Recognising the largely untapped pro bono resources of in-house (corporate and government) lawyers, Justice Connect’s specialist Not-for-profit Law service (NFP Law) has established the new In-house Lawyer Project (Project). The Project seeks to match the appetite and expertise of in-house lawyers with the not-for-profit organisations NFP Law works with in New South Wales and Victoria.
The Project (funded with support from Perpetual Trustees) builds on the success of Justice Connect’s pilot pro bono projects with Telstra’s and Hewlett Packard’s in-house legal teams.
In-house counsel advise businesses about many of the legal issues that are also faced by people (often volunteers) running not-for-profit organisations. For example, legal issues that draw on contract law, employment law, intellectual property law, privacy law and general corporate governance are just as relevant for not-for-profit organisations as they are for large corporations, even though the context is different. For example, delivering a domestic violence support service or a respite program for carers that relies on volunteers and public donations as opposed to running a corporation that is focused on generating income for its shareholders.
Justice Connect’s new Project can also provide in-house counsel with pro bono opportunities other than casework, such as developing and running training through webinars and seminars, or reviewing fact sheets and other resources on its free Information Hub (www.nfplaw.org.au).
“Justice Connect’s NFP Law lawyers provide a triaging and support service for participating pro bono lawyers. We distill the legal issues so the scope of work for participating pro bono lawyers is efficiently packaged to match the team’s expertise. This means limited pro bono time is used more effectively” said Sue Woodward, Director of National Projects at Justice Connect.
“As well as the satisfaction of helping a grassroots community organisation that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford specialist legal help, the Project offers a wonderful team building opportunity for lawyers who might not otherwise work together across different teams, and even different locations”, she said.
Often the need to hold professional indemnity insurance can represent a barrier for in-house lawyers and teams who wish to engage in pro bono legal work. In response to this barrier the Australian Pro Bono Centre established the National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme, underwritten by Lawcover, which provides free professional indemnity insurance to lawyers and paralegals working on approved pro bono projects.
In-house lawyers interested in learning about the specific pro bono opportunities that could be tailored to the unique expertise and capacity of their legal team should contact Sue Woodward, Director, National Projects, Justice Connect: firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 86 36 4468.