Welcome to the October 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:
3. REPORT: Fourth Performance Report on the Aspirational Target Shows Contributions Remain Steady as More Lawyers and Law Firms Sign Up
This year’s national CLC conference recently held in Hobart attracted over 450 delegates and covered a broad range of topics from new research about what works (and doesn’t) in the self-help landscape to the injustices associated with detainees unfit to plead in WA or seeking asylum in Australia. The role of pro bono assistance arose specifically and incidentally in numerous conference sessions with an increased air of acceptability as a legitimate way to advance the aims of CLCs’ and their clients.
Law firms with attendees included Minter Ellison, Gilbert & Tobin and DLA Piper with good representation from the PILCHs. A valuable session was the joint presentation by Pru Gregory, Principal Solicitor, MacArthur Legal Centre, Campbelltown, NSW and Anton Hermann, National Pro Bono Director from Minter Ellison, Melbourne talking about their pro bono/CLC partnership or “trust relationship” that had continued since 2003. Pru’s tips for aspiring CLCs looking for long term productive pro bono partnerships apply to many relationships and are sage advice. They are:
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre was involved in two conference sessions, a general pro bono session with an emphasis on assistance in RRR areas and a session by Leanne Ho from the Centre on ‘How should CLCs respond the push toward ADR?’. Thank you to Tamara Sims, Pro Bono Solicitor at Gilbert & Tobin, Claudia Fatone, Sector Development Officer at the Victorian Federation of CLCs and Andrea de Smidt, Self Representation Service Coordinator, QPILCH for presenting in the pro bono session. The session drew attention to the success of large firms assisting small firms to deliver pro bono in RRR areas in QLD and the support for the CLSD model in many areas but also the need for more work to be done about ways that pro bono can address meet need in areas where there are no CLCs or legal aid offices.
The Centre released its discussion paper on ADR and the possible role of pro bono lawyers on which it is seeking feedback and comment by 1 December 2011.
Responding to the challenge to build a more resilient, capable and innovative sector was a thoughtful paper by Peter Noble, Coordinator Loddon Campaspe CLC, entitled ‘CLCs and Cumulative Harm’. This paper provides direction for CLCs towards operating effective and capable organizations by addressing the incidence and consequences of cumulative harm with brutal honesty. Also a session with Peter Arnaudo, Assistant Secretary. Cth A-G’s Department, Hugh de Kretser, Executive Officer, Federation of CLCs (Vic) and Nicole Rich, Director, Research and Communication, Victoria Legal Aid, that sought to identify key trends for legal assistance services over the next decade, provided an important contribution to the future change management challenges for the sector.
Conference papers will be available on the NACLC website shortly.
Nominees for the seven awards ranged from some of the largest law firms in the country to community legal centres, Indigenous community organisations and sole practitioners. Those in attendance at Parliament House in Sydney heard many inspiring stories, including of the local lawyer who had been volunteering at his local community legal centre for over thirty years and the vital assistance provided by Court Support Volunteers.
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre again sponsored the Pro Bono Partnership Award, presented to partnerships consisting of law firms, community organisations and/or community legal centres which are innovative, successful and long-lasting.
It is a testament to the increasing pro bono ethos, both in NSW and across the country, that the Women’s Legal Services NSW, Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz, Freehills, the NSW Bar Association and the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions were able to join in 2009 to highlight problems with the operation of the law concerning victims of sexual assault and the exercise of their privilege to protect themselves from the harm that may be caused if their private counselling records are used in court.
That these firms and organisations could come together in such a collegial and effective manner, setting up a scheme that allowed victims to be represented by members of the bar briefed by one of the firms to enable them to exercise this privilege, would be rousing in itself. Truly inspiring was the fact that the partners were able to use the experience gained to agitate for law reform, leading to successful changes being made to the Criminal Procedure Act NSW in late 2010, and to Legal Aid NSW agreeing to provide a permanent state wide unit to assist the victims of sexual assault to invoke their privilege against revelation of their private counselling records.
The other nominees for this Award featured large and small firms from both metropolitan and regional NSW:
Winners of and nominees for the other awards presented can be found on the Law and Justice Foundation’s website.
An average of 39.8 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer per year was done in the last financial year by signatories to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target, compared to the 39.5 hours per lawyer reported in 2009/2010. Collectively, the reporting signatories provided more than 220,000 hours of pro bono legal work in the 2010/2011 financial year. These findings come from the Fourth Performance Report on the Aspirational Target, released earlier this month.
