As part of our continuing series of articles about law firms and their pro bono legal work to tackle family violence, this month we asked Clayton Utz to tell us about their work in this area.
Pro bono at Clayton Utz is about access to justice. We have a long history acting for low-income and vulnerable people who cannot obtain Legal Aid, and the not-for-profits which support them, no matter where they live in Australia.
Like Lander & Rogers, Gilbert + Tobin and Russell Kennedy (past contributors to this series), our work for victims of family violence is core to our Pro Bono practice.
Last year saw us reach 500,000 pro bono hours since our Pro Bono practice began. Within those half a million hours, we had:
- recovered $4,377,832 for victims of domestic violence, family violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking;
- asserted sexual assault communications privilege (SACP) over sexual assault victims’ records in criminal trials as part of the SACP Project (with Blake Dawson (now Ashurst), Freehills (now HSF), the Women’s Legal Service, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the NSW Bar Association); and
- established a Women’s Safety House and Men’s Cooling Down Centre on Groote Eylandt with the North Australian Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service (NAAFVLS).
The creation this year of a National Centre for Health Justice Partnerships (through a Clayton Utz Foundation grant to Justice Connect), will support better health outcomes and improved access to justice by delivering community legal services to patients within the health system. Our firm’s championing of HJPs for the past five years has been informed directly by our victims support work. We understand that a woman experiencing domestic violence may not be allowed to leave her house for anything other than attending medical appointments. Training health workers on how to refer her to a lawyer who is actually based at the hospital or community health centre can have life-changing, and life-saving, effects.
Within the Pro Bono practice, we continue to focus our efforts to assist victims of domestic and family violence and the not-for-profits which support them. This includes ongoing victims support and SACP work.
In August 2015, the NSW Government announced that victims who lodged a claim under the old Victims Compensation Scheme before 7 May 2013, but whose claim had not been determined before that date, could apply to have their claims reassessed under the terms of the old scheme. We are reaching out to over 100 previous victims compensation clients, to help apply for the reassessment of their claims.
If you have former clients who are eligible for reassessment of their NSW Victims Services awards, it is important that you let them know that applications must be lodged by 31 August 2016. For further information, see www.victimsservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/vss/Reassessment/reassessmentintro.aspx.