy discussions regarding the development, structure and focus of pro bono work.
We would welcome your comments. Please contact us via email at [email protected].
Social Justice Opportunities – A Guide for Law Students and New Lawyers and the accompanying new SJ Opps website at www.sjopps.net.au were launched at the recent National Australian Law Students Association (ALSA) conference held at UNSW and by Weller Zheng from ALSA and Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. at his address on ‘The International Justice Game’. The address formed part of the Law, Governance and Social Justice public discussion series initiated by the Law Faculty of the University of New South Wales and co-sponsored by the law faculties of the University of Sydney and University of Technology, Sydney.
The Centre and ALSA’s initiative is to provide information to law students and young lawyers about the opportunities to be involved in furthering social justice right throughout their legal career, from being a law student to employment, and to promote the pro bono ethos.
It is proposed that 10,000 copies of the Guide will be distributed through law career fairs and law student associations for the next three years and the information on the SJ Opps website be kept up to date on an ongoing basis. We welcome your suggestions for additional content or links on the website.
Also we encourage you to put a link on your website to the SJ Opps website and provide this logo to assist.
For copies of the guide and for further information please contact Daniel at the Centre on 02 93857381 or [email protected].
Geoffrey Robertson QC, Weller Zheng from ALSA, staff from the Centre and other contributors to the Guide
The Centre had its first volunteer from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) this semester – Alex Jackson. We met with Lachlan Ball, the Equity Officer of the UTS Law Students’ Society, earlier this year to discuss UTS’s Brennan Justice and Leadership Program and the Law Students’ Society’s database of opportunities for volunteering in the social justice sphere (still a work in progress). Alex is a participant in the Program and volunteers to assist in the database’s construction, along with volunteering at the Centre. She provides more information on the Program below.
The University of Technology, Sydney’s Faculty of Law is encouraging student activism through service to the community and reflection on justice and society, both in a legal and non-legal context. This is being realised through a new award for UTS law students, the Brennan Justice and Leadership Award (see Faculty or Law Students’ Society websites). Students will receive the award at the end of their degree where they have completed two components – a leadership through service component and a reflections on justice component.
The service component requires students to complete 200 hours of volunteer work with a community service focus over the course of their degree. In the reflections component students gain credits towards the program by attending speaker events and discussion groups with other participants to encourage active reflection on the talks and also on their experiences through the volunteer component of the program. Recent speakers have included Tanya Segelov from Turner Freeman’s on “Mass Tort Litigation: Seeking justice for asbestos victims” and Professor Julian Disney AO speaking about “Global Governance and Social Justice.”
The program has so far been a success, with over 400 students currently signed up and feedback on the lectures overwhelmingly positive. The Brennan Program is designed to leave UTS law students with a strong awareness about social and cultural issues in Australian society and add meaning to their future studies and work. Dean of Law Jill McKeough said that “the Brennan Program will allow the development of the values and attitudes which will stand our students in good stead into the future”. Looking ahead, the program intends to become an important part of studying law at UTS and could provide a model for other Australian universities looking to promote student activism and social responsibility.
In a speech entitled “The Legal Profession in a Smart and Caring Nation: A Vision for2017”, his Excellency the Right Hon. David Johnson, Governor-General of Canada, asks how do Canadians craft a new definition of the lawyer as a professional. This challenge is put forward in the context of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation which occurs in 2017. He says part of the answer lies with moving the industry standard of pro bono work from 3% to 10% of firm’s hours and building these “honourable hours” rigorously into the firm’s revenue.
Governor-General Johnson warns that society will change the social contract with lawyers and redefine professionalism unless the challenge of lawyers staying just –and continuously striving for the good is met. In the relationship between the lawyer and social need he suggests that lawyers must regain their focus on serving the public by:
The full speech addresses the relationship between the lawyer and justice, trust, education, social need, the firm and public service and calls for a renewed model of professionalism for a smart and caring nation to be the gift of the legal profession to Canada on the occasion of its 150th birthday. The full speech is recommended reading and can be found here.
In July 2009, the Centre launched the Pro Bono Practices Guide – A national guide to the pro bono practices of 30 Australian law firms, a joint publication of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre and NSW Young Lawyers. The Guide was the second edition to the Practices Guide NSW – published in 2007.
The Guide provides comprehensive information about the pro bono practices of 30 law firms across Australia and illustrates the unique and interesting nature of each firm’s program and its pro bono philosophy and culture. The Guide was published for a student audience, but has proven to be useful for a broader audience, including the community legal sector, law firms, pro bono clearing houses and government.
With a view to ascertaining the usefulness of a third edition of the Guide, the Centre is conducting an evaluation of the Guide. For this purpose, the Centre will be contacting its stakeholders shortly seeking feedback on the Guide.
If you would like to take part in the evaluation or provide comment, please contact the Centre’s Policy and Research Officer Maria Twomey on (02) 9385 7775 or maria[at]nationalprobono.org.au. Your input will be greatly appreciated.
The Public Interest Law Clearing House in Melbourne seeks a full time Lawyer for PilchConnect, which is PILCH’s specialist legal service for not-for-profit community organisations. The service provides assistance to community groups via a legal information web portal, training programs, telephone advice and legal referrals. PilchConnect also undertakes law reform and policy work aimed at improving the legal framework for the not-for-profit sector.
More information can be found at www.pilch.org.au/jobs. Applications close Monday 12 September 2011.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from July – August 2011. Click through to read any news article in full.
23 August 2011 – The New Lawyer
22 August 2011 – The Guardian
19 August 2011 – The Australian
18 August 2011 – Lawyers Weekly
4 August 2011- American Bar Association Journal
2 August 2011- The West Australian
1 August 2011 – The National Law Journal
Judge David Tatel and lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department and major law firms are among the members of a new task force dedicated to expanding pro bono work. The task force is a project of the Legal Services Corp, the federally funded nonprofit that is the largest source of funding for civil legal aid. Republicans in Congress have warned the organization that it faces potentially deep budget cuts.
28 July 2011 – 7:30 (ABC)
11 July 2011 – Law Council of Australia
8 July 2011 – Commonwealth Attorney-General
6 July 2011 – Lawyers Weekly
11 May 2011 – The Guardian