Q: What kind of legal work do you do in your regular job?
I am a Senior Associate in the Commercial Litigation team at Clayton Utz. I have acted on major complex commercial litigation in a range of matters including contractual claims, disputes under the Corporations Act, shareholder disputes and property disputes. I also specialise in media, advertising, marketing and franchising law. In addition, I advise corporates and individuals in connection with corruption and financial crime, internal and external investigations, corporate governance issues, compliance programmes and risk assessments, including emerging business and human rights risks.
Q: How did you get into doing pro bono work and what kind of pro bono work do you do at your firm?
I commenced pro bono legal work from the moment I started as a graduate at Clayton Utz in 2010. Pro bono legal work has been part of the fabric of the firm for 21 years. We all do it. My role as a pro bono coordinator in our Perth office is to inspire our partners and lawyers to do more for low-income and vulnerable clients who cannot obtain Legal Aid, and to build the community legal partnerships which make this work possible.
Separately, as a Senior Associate, I work on my own pro bono files and supervise junior lawyers. The pro bono work that we do out of Perth includes seconding lawyers to assist rural community legal centres, undertaking legal work across any of the areas of law in which Clayton Utz practices, and preparing criminal injury compensation claims for victims of crime.
Q: How is your pro bono work different from your regular work?
The majority of our pro bono clients are people, many living in rural, regional and remote and communities, who would otherwise fall through the cracks of our legal system. Unlike our commercial work which is often high profile, most of our pro bono is not about to make the headlines. Pro bono work can provide experience in a far wider range of subject matters than the standard commercial litigation fare. In addition, particularly for junior lawyers, pro bono work can provide early opportunities for substantial and meaningful direct interaction with clients and offers young litigators the opportunity to develop skills through experiences that simply would not be available to them from large, complex, and high profile paying commercial matters. So,
pro bono work is not only good for the soul, but it can also be good for the career.
However, there is one commercial area in which I specialise which dovetails nicely with my pro bono focus: anti-slavery in Australia. In line with Clayton Utz’s work on slavery cases (see ABC’s Four Corner’s program, ‘Behind Closed Doors’, 12 February 2018), I have been advocating for an Australian Modern Slavery Act, including assisting the Walk Free Foundation with submissions to the Government’s parliamentary inquiry and providing recommendations to the Attorney-General’s Department to help shape the requirements of the proposed anti-slavery legislation. I advise our commercial clients on what they will need to do to comply with the upcoming legislation requirements including by preparing bespoke anti-slavery statements, policies, procedures, clauses for supplier contracts and training for employees and agents of our commercial clients.
Q: Can you give us an example of a pro bono case/experience that was particularly memorable?
There are many worthwhile pro bono cases I have worked on, but one case that springs to mind really epitomises why we do pro bono work at Clayton Utz. I was successful in setting aside a $23,000 default judgment entered against a refugee, whose past in Eritrea had been riddled with physical abuse. She was sued by her ex-husband following the breakdown of their marriage. Her ex made a bogus claim that our client had deceived him into supporting her Australian visa application, and because she was unfamiliar with our legal system, our client had not appeared in the Magistrates Court to defend the case.
I know that getting that $23,000 judgment removed made a really significant difference to the life of our client and her two children, and to her sense of justice in her new country.