Welcome to the March 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:
Twenty law firms have become signatories to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target since mid December 2011. Most of these firms are small or mid-tier firms. Conversations with a number of these firms indicate that the Commonwealth AGD’s current process of seeking applications from firms for inclusion on the new ‘legal services multi-use list’ (LSMUL) has brought the issue of pro bono practice to ‘front of mind’ for a number of these firms, whether they intend to seek inclusion in this round or the next. The first round of applications for inclusion on the LSMUL closed on 24 February 2012. The second round for the year will close on 4 September 2012. The Office of Legal Services Coordination has indicated that the LSMUL is proposed to come into operation in June 2012 and will be used by most Australian Government departments, agencies and bodies to purchase legal services.
The LSMUL explanatory notes indicate that applicants will be assessed on their demonstrated understanding and capacity to meet the requirements of the Legal Services Directions, including their commitment to pro bono legal work. Applicants are required to either indicate that they subscribe to the National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s Aspirational Target, or nominate a target value of Pro Bono Legal Work (as defined in the Target) over a financial year. Under the Deed, the firm agrees to use their best endeavours to meet the target value of pro bono legal work nominated in their application and to report to the Commonwealth within 30 days of the end of each financial year on their pro bono performance.
The National Pro Bono Aspirational Target requires signatories to aspire to undertake at least 35 hours per lawyer per annum of pro bono legal work. The Centre is offering free consultancy services to new target signatories to assist them to develop their pro bono legal practice.
For the six months ended 31 December 2011, the forty lawyers covered under the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme indicated that they had done pro bono legal work during the past six months working out to an average of 12.3 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer for that 6 month period (or 24.6 hours per lawyer p.a.). The Law Society Journal (NSW) will be running a story this month on two in-house lawyers that have been taking advantage of the free PI insurance cover for them to provide pro bono legal work.
For background see the previous story on in-house corporate pro bono in the July 2011 edition of the National Pro Bono News. For details of pro bono projects where PI insurance has been provided see the PI Insurance Register.
A monograph and a report recently produced by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW provide a unique insight into the operation of mental health tribunals in Australia and in so doing, examine the role of lawyers and identify the unmet legal need of those coming before the Tribunals. The monograph, Australian Mental Health Tribunals, Space for Fairness, Freedom, Protection and Treatment? by T Carney, D Tait, J Perry, A Vernon and F Beaupert provides a comprehensive examination of mental health tribunal hearings in Australia. The report, The NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal, An analysis of clients matters and determinations by M Cain. M Karras, T Beed with T Carney provides a detailed description and analysis of a sample of mental health clients whose contacts with the NSW Mental Health Tribunal (MHT) were tracked for a period of almost five years.
The main theme running through the monograph is that of a concept of a ‘relational and supportive space’ in addressing mental health issues as a way of encouraging the hearing process as one that does not undermine participants’ sense of self-esteem and self-efficacy, or adversely impact on people’s ability to reap the potential benefits of treatment. This relational space is one which actively facilitates collaboration/and or interaction between those involved in assisting a person experiencing mental health issues, enabling them to work towards a better understanding of the situation as experienced by themselves, others around them, and those in the health and social care services; as well as providing what is required to address medical, social, legal and personal concerns in a very practical sense.
Where lawyers fit into this space is a complex issue, not the least being that a solicitor may not be able to engage with a patient because of the seriousness of their mental condition. The monograph makes clear that this is about much more than consumers being able to present their case during the hearing. The evolution and reform of MHTs envisaged in this monograph is situated within the growing trend towards therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice i.e. more of a non-adversarial approach. However the report notes recent UK research that found that contact with and support from a legal representative had positive impacts on a client’s court/tribunal experiences including greater acceptance and satisfaction with the eventual outcome.
The monograph encourages a more comprehensive approach to addressing the social, health and emotional rights and needs of those involved in legal processes regarding mental health but agrees that the creation of a relational and supportive space for addressing mental health issues ‘entails at a minimum, timely access to advocacy’.
The research indicates that timely access to advocacy is not the case currently in Australia. Within the jurisdictions covered, access to legal representation is currently problematic. There are a number of reasons given as to why access to legal representatives before the hearing is limited and how the quality of the legal service may be affected:
The research reveals that legal advocates sometimes found it hard to adopt a non-adversarial approach given their training and experience in court. It is suggested that training in non-adversarial practices could be of benefit for legal advocates more broadly, along with developing more skills in problem solving methods, interpersonal communication skills and how to participate in collaborative processes.
