Issue 53: July 2009
Welcome to the July 2009 edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (the Centre). We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas.
Click on any headline to read the full story.
In this edition, read about:
- ABS Survey Indicates Lawyers Did 955,400 Hours Pro Bono Work in 07/08
- New Pro Bono Clearing House Launched In SA
- South Australia Gets Quinella in Short Film Competition
- International Pro Bono Advisory Group Meets
- Lawyers Practice Manual – Contributions Needed
- Community Justice Award 2009
- Positions Vacant
- In the News – June 2009
ABS Survey Indicates Lawyers Did 955,400 Hours Pro Bono Work in 07/08
On 24 June the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the results of its survey of the legal profession’s activities in the 2007/2008 year. This survey was last conducted by the ABS in 2002. The survey indicated that Australian lawyers did 955,400 hours of pro bono work in 07/08 of which practices other than barristers (mainly solicitor practices) contributed 800,400 hours. The estimated value of this pro bono work was $238.2m with other legal services businesses accounted for the majority of this amount (78.7% or $187.4m).
Overall these figures were about 20% less than those arrived at by the Centre in its survey of individual solicitors in 2007 but rather than indicating any downturn in hours this is probably best explained by the error margin inherent in that survey as a broad adjustment had to be made to account for the self-selecting bias.
In defining pro bono legal work as “the provision of legal advice, representation or services by legally qualified staff, either free of charge or at a substantially reduced rate” and specifically excluding work done under a grant of assistance from a Legal Aid Commission, the ABS survey provides a comparison between pro bono and legal aid work.
Interestingly the hours spent on pro bono work during the year were 44.5% of the time spent by lawyers doing work on matters referred out by Legal Aid Commissions. A full comparison with Legal Aid would need to take into account the amount of time spent by salaried legal aid lawyers and public defenders (which is considerable) but this is a remarkable indicia of the amount of pro bono work being done by the legal profession in relation to outsourced Legal Aid work.
The ABS cautioned that pro bono figures should be used with caution as legal practices generally did not maintain records in this area and therefore estimated its value. This may be true for smaller firms and barristers but large firms do keep accurate records as most of them now provide full billable credits to their lawyers for their pro bono work.
In the Centre’s survey in 2008 of large firms, it found that 25 firms had provided 195,400 hours of pro bono legal work last year (worth $48.5m) .On ABS figures this would be about 25 % (195,400/800,400) of all pro bono provided by legal services other than barristers. This is an impressive performance by these 25 firms although importantly, contribution was far from even across the firms.
New Pro Bono Clearing House Launched In SA
South Australia’s new pro bono legal assistance centre, JusticeNet SA, was launched by Federal Court judge, the Hon. Justice Mansfield, on 2 July at the University of Adelaide’s Moot Court.
“JusticeNet will help close the gaps in current legal service delivery in South Australia,” says JusticeNet’s Executive Director, Tim Graham.
“JusticeNet will operate as a ‘clearing-house’ that matches clients with member lawyers willing to act pro bono. The scheme will provide a coordinated and targeted service rather than the current ad hoc approach.”
“Thank God for Runnymede.” were Justice Mansfield’s opening words, quoting Lord Denning. Runnymede was the site of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Justice Mansfield spoke about the evolution of the modern principles of equality before the law and access to justice. He reminded the audience of the nearly 800 year old promise of clause 40 of the Magna Carta, “To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.”, the famous clause that entrenched the principle of equal access to the courts for all citizens.
Justice Mansfield said “We have not yet achieved an ideal system of access to justice in this country, despite the often heroic efforts of the legal profession.” He reminded the audience of the “many instances of selfless contribution by private lawyers to provide disadvantaged Australians with pro bono legal representation. The private profession was being called on even more urgently since the winding back of legal aid for most civil matters over the last few decades” He noted that “there were two critical challenges that faced the profession generally in promoting access to justice. First, how good the system was at upholding the rights of all.” And he invoked the “ascerbic” words of Anatole France to remind listeners that a quality system is not enough unless we can, secondly, ensure that all citizens can actually obtain legal representation, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.” “JusticeNet will greatly assist the provision of pro bono legal assistance by regulating and coordinating what has to date largely been an ad hoc approach”. Justice Mansfield concluded by commending the tireless efforts of the promoters and supporters of JusticeNet.
