Issue 75: October 2012
Welcome to the October 2012 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:
Australian law firms slightly increased the amount of pro bono legal assistance they provide, despite the economic conditions and the significant structural change that has taken place in the law firm sector over the past two years.
These findings come from the 2012 National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, which is conducted every two years by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, and the Fifth Annual Performance Report on the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target, both released on 4 October 2012. Thirty-six of the 51 Australian firms with more than 50 FTE lawyers, including all of the large national firms, responded to the Survey.
Between them, 11,460 FTE lawyers in Australia undertook more than 343,058 hours of pro bono legal work in the 2011/2012 financial year, or an average of 29.9 hours per lawyer per annum, up 0.9 hours per lawyer from 2010. “That’s equivalent to 191 lawyers working pro bono full-time for a year,” said John Corker, Director of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
However, performance across the 36 firms surveyed was quite uneven, ranging from 1.8 to 64.2 hours per lawyer per year. “There is clearly room for growth in pro bono legal work in a number of firms. These results will allow firms to benchmark themselves against their peers.” Corker said.
There was also a record rise in the number of Aspirational Target signatories up from 66 in 2011 to 95 in 2012. The number of full time equivalent (FTE) legal professionals covered by the Target is now 7,636.5, which is an increase of 44 per cent since 30 June 2011, the largest yearly increase since the Target was introduced in 2007. The Target now covers approximately 12.9 per cent of the Australian legal profession.
Target signatory firms generally performed better than non-signatory firms which suggests that signatory firms generally have a stronger pro bono culture evidenced by significantly higher participation rates (59.3% v 43%) and pro bono hours/lawyer (36.6 v 20.1).
Many of the new signatories are small or mid-tier firms, whose decision to sign up to the Target was influenced by the Commonwealth Attorney General Department’s current process of seeking applications from firms for inclusion on the ‘legal services multi-use list’ (LSMUL), which is being used by Australian Government departments, agencies and bodies to purchase legal services.
The 2012 National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey Interim Report and the Fifth Annual Performance Report on the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target are available in full online.
The final survey report is planned to be released later in the year with a series of forums for those interested in discussing the results.
The 1st South East Asia Pro Bono conference was held in Vientiane, Laos on 28 and 29 September 2012 bringing together over 150 delegates from 20 countries. It was a grand celebration of the importance of pro bono legal work and the pro bono ethos or, to quote Annette Bain, Australian Pro Bono Counsel for Herbert Smith Freehills, “The demonstrated passion, expertise and enthusiasm in the room was breathtaking.”
Expertly facilitated by BABSEA Community Legal Education, this was a conference about what pro bono can and has achieved. There was much active participation from delegates supported by law students from Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, including international students.
Lawyers from law firms Allens Linklaters, Baker and McKenzie, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Herbert Smith Freehills were present and shared the experience of their pro bono initiatives, relationships and projects. But the heart of the two-day conference came from the stories of lawyers undertaking pro bono work in their own countries and their successes and challenges.
Myanmar lawyers told how there was a very low awareness of law and lawyers in their country and how they were trying, on their own initiative, to register the Myanmar Legal Aid Network with government so they could help people in need without charge, train paralegals and provide community legal education.
A new definition of pro bono was suggested by Kong Phallack, a Cambodian lawyer who defined it as Metta (a Buddhist concept meaning a strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others) or hearted legal services provided by a law firm or a lawyer to the needy either free of or for minimal charge. The idea of “hearted legal services” caught the essence of pro bono for many of the delegates.
Coming from countries where the rule of law and the independence of the legal profession are not strong, the ideology of pro bono resonated strongly with many as a way in which law in their country could have greater meaning and effect. An emerging theme was the suggested relationship between the strength of the rule of law and the degree of the standard of living in a country. Pro bono was seen as a way of raising legal awareness through demonstrating that lawyers want to help build their community.
The keynote address, from Ms Malathi Das, President of LawAsia, urged delegates to revel in the nobility of the law and to be there to provide legal help when people are in need. The conference was successful in connecting Singapore lawyers with many others in the region and their continuing leadership in the development of pro bono culture in the region was evident.
Singapore Law Society’s Pro Bono Service Office (PBSO) showed what can be achieved when the legal profession really gets behind the development of a pro bono legal culture. “The Incredible Lawyer” initiative, aimed at building the pro bono culture across the profession, “Project Schools”, aimed at the education of students about how the law affects everyone, and the Pro Bono Guide for Law Practices in Singapore (based on the Australian Pro Bono Manual) were highlights of the conference.
The pro bono ethic as a driving force for legal education was a unique feature of this conference, as was the enthusiastic participation of law students who presented the story of a community legal problem theatrically, acted as timekeepers, and provided IT and logistical support.
Delegates were present from Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Luxembourg, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, United Kingdom and the USA. Many countries were keen to be the host for the next conference. There was an official handover to the 2013 host, the University of Economics and Law in Ho Cho Minh City, Vietnam, with Singapore mooted to be the host for 2014.
