Issue 95: February 2015
Welcome to the February 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:
In a watershed moment for pro bono development in the West, the pro bono clearing house “Law Access” has just opened its doors at new, larger premises generously supplied by the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Australia, a short distance from the Perth CBD.
Law Access has existed as a pro bono referral scheme within the Law Society of Western Australia since 1992 but is now soon to be operated by Law Access Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Law Society incorporated in December 2014.
The initiative for this development dates back to early 2012 when the WA Public Interest Law Clearing House Reference Group (“Reference Group”) was established by the Law Society of Western Australia and the Community Legal Centres’ Association of Western Australia with representation from across the WA legal profession including pro bono coordinators from a number of WA based law firm offices. With funding from Lotterywest this group commissioned a feasibility study of pro bono models for Western Australia.
Kalico Consulting completed a report in August 2013 titled ” Doing the Public Good” that identified a number of constraints to growth, including the absence of a strategic proactive approach to pro bono work which is directed at responding to unmet legal need. See Expansion of WA pro bono clearing house to be explored (National Pro Bono News, Issue 84) for more detail.
In November 2013, the Law Society endorsed the recommendations presented to it by the Reference Group and decided to develop a business plan to explore the possible expansion of the existing Law Access Service as a “central pro bono clearing house service”. The decision to incorporate a separate entity to manage the service was made in 2014.
Law Access is managed by Dominique Hansen, previously Executive Manager Community Services of the Law Society of WA, working three days a week together with Principal Solicitor Katrina Williams, working two days a week. Both Minter Ellison and the Australian Government Solicitor will continue to provide a secondee to Law Access one day a week and law students from the University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University will also be working in the practice.
Law Access will provide merit assessment of applications in-house, referring meritorious matters to the profession. Law Access will also advise applicants where their matters are considered to have no or limited merit. It will continue to develop to meet unmet legal need by liaison with community and community organisations, research and fund raising. Law firm and community legal sector input into its operations will be enabled through a Stakeholder Advisory Committee reflecting the core membership of the initial Reference Group. Law Access will also act as the gateway for the Western Australian Bar Association in relation to requests for pro bono assistance from counsel.
The Law Society will continue to have an important ongoing role with Law Access, and will provide back office and other supports for the new expanded service.
For new applicants first contact should be through downloading the form on the Law Access page on the Law Society website or by calling 9324 8600.
The new telephone number for lawyers , courts and community organisations making a referral on behalf of new applicants is 08 6488 5683. The email address remains the same: [email protected].
The Fifth National Access to Justice & Pro Bono Conference will be held in Sydney on 18 & 19 June 2015, and will celebrate the 800-year anniversary of the Magna Carta. This conference presents a program of national and international speakers who will reflect on this foundation document and discuss the current challenges and opportunities in seeking to provide access to justice and the important role that pro bono legal work can play.
The preliminary Conference program is available on the Conference’s website, at www.a2j15.com.au. Look out for registration details next week.
The Centre was invited by the Legal Services Council to provide comments and submissions in relation to the consultation drafts of the proposed Uniform Rules to be made under the Legal Profession Uniform Law. The Centre’s submission in relation to the Consultation Draft of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2014 focuses on removing barriers to pro bono legal work. The Centre gratefully acknowledges the assistance of DLA Piper Australia in the preparation of the submission. The submission is endorsed in full by DLA Piper.
In particular the Centre recommended that the General Rules should be amended to clarify:
The Centre’s submission is available here
This month we caught up with Lieutenant Commander Shannon Richards about his fantastic work with KidsXpress, a charity dedicated to helping children deal with trauma.
Shannon’s work with KidsXpress is covered by the Centre’s National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme. The Scheme provides insurance for lawyers and paralegals working on pro bono projects approved by the Centre.
Firstly, we asked Shannon to tell us a bit about himself:
I have been practising as a lawyer now for 13 years. After finishing law at Sydney University, I worked as an Associate in the NSW Court of Appeal. I then started at Minter Ellison in Sydney as a solicitor in the Banking Litigation team. This is where I was first exposed to pro-bono work. I left Minters after three years and went in-house at an investment bank. I really enjoyed my time at Minters and working in-house as the training I received allowed me to gain the necessary skills as a solicitor.
After six years of practice, I decided to join the Royal Australian Navy, which I had always had in the back on my mind. I was really attracted to the sense of national service and working in a military environment. I was commissioned in April 2007 and have been serving ever since. I have been very fortunate in the experiences I have had in the Navy which include working as a Military Prosecutor, deploying to the Middle East, spending three months at sea as the embarked legal officer on Border Protection operations and my current role as the Deputy Fleet Legal Officer at Fleet Headquarters in Sydney.
How did you come to be involved with KidsXpress and how have you assisted the organisation?
My involvement with KidsXpress started in 2005 as part of the founding team to set up KidsXpress under the leadership of Margo Ward (CEO) and Dr John Hewson (Chairman). I am a Non-Executive Director, Company Secretary and Legal Counsel to KidsXpress. I work very closely with the CEO and other directors.