The referral scheme is similar to interstate models which have operated successfully for some years, particularly in Victoria, NSW and Queensland.
The scheme will provide assistance primarily to people who need civil representation, although certain criminal matters may also be eligible.
Graham said: “There is strong support for JusticeNet in the profession. JusticeNet already has approximately 30 individual members, and looks forward to signing on its first law firms.”.
The launch event was used as the opportunity for a colloquium of the PILCHs from QLD, NSW and Victoria to share their experience with SA and discuss how to enhance co-operation. A workshop the following day, attended by the CLCs, Legal Aid and the private profession, and chaired by NPBRC’s Director, John Corker, looked at how JusticeNet might best operate.
The establishment of JusticeNet has been made possible by a grant from the Law Foundation of South Australia, and the provision of accommodation from the University of Adelaide.
Firms and members of the legal profession who would like to become members of JusticeNet can do so by contacting Tim
Graham on (08) 8303 5005 or [email protected]
South Australia Gets Quinella in Short Film Competition
South Australian entrants have taken out first and second prize in the National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s Short Film Competition, Pro Bono Uncut.
First place was awarded to filmmakers David Gregan, Daniel Vink and Andrew Shanks for Stan Spade, a 1950s-style black and white film noir about veteran lawyer who provides pro bono assistance to a young woman in distress.
Second place was awarded to Street Level by Liam Gaunt and Kristyn Briggs, for its simple yet moving depiction of the abuse faced by homeless people at street level, and how understanding and pro bono assistance can make a difference.
The winning films were selected by a panel of judges including Executive Producer and award-winning current affairs documentary maker, Peter McEvoy, former President of the Sydney Film Festival, Ross Tzannes AM, and the Centre’s Senior Policy and Project Manager, Skye Rose.
In addition to winning first and second prizes, South Australian entries accounted for half of all entries to the competition. ‘We were overwhelmed by the interest shown by South Australian lawyers, filmmakers and law students. For a relatively small pro bono community, this is a great result and is a testament to the commitment of the South Australian legal profession to improve access to justice for disadvantaged people’.
The judges also awarded Highly Commended Awards to William’s Story by Ben Clarke and Sam Curtain, for its emotive portrayal of the injustices faced by a refugee who found help through pro bono representation, and Pro Bono @ Glebe Markets by Anthony Jucha, which follows the journey of a lawyer who set up a stall at Glebe Markets to offer free legal advice.
The top four entries are available to be viewed on YouTube on the Centre’s website. The Centre intends to edit and modify some of the entries to further promote pro bono.
International Pro Bono Advisory Group Meets
This new group convened and chaired by the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Robert McClelland met for the first time in Sydney on 1 July. The group brings together a range of private sector lawyers, Government and non government agencies with expertise in international pro bono and development assistance work. Law firms represented on the group include, Allens Arthur Robinson, Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz, Deacons. DLA Phillips Fox, Mallesons, and Sparke Helmore. For a full list of members see the Attorney-General’s media release.
The law firms present indicated that they would like more detail about the available pro bono opportunities particularly in the Asia Pacific region. Lawyers Beyond Borders, AusAID and World Vision agreed to provide lists of possible opportunities for the next meeting recognizing that help might be provided to assist governments, NGOs or individuals depending on the unmet legal need.
The group agreed on the need for a statement of principles on international pro bono work and referred to the UK and IBA Declarations.
The group is expected to meet three times a year.
Lawyers Practice Manual – Contributions Needed
The Lawyers Practice Manual (LPM) will be well known to many of you. It covers approximately 21 areas of law written by more than 90 legal specialists, coordinated by Thomson Reuters and Redfern Legal Centre (NSW), Springvale Legal Service (VIC), Caxton Legal Service (QLD), SCALES (WA) and Westside Community Lawyers (SA). It is a 3 volume compendium of law that uses a mix of commentary, interview checklists, precedents, samples and forms and is widely used to advise people in areas of community law.
