Issue 129: July 2018
Q&A with Nesha Balasubramanian, DLA Piper Australia
Nesha Balasubramanian is Australia Pro Bono Associate at international law firm DLA Piper. We spoke to her about how she sees her role and what pro bono looks like at her firm.
Q: What drives you to do pro bono work?
Hal Wootten, one of the founders of my law school at UNSW, once said that lawyers should always have a concern for ‘those on whom the law may bear harshly’. Like Hal, I think it is incredibly important for lawyers to use their valuable legal skills and understanding of the law to improve access to justice and for law firms to think beyond profit and use their resources for pro bono. It is this idea that has driven me to work in pro bono and work for a firm that actively facilitates and delivers high quality pro bono legal services to individuals and assists not for profit organisations that are working tirelessly to promote social justice.
Through doing pro bono work I am able to meet people from all walks of life who have been through a lot of difficult experiences and are brave enough to face these challenges on daily basis, this always motivates me to continue to deliver the best pro bono work possible.
Q: What are the current focus areas of DLA Australia’s pro bono practice?
Being an international firm, we have a global strategy for our pro bono practice. This includes global focus areas where we seek to have the greatest impact. Our global focus areas are Child Justice, Migration Rights and Trafficking, and Rule of Law and our Australian pro bono work also falls within them. Having 3 focus areas guides the pro bono work that we do as an international law firm and allows us to clearly and cohesively communicate about our work, streamline our activities and tackle justice issues on a global scale. However within those focus areas, we also have the flexibility to develop local projects that respond to the most pressing and important access to justice issues in Australia. In this regard, we also have a fourth focus area in Australia, the Rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples which relates to implementing our goals under DLA Piper Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan.
Q: How does DLA Australia participate in ‘New Perimeter’, DLA Piper’s global pro bono initiative?
DLA Piper Australia participates in New Perimeter through providing opportunities for Australia lawyers to participate in international projects with lawyers from other global offices. Some recent examples have seen our Australian lawyers delivering week-long seminars in legal writing and analysis to law students at the University of Zambia in Lusaka, Zambia, and teaching courses on special economic zones to Masters law students at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Our Australian Employment team has also assisted New Perimeter with multijurisdictional research into workplace violence and harassment laws to support an NGO’s global advocacy about gender based violence in the workplace.
Q: What strategies do you employ to promote a pro bono culture at DLA?
Some strategies that we in the Pro Bono team employ to promote a pro bono culture at DLA Piper include meeting with lawyers one-on-one to discuss pro bono and outline opportunities that are currently available, promoting the work of pro bono lawyers through internal news and e-posters, encouraging as many senior lawyers as possible to be involved in pro bono work, and ensuring time spent on pro bono matters is accurately recorded and contributes to each lawyer’s annual performance.
Q: What skills are required to be a good pro bono leader?
A good pro bono leader is someone who is informed, articulate and can inspire people around them to use the skills that they have to make a real difference to those who are most vulnerable in society.
I believe a good pro bono bono leader is someone who has the ability to demonstrate the value and importance of pro bono work to key senior stakeholders and foster their support for the firm’s pro bono strategy and major projects. A good pro bono leader would also play a key part in ensuring that pro bono work is engrained in the culture of an organisation and that it constitutes a key component of employee performance. I think it is also important to understand the evolving areas of need for vulnerable groups in society and to be across the latest developments in the social justice field (e.g. new laws, issues and technologies). This, combined with having a strong network, will give a good leader the ability to be involved in the most impactful pro bono work possible.
STORIES IN THIS ISSUE:
AUSTRALIAN PRO BONO NEWS