KidsXpress is a dynamic, expressive therapy program that offers a non-threatening and creative environment to children aged 4–14 years who are experiencing difficulty, loss, challenge or trauma. KidsXpress empowers children by providing an opportunity for self-expression through the use of music, art, play and drama therapies.
How did you find out about the Scheme?
I found out about the Scheme through the Law Society of NSW.
If the Scheme had not been available to you would it have been possible for you to obtain PI insurance to enable you to assist KidsXpress?
It would have been very difficult for me to undertake the work that I do for KidsXpress without the assistance of the Scheme. KidsXpress and I are both very grateful for the Scheme and the assistance it provides me in my role.
You were recently awarded the 2014 Law Society of NSW President’s Medal for your work with KidsXpress. What does this award mean to you and to KidsXpress?
The Law Society of NSW President’s Medal is an annual award that recognises significant personal and professional contributions to the betterment of law and justice in the community by a NSW solicitor and member of the Law Society of NSW.
It was an amazing honour to receive the award last year. Unfortunately I was away at sea with the Navy at the time but a colleague of mine accepted the award on my behalf. I have received a lot of great feedback from colleagues in the Navy and at KidsXpress and have also been approached by many lawyers asking about the work I do and how they can get involved.
What advice would you give to other lawyers interested in getting involved in pro bono legal work?
I have always had instilled in me the importance of giving back to and being part the local community. I think we all have a responsibility as professionals to work within the community and to assist charities and community groups in helping those who need our help. It doesn’t matter where you work as a lawyer or the legal speciality, there will always be some person or group or charity that will greatly benefit from your pro bono legal work.
Where can we find out more about KidsXpress?
More information about KidsXpress can be found at www.kidsxpress.org.au or find us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer (Commander, Australian Fleet, Royal Australian Navy) presents
Lieutenant Commander Shannon Richards with the Law Society of NSW President’s Medal
On Saturday 14 March 2015 no less than 21 female judges and leading barristers will be presenting on topics that range from solicitors’ liability for negligence and advocates’ immunity to Injunctions and Expert Evidence.
Panels consisting of female judges, and leading barristers from each of the NSW Court of Appeal, Federal Court, Supreme Court, District Court and NCAT will present on key topics from their jurisdictions.
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.
The Lecture Series is a fundraising event for Salvos Legal Humanitarian and the registration fees/donations, which may be tax deductible, have been designed to reflect specific attendees’ ability to pay.
5 CPD/CLE points can be claimed for the full day’s attendance or 1 point per single hour lecture.
Please visit the Salvos Legal site for the full program and to register.
In the most recent National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey of Australian firms with fifty or more lawyers, the Centre for the first time asked respondents about the pro bono work undertaken by partners at their firm.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the perception that the majority of pro bono legal work at large firms is undertaken by junior lawyers, the figures for partners were not far below the figures for all lawyers.
Overall, forty percent of partners at respondent firms participated in pro bono legal work – that is to say, that they performed at least one hour of pro bono legal work in the 2013/14 financial year – compared to fifty percent of all lawyers at those same respondent firms.
For a comprehensive breakdown of these figures, including by size of firm, please refer to pages 29-30 of the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey of Australian firms with fifty or more lawyers. For all individual response refer to pages 90-91.
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.
We could not have been more pleased to hear from Monique Hurley earlier this month, who changed her life and career with the help of the site:
Late last year, I was keen to try something new and join the community legal sector and applied for a couple of different jobs that I saw advertised on your website. I have very recently relocated from Melbourne to Darwin to work as a lawyer for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency. It’s been a great experience so far, although it’s still early days!
I just wanted to touch base quickly to say that I think the website is great, an excellent resource and that I hope you keep the excellent work up!
Whether you are a student, new lawyer or anyone else looking to volunteer or work in the sector, keep an eye on Social Justice Opportunities (www.sjopps.net.au) for useful tips and a listing of current positions available across Australia.
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 from December 2014 to February 2015. Click through to read any news article in full.
20 February 2015 – The Australian
16 February 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
16 February 2015 – Law Institute Journal
16 February 2015 – Pro Bono Australia
6 February 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
3 February 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
29 January 2015 – ABC News
29 January 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
26 January 2015 – The Age
19 January 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
19 January 2015 – The Age
6 January 2015 – Pro Bono Australia
27 December 2014 – The Sydney Morning Herald
23 December 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
14 January 2015 – The Daily Star
24 January 2015 – The Malaysian Insider
15 February 2015 – Gulf News
24 December 2015 – The Straits Times
29 January 2015 – The Global Legal Post
3 February 2015 – Des Moines Register
2 February 2015 – The Jacksonville Daily Record
2 February 2015 – American Bar Association Journal
29 January 2015 – The New York Times
12 January 2015 – Public Sector Development blog (World Bank)
5 January 2015 – New Jersey Law Journal
5 January 2015 – The National Law Journal