It was also noted that the diversity of legislative language and approaches across States and Territories of Australia is a constant source of frustration and concern for organisations looking at issues from a consumer perspective and thus there is need for law reform.
Whilst the report does not advocate for universal legal representation for routine mental health review cases, it suggests that representation should be mandatory for detention, ECT and other ‘risk’ categories, such as where an independent assessment suggests that a CTO is contestable.
Some sobering statistics from NSW about legal representation indicate that whilst a legal representative was more likely to be in attendance in matters that involved a Temporary Patient Order (79%; also known as in-patient orders) and applications for protected estate orders (79%), it was very uncommon (1%) for a legal representative to appear at a CTO hearing or for a hearing considering making an order for ECT (7%). The client’s legal representative was almost always a Legal Aid NSW solicitor.
These reports contain much more information and recommendations and should be essential reading for any lawyer operating in the Mental Health Tribunal jurisdiction. The reports present an enterprising law firm with extensive background and research particularly useful to inform development of a pro bono practice in this area. Testament to this is the existing Pro Bono Justice project with the Mental Health Legal Centre (MHLC) in Victoria where lawyers from Maddocks and seven other firms, the bar and the public service provide advice and representation in CTO matters. MHLC also runs its Inside Access project where lawyers from DLA Piper and Blake Dawson provide legal services to incarcerated persons with mental illness.
Two major research projects that the Centre is undertaking this year are ‘What Works in Pro Bono’ and ‘What can pro bono do (and not do) in addressing unmet legal need in family law’.
The What Works project is intended to be a resource that assists those involved in providing, seeking and brokering pro bono legal assistance to maximise the effectiveness of pro bono projects they are involved in, by helping them to better understand best practice working models of pro bono assistance and the issues that affect the provision of pro bono legal assistance. The publication will identify different models of pro bono legal assistance and provide information about each model as follows:
– what is meant by that model?
– what are the benefits of that model?
– what challenges are faced by that model?
– what are the features of an effective project using that model?
– important things to consider (Tips/Check list)
Case studies illustrating each model and the features of successful projects using that model will be included.
The Pro Bono and Family Law/Domestic Violence Project is a research project which intends to identify, specifically in the areas of Family Law and Domestic Violence:
– what pro bono work is currently being done in family law/domestic violence
– what are the reasons for pro bono service providers not taking on matters in family law/domestic violence
– where pro bono assistance may be appropriate in meeting unmet legal need in these areas; and
– what the limitations and opportunities of pro bono assistance are.
This will be done through identifying existing research on unmet legal need in family law/domestic violence, and through consultations with pro bono service providers, the government, legal aid commissions, community legal centres and other stakeholders.
This research report is intended as a resource for government, Legal Aid Commissions, the community legal sector and the pro bono community more broadly to contribute to policy development in the area of family law and domestic violence by providing a resource that increases the understanding of stakeholders of the nature, possibilities and limitations of pro bono legal services.
Consultations with key stakeholders on both these projects is planned to take place in April and May 2012.
In October 2011 the Centre released its Occasional Paper, “What is Social Justice?”, sending it to a select group of its key stakeholders and other related organisations. As the paper states, it is hoped that readers of this paper will be better equipped to:
– evaluate whether the pro bono legal work or program in which they are involved is directed towards particular social justice outcomes;
The initial feedback we received about the Paper has been very positive:
“The paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the various views about what constitutes social justice. It is particularly valuable in helping to identify the full range of factors that contribute to equality, wellbeing and social inclusion.” – The Hon. Nicola Roxon, Commonwealth Attorney General
“Your Paper will provide us with the facts and perspectives (particularly pp16-20) so that we can continue to support our members who, on a daily work basis, work toward improving social justice and alleviating poverty and disadvantage in Australia.” – Lynda Ford, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Community Workers Association
The Centre is now seeking further feedback to assist with the evaluation of the project, and its strategy for further distribution of the Paper. If you have read the Paper, it would be most appreciated if you could drop us a quick email to [email protected] answering these three questions:
The Salvos Legal 2012 Lecture Series will be 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 first set of lectures will be held in Sydney on Saturday 24 March and include a mock mediation conducted by mediator Steve Lancken, and addresses by The Hon Justice Foster, the Hon Murray Wilcox AO QC, The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, The Hon Kevin Lindgren AM QC talking on topics that range from current trends in the construction of contracts to Australian Law and Discrimination.