The Lao food was a delight with salt-encrusted fish cooked on coals, complemented by BeerLao, a favourite amongst the members of the international organizing committee. The conference was strongly supported by international and local sponsors including a local bakery and a coffee shop. One message that arose a number of times in the conference, which will be familar to Australians, was to not underestimate the extraordinary relationships that can arise from a simple chat over a cup of tea or coffee.
For further information see the BABSEA CLE conference report.
The Fourth National Access to Justice & Pro Bono Conference is being held in Melbourne on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 March 2013, hosted by the Centre, The Law Council of Australia and the Law Institute of Victoria.
See the website for details and bookmark it for the latest program and papers.
The launch was addressed by Father Frank Brennan, Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, and Bevan Warner, Chair of National Legal Aid. Fr Brennan stressed the importance of the finding that disadvantaged people were especially vulnerable to multiple, substantial legal problems. Cassandra Goldie observed that the research corroborated the ACOSS Community Sector Survey 2012 that had identified high legal need and by reference to the plight of a single mother, illustrated how important coordinated legal action might be in preventing that person becoming homeless. Bevan Warner spoke of the pressure on legal aid commissions and called on the Commonwealth government to at least match the State’s contribution to legal aid funding in order to address more of the civil law need in Australia.
Results showed that 50% of Australians aged 15 or over experienced at least one legal problem over a 12-month period. The most common legal problems reported were consumer, crime, housing and government problems.
The survey also showed the impact that legal problems have on individuals and their families, with significant findings of financial strain, health issues and relationship breakdowns as a result of experiencing legal problems.
While legal problems appear to be widespread, only half of the respondents had sought advice in order to resolve a legal problem and only 16 per cent had consulted a lawyer. Those who did nothing about their legal problems reported poorer outcomes.
“The survey results provide valuable information on legal need in Australia, not only for government but also for law firms and their pro bono programs,” said John Corker, Director of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. “Pro bono is a limited resource and should be directed towards the greatest unmet need. This comprehensive research warrants attention by pro bono providers, particularly in relation to those people identified as having heightened vulnerability to legal issues and multiple legal problems.”
The survey results were based on over 20,000 interviews of a representative sample of the Australian population.
A full copy of the survey report, summaries and individual chapters can be downloaded here from the NSW Law and Justice Foundation website.
Telstra Legal has recently formally adopted a Pro Bono Policy for the Telstra Pro Bono Program, consisting of a number of streams. Carmel Mulhern, Telstra’s Group General Counsel, launched the Policy to the Telstra Legal team in late August 2012 and encouraged all staff to take part.
General Counsel, Michael Coleman indicated that this policy was prompted by recent changes to practising certificate rules in a number of Australian jurisdictions which, for the first time, allow in-house lawyers to perform pro bono work in their corporate lawyer capacity.
Coleman said that Telstra will continue to contribute to several pro bono projects with which it is now involved, with their Pro Bono Committee working on developing additional streams. Telstra aims to align its pro bono work with its Volunteer Day program which offers individuals and workgroups the opportunity of spending a day working with the community group of their choice.
The Program will build on the Legal Services Group’s existing relationships with partner organisations like PILCH (Vic), the Arts Law Centre of Australia, King & Wood Mallesons, National Children and Youth Law Centre and Ashurst. He thanked these and other partners who have already provided assistance in the development of Telstra’s Pro Bono Policy.
The launch of the Salvos Legal Inhouse Pro Bono Desk in Sydney on 15 October represents a unique new opportunity for in-house counsel and government lawyers to become involved in pro bono legal work, and more generally, to develop the growth of pro bono culture across the profession. Salvos Legal, which was launched last year, is a not-for-profit law firm which uses the profits of its legal practice to fund a free humanitarian law service for those in need.
While some of the obstacles to the participation of in-house and government lawyers have been removed in recent years, for example with changes to practising certificate regimes, there are still many in-house and government lawyers interested in contributing their time and skills, who have difficulty finding appropriate projects or supervision.
Lawyers from the corporate and government sectors who volunteer to undertake legal work with Salvos Legal will be supervised and supported as they help Salvos Legal Humanitarian clients.
“Lawyers volunteering at the desk will be able to work on a diverse range of matters across our humanitarian practice,” said Salvos Legal founder and Managing Partner Luke Geary.
“We know that there is a great demand among the ranks of in-house lawyers who wish to undertake pro bono work and achieve the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target of 35 hours a year, but find the pro bono ‘opportunities’ hard to come by. Our Desk can help meet this need. Inhouse counsel who ‘hot-desk’ with us will be able to rely on our professional indemnity insurance,” said Geary.
Several large corporate/government entities have already made enquiries with Salvos Legal in relation to setting up a formal program at the Desk for their in-house lawyers (in addition to enquiries from individual lawyers).