The publishers are seeking practitioners in any State to write or review in relevant areas of law, particularly family law, criminal law, personal injury, housing and property, and immigration law.
How do I contribute?
You can contribute to the LPM in two ways:
1. Write a new chapter completely from scratch on an area of law either replacing an outdated chapter or one not already published in the LPM;
2. Review an already published LPM chapter for currency, and update the content where required.
Submitting a contribution entails conducting your own research and a final proofread. An in-house editor will edit submitted contributions, which will be sent back for author approval. Some chapters can be written by multiple authors.
All pro bono authors are given the option of a gratis, single-user to the online version or to the paper version whilst writing for the service.
Who to contact?
Joanna Goldsworthy (Commissioning Editor) Phone: 02 8587 7318 Email: [email protected]
Isabel Begg (Product Manager) Phone: 02 8587 7422 Email: [email protected]
Community Justice Award 2009
Victorian Women Lawyers is inviting nominations for the 2009 Community Justice Award.
The Award recognises a student or recently admitted lawyer who, on a pro bono or volunteer basis, demonstrates a commitment to issues related to women and justice.
Those eligible include students enrolled in a bachelor of laws at a Victorian University or a law graduate up to one year post-admission to legal practice. They may self-nominate or be nominated by their organisation.
The pro bono or volunteer work does not have to fall strictly within the definition of legal advice or representation. For example, contributions towards causes such as advocacy or work to improve access to justice for marginalised women in the community will be considered.
The Award, which will be presented to the winner at the Women’s Achievement Awards in September, includes prize money of $1,000, of which $500 will be donated to their organisation.
Written nominations of 500 words or less should be submitted no later than 31 July 2009 to:
Tracey Spiller, Victorian Women Lawyers Administrator c/o Law Institute Victoria GPO Box 263C Melbourne 3001 DX 350 Melbourne Email [email protected]
Office Manager/Executive Assistant – National Pro Bono Resource Centre
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre is seeking a full time office manager/executive assistant. The successful applicant will have superior organisational skills, high level computer literacy (including web applications) and be able to exercise initiative and independent judgment. Familiarity with the Australian legal system would be an advantage.
Download an information pack here. Applications close Friday 24 July 2009.
Manager – Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (Vic)
Victoria’s Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) is seeking a highly motivated professional to manage the Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC) and supervise its legal practice.
This is an exciting opportunity to lead a team of committed staff and volunteers advocating on behalf of, and providing free legal assistance to, people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. HPLC works to reduce homelessness and reform laws that impact unfairly on people in this situation.
The ideal candidate will have excellent legal credentials along with a proven ability to successfully manage a range of stakeholders and advocate on public policy.
Applications are due by Monday 27 July 2009 and should be sent to: Executive Director, PILCH, PO Box 16013 Melbourne 8007, or by email to [email protected]. Enquires to Penny Morrow on (03) 8636 4407 .
In the News – June 2009
Click through to read any news article in full.
Announcement of additional one-off funding including money for community legal centres.
JusticeNet, which operates a referral scheme to help eligible people and organisations to obtain pro bono legal advice and representation where existing services cannot respond, has been established with the assistance of a grant from the Law Foundation of SA.
The Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House’s ‘Rural Regional Remote Project’ will engage more regional law firms in pro-bono work by partnering a national firm with a regional one.
With pro bono assistance, a group of homeless men living behind Sydney’s historic Bondi Pavilion have been granted a temporary reprieve from eviction after they took the local council to court and won.
Nicolas Patrick is preparing to become the first full-time pro-bono partner in Australia at law firm DLA Phillips Fox. Patrick says investment in pro-bono specialists makes sense during periods of economic turmoil.
(Story abstract from the Australian).
New York’s Incisive Media has launched a new career website focused on job opportunities and career management in public interest law: publicinterestlawjobs.com
Victoria Legal Aid launches new publication to help people in debt.
Fitzroy Legal Service launches free online law handbook.