While the Target of 35 hours per lawyer per year is intended to be aspirational many signatories exceed this number, and some even double it or more. The eight law firm signatories with more than 50 lawyers that met the Target averaged 48.6 hours per lawyer per annum and jointly provided almost 180,000 hours of pro bono work last year. However there is still a lot of variation in performance amongst the thirteen large firms who reported.
The Target provides a useful benchmark for firms and has seen a growth in the number of signatories from 58 to 66 during the year (for a full list of signatories see here). The Target now covers approximately 5,900 lawyers or 11 percent of the Australian legal profession.
The Target continues to confirm the shared responsibility of lawyers to provide pro bono assistance. Whilst the legal profession weathered the economic downturn quite well, the effects of it are still being felt by some. Whilst many signatories reported reductions in the numbers of FTE lawyers the overall contributions of some firms increased, which is testament to their ongoing commitment to access to justice.
Smaller firms and sole practitioners also do more than their fair share of pro bono work each year. This year, the top performing firm based on hours per lawyer was a firm with three lawyers each of whom did an average of 240 hours of pro bono legal work last year.
The Baker & McKenzie pro bono program was formally established in 2002, and continues to grow. The program focuses on five key areas of legal need: poverty, health, the environment, youth and the arts, and seeks to meet unmet legal need in the community. In September the firm’s Melbourne and Sydney offices signed up to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target.
Pro bono work is considered a part of a lawyer’s professional responsibility at Baker & McKenzie. Each lawyer is expected to work on at least one pro bono matter each year, and the firm has an internal aspirational target of 50 hours per lawyer per year. In the last financial year, over 80% of the firm’s lawyers participated in pro bono work, and the average number of hours per lawyers was just over 35.
The Baker & McKenzie pro bono program launched the Peter Mac Cancer Patients Legal Service in 2006 in Melbourne, as a response to a report by the NSW Law & Justice Foundation. The service was the first of its kind in the world, and has been replicated and built upon in NSW by the Cancer Council (see here). In addition to responding to the legal needs of terminally ill people, the firm participates in the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service in Sydney and Melbourne, and works in partnership with Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off the Streets.
However, individual clients are only a part of the pro bono program. The firm frequently assists not-for-profit organisations and charities with their legal needs as well as policy and law reform submissions. As a global firm, lawyers at Baker & McKenzie can also take part in cross border pro bono projects led by a dedicated Corporate Social Responsibility Partner based in North America.
The Fourth National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference will take place on 21 & 22 March 2013.
The Conference will be held in Melbourne at the RACV Club and will be hosted by the Centre, the Law Council of Australia and the Law Institute of Victoria. More information will be provided via National Pro Bono News as it comes to hand.
The Centre has released a seeking input for a Final Paper it plans to publish on the possible role of pro bono lawyers in the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process.
The Discussion Paper explores the role that pro bono lawyers might play to assist in the ADR process, in the context of the rise in the use of ADR and the increasing expectation that parties to a dispute will consider and use ADR before initiating or proceeding with litigation.
The Centre prepared the Discussion Paper after consulting legal referral and service providers, mediation accreditation bodies, those involved in delivering government and industry sponsored ADR schemes, and existing pro bono mediation schemes. The information it collected through its research and consultation raised a series of issues, and the need for further information and comment.
The Discussion Paper outlines the ADR landscape, discusses the role of lawyers in the process both as ADR practitioners and as lawyers acting for parties to a dispute, identifies issues arising from its consultations, suggests possible roles for pro bono lawyers in ADR and seeks further input from interested parties, setting out a series of 10 questions upon which it seeks comment.
In its preliminary conclusions, the Discussion Paper lists a number of considerations in identifying where there may be gaps in ADR services which pro bono lawyers could appropriately address, namely whether:
Its preliminary conclusions also provide a list of experience and knowledge that pro bono lawyers will need to effectively play a role in ADR processes, namely:
Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the Discussion Paper by 1 December 2011, in particular on the preliminary conclusions in the paper and in response to the questions set out in Section 9.
The Centre plans to publish a final paper on the possible role of pro bono lawyers in the ADR process in 2012.
A copy of the Discussion Paper can be found here.
As a response to the recent riots in the UK, a specialist legal service – Riot Help – was established by the pro bono sector to provide free legal assistance and advice to affected individuals, small businesses and not-for profit organisations.