Lawyers can either volunteer in their own time or, with the permission of their employer, undertake the pro bono work as part of their official employment. Those interested in working for the Desk, can obtain further information about the nature of the work and areas of law involved on the Inhouse Pro Bono Desk webpage.
On 15 October 2012, the NBN Southern Tasmanian legal service based at the Sorell outreach branch of the Hobart Community Legal Service (HCLS) opened its doors for business. The Attorney-General, the Hon Nicola Roxon and the Hon Julie Collins, Minister for Community Services were on hand at the offices of the HCLS to help promote the service and meet the HCLS staff.
The service has been established under a grant under the NBN Regional Legal Assistance Program to use the NBN to provide pro bono legal support in a regional area with a view to learning about the advantages and disadvantages of this high bandwidth video support.
The service will provide free legal advice to clients with appropriate matters, by using an NBN-based video link to lawyers from DLA Piper coordinated through a team leader based in the firm’s Melbourne office. The HCLS solicitor at Sorell will
It is hoped that having access to lawyers online will allow the HCLS to provide legal advice to people it previously could not assist because it did not have the expertise, and provide opportunities to increase the skills and knowledge of the HCLS lawyers. DLA Piper will also provide legal training sessions on specific areas of law to HCLS legal staff. The training addresses a need in a small jurisdiction where it is difficult for community lawyers to get support from the private profession because many firms have conflicts, actual or perceived.
Advocacy-Health Alliances or Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLP) as they are known in the United States, involve collaborations between advocates and health workers to achieve improved health and social outcomes for clients / patients. Such holistic approaches to service provision, whether in the health, legal or social service arena are of increasing interest to policy makers and funderswho wish to target services to where they can achieve the greatest impact
In Australia, MLP is in its infancy but there are examples of legal services provided in partnership with health services such as the Cancer Council Legal Referral Service (NSW), the long-standing West Heidelberg Community Legal Service partnership with Banyule Community Health service (Vic) or the pro bono legal program developed by lawyers from Baker & McKenzie at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Vic).
Peter Noble, Coordinator of Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, undertook a study of MLP in the US earlier in 2012 as a Clayton Utz fellow. His report was released at the National Association of Community Legal Centres Conference in Adelaide this year and made series of recommendations aimed at advancing Advocacy Health Alliances in Australia. The research revealed that providing legal services in partnership with health care providers can have a significant impact on the health of disadvantaged people and potentially reduce overall public health costs.
The Inaugural Australian Symposium for Advocacy-Health Alliances, proudly hosted by Baker & McKenzie on 15 November 2012, is for those who work or study in the health or legal fields, have an interest in this area, or would just like to know more.
The Symposium’s guest speakers are:
Further details and how to register for the event can be found on the Advocacy Health Alliances Blog.
The second instalment in the Salvos Legal 2012 Lecture Series is to be held on 3 November 2012, brought to you jointly by Salvos Legal and the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
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 second set of lectures will be held in Sydney on Saturday 3 November and present lectures from The Hon Peter Rose, QC, Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO, Federal Magistrate Tom Altobelli, The Hon Justice James Allsop and Federal Magistrate Rolf Driver.
Registration for the lectures is by way of donation (however much you can afford) and is fully tax deductible. The proceeds from the Salvos Legal 2012 lecture series will go to support the cost of disbursements associated with the most needy of cases at the Salvos Legal Humanitarian practice.
5 CPD/CLE points can be claimed for attendance.
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. Currently there are more than twenty positions listed.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from August to October 2012. Click through to read any news article in full.
Congratulations to Clayton Utz for their impressive performance:
Clutz reaches pro bono landmark
Mature professions give something back [paywall]
22 October 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
19 October 2012 – The Australian
17 October 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
15 October 2012 – ABC News
15 October 2012 – DLA Piper
12 October 2012 – The Australian
12 October 2012 – Ipswich Satellite
9 October 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
9 October 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
8 October 2012 – Pro Bono Australia
8 October 2012 – Law Institute Journal
5 October 2012 – The Australian
5 October 2012 – The Australian
5 October 2012 – Australian Financial Review
26 September 2012 – ABC News
21 September 2012 – The Australian
17 September 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
14 September 2012 – Canberra Times
14 September 2012 – The Australian
8 September 2012 – The Australian
31 August 2012 – The Australian
29 August 2012 – The Australian
29 August 2012 – Herald Sun
23 August 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
22 August 2012 – Courier Mail
23 October 2012 – Thomson Reuters
18 October 2012 – TrustLaw
15 October 2012 – Above the Law
26 September 2012 – Huffington Post
26 September 2012 – The American Lawyer Daily
25 September 2012 – New York Law Journal
19 September 2012 – New York Times
11 September 2012 – The Straits Times
29 August 2012 – The American Lawyer
24 August 2012 – The Atlantic