A court assistance scheme for people in same-sex relationships, transsexual people, and intersex people experiencing domestic violence will include pro bono referrals.
According to the ABS, in 2007/08, barristers and other legal services provided 955,400 hours on pro bono work. Other legal services accounted for approximately 800,400 of these hours. In addition to pro bono work, barristers and other legal services provided 2,142,400 hours on work referred to them by legal aid commissions. This represents an average of 56 hours per practising barrister or solicitor during the 2007/08 financial year.
With demand down, a few law firms have told associates to take the year off. White & Case is offering $45,000 to incoming associates to defer their employment at the beach. If they spend the year doing charity work, they’ll be paid $75,000. Skadden Arps has offered associates the opportunity to do pro bono work for a third of their pay.
Timbercorp investors asked to contribute to fighting fund as lawyers who have been working pro bono can no longer continue to do so.
Nominations for these awards are now open, including the Pro Bono Partnerships Award.
Karen Cox, the director of the NSW Consumer Credit Legal Centre, which operates a hotline for people in financial distress, said clients had faced problems because financial companies had a default position of offering a three-month moratorium on loan repayments, while interest continued to be charged.
The government has announced $40,000 in funding for a project run by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre to get retired lawyers involved in pro bono legal work.
PILCH (Vic) wants federal courts to have the power to exempt litigants in “public interest” cases from paying costs if they lose as this would improve access to justice for marginalised and disadvantaged Australians
Megumi Ogawa, a lecturer at Southern Cross University who sent 83 emails and 176 phone calls to Federal Court staff, was represented pro bono by barrister Angelo Vasta in the Brisbane District Court.
(Also reported in The Age and The West Australian)
Jim Byrnes, who has vowed to resubmit his class action against BrisCon, has said he would organise pro bono legal representation for other BrisCon investors in a similar position.
A report by the Footscray Community Legal Centre suggests that the path of African refugees coming to Australia is not easy
A new legal service, developed by the NSW Consumer Credit Legal Centre and Legal Aid NSW, has been established to assist people who are in the process of having their homes repossessed.
The practice of Dubbo solicitor, John North, who is to become a judge of the NSW District Court, has covered Legal Aid and pro bono cases, including indigenous and child care matters.
Socially responsible in-house lawyers will finally be able to use their skills to help the community free of charge thanks to a new insurance scheme that comes into place on July 1.
The Hon. Justice Virginia Bell launches the new guide which has been produced by NSW’s HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) in conjunction with DLA Phillips Fox.
LEGAL assistance to the community’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged is routinely being halted as Bendigo region’s top community legal centre, Loddon Campaspe, struggles to work under stringent and capped Government funding.
The A-G refers to pro bono work being undertaken by Bendigo lawyers.
Nuttal Trial ready to proceed (The chronicle, 10 June)
Former Queensland government minister, Gordon Nuttall, whose application for legal aid was refused, will continue to be represented pro bono by his barrister John Rivett.
Senior tenant advocate with the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre, Deirdre Dowsett, comments on strict screening for residents in caravan parks.
The view that charters of rights create a lawyers’ picnic is unsubstantiated; of the few Victorian charter cases that have been determined, the vast majority have been run pro bono for the homeless, people with mental illness and people with disability.
Katherine Lane, principal solicitor at the Consumer Credit Legal Centre NSW (CCLC), comments on the fact that struggling borrowers could be charged $1000 a year in penalty fees if they fall into arrears on mortgages and personal loans.
The Hunter Community Legal Centre is providing services to people as far as Port Macquarie amid demand for legal advice from those ineligible for Legal Aid, which may grow as the economic crisis takes hold, a Senate inquiry on access to justice has been told.
Gay rights campaigner Gary Burns hopes to get pro bono legal assistance in his battle against Channel Nine over a gay skit on The Footy Show.
Mature-aged legal student Ahmed Herasan volunteers every week at the Sunshine Youth Legal Centre.
Greg Barnes has provided pro bono legal advice to dying with dignity groups.
Click here to subscribe to the Centre’s monthly newsletter