Issue 75: February 2013
Welcome to the February 2013 edition of National Pro Bono News, from the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas – please email [email protected].
On the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations, congratulations to the firms who have a Reconciliation Action PlanTM in place:
Firms who are interested in developing a Reconciliation Action Plan should refer to the Reconciliation Australia website.
In the Final Report on the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey 2012 released on 25 January 2013, partner and management support was nominated as the most crucial factor in the success of a pro bono program. Other factors identified as crucial included effective coordination of the program within the firm, strong commitment of individual lawyers to the pro bono ethos, and the capacity of the firm to undertake the work.
The survey results also provide an indication of specific measures that have been successful in encouraging the provision of pro bono work in Australia, namely firms having their own internal targets for the amount of pro bono work they undertake, the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target (of at least 35 hours per lawyer per annum), as well as the pro bono conditions in the Commonwealth and Victorian Government tender schemes.
The full survey report provides general statistics on pro bono legal work, information on coordination and organisation of pro bono within firms, key issues affecting the provision of pro bono work, external influences on the definition, culture, amount and reporting of pro bono, and data on pro bono in specific contexts such as the regional rural remote and international contexts.
The Centre will shortly be conducting discussion forums in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne about best practice based on the survey results.
The Centre conducts this survey every two years with the next expected to be conducted in the second half of 2014.
The National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference 2013 is only five weeks away. With the theme of Communicating Justice, this year’s conference offers nine international speakers as well as a host of leading speakers from this country to discuss the latest research and current challenges in improving access to justice.
Book Now – Registration is limited for some events.
The AGS legal practice policy for pro bono work provides an overarching framework for the management of AGS’s pro bono practice and outlines the systems and processes used to facilitate the growth of their pro bono practice. This revised policy document provides a useful precedent for other government departments, agencies and authorities who are looking to develop a pro bono policy for their lawyers. AGS are a signatory to the Centre’s National Pro Bono Aspirational Target.
AGS have some unique constraints on their power to act due to their enabling legislation and have developed provisions in relation to addressing actual, perceived and commercial conflicts of interest. AGS will not provide pro bono assistance to not for profit organisations with a political or campaigning objective or in politically sensitive or ethically controversial matters.
The conflict policy recognises that in some situations another agency may support AGS undertaking a pro bono project that relates to that agency’s responsibilities on the basis that this will assist overall in achieving or promoting compliance by the pro bono client with legislation administered by the other agency.
The policy indicates that AGS will seek to prioritise projects that enhance access to justice for disadvantaged or marginalised people and community organisations that work for the benefit of the public, disadvantaged sections of the public or the environment. It will also prioritise projects that promote reconciliation by developing relationships between AGS and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations and projects that increase their lawyer’s knowledge, skills and experience in areas of law that are within the suite of offerings that they wish to make to government clients.
The policy indicates that fee relief will be provided for lawyers performing legal work on a pro bono basis as part of the AGS program and taken into account in performance appraisals and in considering promotions. AGS also encourages its lawyers to undertake pro bono work in their own capacity.
The policy includes a form for submission for approval of a pro bono project and an assessment form to be completed by the National Manager of Pro Bono Services with input from the relevant office pro bono coordinator.
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre and Salvos Legal have teamed up again this year to bring you the Salvos Legal 2013 Lecture Series.
The first set of lectures for 2013 will be held in Sydney on Saturday, 9 March and include an address by The Hon. Margaret Beazley AO, President NSW Court of Appeal, on the topic of “Key principles of contract law” and The Hon Justice Julie Ward, Supreme Court of NSW, on the topic of “A lawyers duty to the court”, amongst other members of the Judiciary.
Salvos Legal operates as a commercial practice in order to sustain the Salvos Legal Humanitarian practice, which is a free legal service that aims to provide access to justice through full-time representation to those who could not otherwise obtain it. It was established in early 2010 and to date over 6,700 cases have received assistance for free without any State or Federal Government funding.
Registration for the lectures is by way of donation (as much as you can afford but suggesting at least $100 for the day) and is fully tax deductible. The proceeds from the Salvos Legal 2013 lecture series will go to support the most needy of cases at the Salvos Legal Humanitarian practice.
5 CPD/CLE points can be claimed for the full day’s attendance or 1 point per single hour lecture.
In a new book titled The Future of Dispute Resolution, edited by Associate Professor Michael Legg at UNSW and published by Lexis Nexis (2013), John Corker, Director of this Centre has contributed Chapter 19 titled, ‘The Future of Pro Bono’.
Chapter 4.5 of the Australian Pro Bono Manual on Disbursement Assistance has been reviewed and updated with the assistance of partner, Ben Dudley and solicitor, Siobhan Andersen from Herbert Smith Freehills. The chapter now includes details of the Commonwealth Disbursement Support Scheme that commenced on 1 July 2012 as well as updates on the state and territory litigation support schemes.
For those of you who missed the Centre’s Annual Report 2012 published in December it is now available online and we will post copies to those who request it. Send an email to [email protected] if you want a hard copy.
Check out Social Justice Opportunities for information on finding a job or volunteering in the social justice sector. The website includes a ‘Latest Opportunities‘ section which provides a list of current jobs and volunteering opportunities around the country. If you have an opportunity at your organisation that you would like advertised please contact us.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from November 2012 to February 2013. Click through to read any news article in full.
6 February 2013 – Bundaberg NewsMail
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie has welcomed the decision by Legal Aid to provide an additional $100,000 in assistance to flood-affected Queenslanders. “The additional funding will go to the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) and the Taylor Street Community Legal Centre to help those who need it most,” he said.