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.
Housed with the Law Council of Australia Secretariat, the Centre for Asia Pacific Pro Bono (CAPPB) has been established to coordinate requests from the Asia-Pacific region for pro bono assistance by Australian legal practitioners and law practices. The CAPPB aims to support development in the law and justice sector of developing Asia-Pacific countries by matching requests for international pro bono legal assistance from the Asia-Pacific with pro bono providers in Australia.
The CAPPB will be seeking to place requests for legal assistance that it receives and approves from organisations and governments from a wide range of Asia Pacific countries including China and India.
Law firms and practitioners will be encouraged to register with the CAPPB as pro bono providers and, once matched with an eligible pro bono project, will be able to apply for disbursement funding associated with that project up to a maximum of $7,500 per project. Project coordinator for the new centre is Karuna Gurung.
The CAPPB was established through funding announced by the Commonwealth Attorney-General in July 2011.
The National Pro Bono Task Force reported to the Commonwealth Attorney-General in 2001 and recommended the establishment of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. The Centre was located at the University of NSW and incorporated on 8 October 2002, making October this year the Centre’s tenth anniversary.
An event is planned to be held in October to celebrate. Details will be forthcoming in due course.
The ‘Latest Opportunities’ section of the Social Justice Opportunities website features current employment and volunteering positions available in the social justice sector, aimed at law students and new lawyers. These opportunities can now also be found on the SJOpps Twitter feed. Follow us @SJOpps and standby for Facebook integration, coming soon.
For example, paid and volunteer positions have recently been advertised at:
The fourth National Pro Bono and Access to Justice Conference will be held in Melbourne on 21 and 22 March 2013. Co-chairs of the organising committee are again Mark Woods, Chair of the Access to Justice Committee of the Law Council of Australia and John Corker, Director of this Centre. The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) is providing the conference planning and committee secretariat functions. LIV contacts are Laura Helm and Janet Tan. The committee includes representatives from the LIV, Victoria Legal Aid, Victorian Federation of CLCs, PILCH (VIC), the Victorian Bar, the pro bono coordinators and the Victoria Law Foundation. Ideas for conference sessions or topics can be provided to an appropriate committee representative or to this Centre.
Whilst Haley McEwen, Pro bono Coordinator/Senior Associate at Henry Davis York takes maternity leave, Jillian Field will be acting Pro Bono Coordinator/Lawyer for HDY from 2 April 2012. Jillian comes from the pro bono animal law service, [email protected] and prior to that, DLA Piper. With Nic Patrick being appointed to head of pro bono and corporate responsibility for Europe, the UK, Middle East and Asia Pacific for DLA Piper, Daniel Creasey has been appointed Asia Pacific Pro Bono Manger and Pro Bono Counsel for DLA Piper. Daniel is from the Melbourne office of DLA Piper where he will remain in fulfilling his new position.
The South West Sydney Legal Centre in Liverpool is a community legal centre delivering legal and quasi-legal services to the disadvantaged in the Liverpool, Fairfield and Bankstown Local Government areas. They are looking for an Executive Officer to work 28 hours/week. Applications close 16 March 2012, for more information click here.
The Immigration Advice & Rights Centre in Sydney is a community legal centre that specialises in Australian immigration and refugee law and policy, education and law reform. They are looking for a Chief Executive Officer. Applications close 8 March 2012, for more information click here.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from January to March 2012. Click through to read any news article in full.
22 February 2012 – Law Institute Journal
21 February 2012 – Corporate Counsel
20 February 2012 – The Straits Times
17 February 2012 – Australasian Legal Business
14 February 2012 – ProBono.Net News
7 February 2012 – Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI)
7 February 2012 – Legal Week
7 February 2012 – Brimbank Weekly
6 February 2012 – The National Law Journal
30 January 2012 – Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department
30 January 2012 – Sydney Morning Herald
27 January 2012 – The Australian
26 January 2012 – WA Today
25 January 2012 – Sydney Morning Herald
19 January 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
13 January 2012 – Lawyers Weekly
11 January 2012 – Co.Exist
11 January 2012 – Sydney Morning Herald
6 January 2012 – Channel NewsAsia
2 January 2012 – The National Law Journal
23 December 2011 – Sydney Morning Herald