The scheme was established by LawWorks, a charity which aims to provide free legal help to individuals and community groups who cannot afford to pay for it and who are unable to access legal aid, in conjunction with the Law Society of England and Wales and the Bar Pro Bono Unit, as well as member firms of LawWorks, including Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper and Norton Rose.
Riot Help acts as a clearing house matching those affected by the riots all across the country with lawyers who provide legal services on a pro bono basis, on issues as diverse as bankruptcy and insolvency, property damage, insurance, employment, welfare, housing and debt. The service also offers information and guidance to the victims of riots in cases where a referral to a solicitor would not be appropriate.
In addition to Riot Help, assistance and information has been made available to the victims of riots by the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The accompanying website, www.sjopps.net.au, features a ‘Latest Opportunities’ section for law students and new lawyers. This section provides information on upcoming opportunities to volunteer or gain employment, including job advertisements, graduate and internship programs and volunteer information nights. If you know of any such upcoming opportunities please email Daniel at [email protected].
We need your help to promote and link to the site. The above logo can be used on your website (or a smaller version) .
A law firm in Sydney is looking for 4 year legal practitioner to become its newest Pro Bono Lawyer. This is a specialised role which assists in implementing socially responsible programs and initiatives nationally. The position is a varied role, with both administrative and legal professional duties and responsibilities. In this role, you will coordinate projects and contribute to strategic planning for the programs, and assist a range of charities and non-profit groups, as well as disadvantaged and marginalised groups in the community.
More information can be found on Naiman Clarke’s website.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from August – October 2011. Click through to read any news article in full.
24 October 2011 – The New Lawyer
Eight law firms with more than 50 lawyers did 39.8 hours per lawyer of pro bono work in the last financial year, new figures reveal. The lawyers are signatories to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target. The figure compares to the 39.5 hours per lawyer reported in 2009/2010. Collectively, the reporting signatories provided more than 220,000 hours of pro bono legal work in the 2011 financial year.
20 October 2011 – Pro Bono Australia
Specialist Not for Profit legal service PilchConnect, managed by the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) in Victoria, has been given a short term funding reprieve by the Victorian Government, , which is providing $235,000 as part funding to continue the service until July next year. PilchConnect combines the pro bono resources of the private legal profession with specialist in-house expertise to deliver NFP organisations with legal advice, assistance and training.
17 October 2011 – Lawyers Weekly
Two years of hard work by the New South Wales Young Lawyers has culminated in the delivery of a brief to the Federal Government calling for investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka. The NSWYL assisted the International Commission of Jurists Australia to prepare and submit a brief of evidence to the Australian Federal Police and Commonwealth DPP last Friday. See also here.
14 October 2011 – The Australian
The suggestion in last week’s Australian by Nicolas Patrick that the private legal profession should consider capping pro bono or pegging it to government spending on legal aid serves to remind us of the vital public-private partnership between government and the legal profession that lies at the heart of the pro bono system, writes John Corker from the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
11 October 2011 – The PBEye (Pro Bono Institute)
The Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, collaborating with social services and the justice system, has opened the Maintenance Support Central (MSC), a one-stop drop-in center where low-income mums can get free legal help to collect unpaid maintenance and child support. MSC partners with the Law Society of Singapore’s Pro Bono Services Office and the local family bar.
10 October 2011 – Pro Bono Australia
7 October 2011 – Australian Financial Review
Australian lawyers received a mixed report card for pro bono work in the last financial year, with a widening performance gap among Australia’s large firms, according to a report released this week. The National Pro Bono Resource Centre established in 2007 a voluntary target for firms and individual lawyers to sign up to, with an aim of individual lawyers spending an average of 35 hours a year on pro bono work.
7 October 2011 – Pro Bono Australia
Signing up to an aspirational target is increasing the number of hours of pro bono legal work performed by Australian lawyers, according to a report from the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. Australian lawyers who signed up to a national target performed an average of 39.8 hours of pro bono legal work in the last year according to the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
1 October 2011 – Law Institute Journal
1 October 2011 – Rights Agenda (Human Rights Law Resource Centre)
28 September 2011 – The Australian
28 September 2011 – The Courier-Mail
27 September 2011 – Lawyers Weekly
17 September 2011 – Sydney Morning Herald
31 August 2011 – Lawyers Weekly
16 August 2011 – National Association of Community Legal Centres