25 January 2013 – Lawyers Weekly
The head of Australia’s foremost pro bono body said a major survey on the performance of Australia’s large law firms was anonymous to encourage more pro bono work. The final report of the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey was released by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre today. Thirty-six of the 51 firms with more than 50 lawyers participated in the survey, including the nine largest national firms.
25 January 2013 – The Australian
Lawyers are providing close to 30 hours a year in pro bono work, according to a survey by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, a slight increase from two years ago. That figure is an average however, and some lawyers are spending six months to more than a year seconded to a not-for-profit organisation.
25 January 2013 – The Australian
Law firms that provide legal services to the commonwealth are required to report their hours of pro bono work per lawyer in FY2012. The amount of pro bono work performed by Australia’s largest law firms varies significantly, in data just released in the commonwealth’s Legal Services Expenditure Report 2011-2012.
25 January 2013 – Pro Bono Australia
The majority of pro bono legal work in Australia is done for Not for Profit organisations, according to new research. Over 60 percent of the pro bono work undertaken by large law firms is for organisations rather than individuals, according to the Final Report on the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey 2012, released by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
10 January 2013 – Australasian Legal Business
More than half of the top 30 firms which reported both their FY2011 and FY2012 pro bono figures have seen a fall in the number of pro bono hours worked per lawyer. According to the Legal Services Expenditure Report 2011-2012, there were 46 Commonwealth legal providers which reported their pro bono hours per lawyer, although of those only 20 had reported int he previous year as well.
13 December 2012 – The Age
Children will have less access to private lawyers unless they are likely to be sent to jail, as Victoria Legal Aid drastically cuts services to stay afloat amid a funding crisis, lawyers warn. The organisation says that an ”unprecedented demand” for its services in the past year has not been matched by a commensurate increase in funding, which could see its budget blow out by more than $3.1M in the next financial year.
12 December 2012 – The Drum (ABC)
It’s time legal aid was held up to the same standards as other areas of public policy, argues Greg Barns. Lawyers are a passive lot when it comes to protests. But the decision earlier this month by Victoria’s Legal Aid Commission to cut funding for criminal cases next year has got the state’s lawyers hopping mad.
11 December 2012 – The Global Legal Post
Rows over legal aid systems around the world continued apace this week, with recent lawyer strikes in Scotland followed by disputes at opposite ends of the globe in Australia and Northern Ireland. Practitioners in Melbourne staged a demonstration outside a city court building yesterday in protest over government plans to amend eligibility criteria for local legal aid.
8 December 2012 – The Age
Name one Australian institution that has emerged from a year of dismal politics, dashed expectations and revelations of systemic failure with its reputation intact, or even enhanced. But there is at least one institution that can look back on the past 12 months with a measure of pride. This has been a stellar year for the judiciary and many of the lawyers who appear before it.
21 November 2012 – Pro Bono Australia
The Public Interest Law Clearing Houses (PILCH) of Victoria and NSW will amalgamate to become one integrated pro bono legal organisation serving both states, it’s been announced. “We believe the integration will enable us to work more effectively within the changing pro bono landscape,” PILCH Victoria President, Mitzi Gilligan said.
20 November 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
A number of lawyers, law firms and barristers have pledged their support for a new collaborative pro bono committee being formed between the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) supported by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre based at the University of NSW law faculty. The idea was first mooted at the ALA’s National Conference in Adelaide at the end of last month.
20 November 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
The president of the Court of Appeal in the NSW Supreme Court has praised Salvos Legal’s business model and urged other firms to consider adopting a similar approach. Speaking at the City of Sydney Law Society 2012 annual dinner last week, Justice James Allsop highlighted the merits of establishing a separately-operated pro bono firm to provide free legal advice and representation to those in need.
10 February 2013 – The Telegraph (Calcutta)
Afzal Guru had pleaded that he was not granted sufficient legal help in defending himself – an issue that has been raised afresh by human rights groups after he was hanged yesterday. Afzal had said he was not provided proper legal counsel after his first counsel and amicus curiae Seema Gulati withdrew from his case and opted to defend the college teacher who was subsequently acquitted.
13 December 2012 – The Guardian
Some help is better than none, isn’t that true? Not really, especially if that help comes from a well-meaning but unqualified amateur. The idea of “rookie briefs” (actually, law students) helping people unlucky enough not to be able to find or afford proper legal help to fill “the gap left by cuts to legal aid”, as was reported this week, makes my heart sink.
13 December 2012 – The National
Many lawyers provide their services for free to clients with limited funds. But the demand is such that there are still hundreds of people who cannot afford a lawyer to plead their case in the courts. The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department aims to change all that. Every year, hundreds of people with limited funds rely on lawyers who are prepared to waive their fees to help them seek justice.
12 December 2012 – The Global Times
Four Singaporean lawyers were representing on a pro bono basis the four Chinese bus drivers charged with instigating an illegal strike in Singapore. The lawyers told the judge in court on Wednesday that they need more time to take instructions from their clients as the bus drivers were released on bail on December 6. The judge said a pre- trial conference would be scheduled on December 19.
19 November 2012 – The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel
If New York City Bar Association members are good in a crisis, it’s unfortunately because they’ve had a lot of experience. So it has been in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. While some of the city’s legal services groups were thankfully almost immediately in the field working on FEMA applications, there needs to be a system in place to accommodate the tremendous numbers of attorneys stepping forward.
12 November 2012 – The National Law Journal
It appears that a New York-style pro bono requirement for law students won’t be going national anytime soon. Several organizations and legal leaders have asked the committee that is updating the American Bar Association’s law school accreditation standards to add a 50-hour pro bono requirement, but that idea got a chilly reception from the committee at its most recent meeting on November 16 and 17.