On 14 March 2019 the Centre launched Pro Bono Legal Work – A Guide for Government Lawyers at the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference in Canberra. This is a free resource available on the Centre’s website.
The Guide is a central resource supporting the Centre’s goal to increase participation by government lawyers in pro bono legal work, and to provide practical guidance for government legal teams seeking to establish, refine or expand in-house pro bono legal programs.
The Guide was launched during a conference session on the topic ‘How do Government Lawyers do Pro Bono Legal Work?’. Speaking at the launch were several representatives from government agencies, including Georgina McKay (Assistant Director, Legal, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), Geetha Nair (National Pro Bono Manager, Australian Government Solicitor), Peter Cain (Manager, Objections & Appeals, ACT Revenue Office), and the Centre’s CEO, John Corker. The conference session was chaired by Elizabeth Carroll, Chief Legal Counsel at IP Australia, Vice President of the ACT Law Society, and Chair of the Australian Government Legal Network (2015-2019) who says in the foreword to the Guide that:
“The value of pro bono legal work in promoting access to justice for the disadvantaged in the community, addressing issues of public interest and supporting charitable organisations is beyond dispute. Pro bono work also provides opportunities for government lawyers, through professional development, enhancing skills and broadening experience.”
The Guide is intended to spark greater enthusiasm for pro bono work amongst individual government lawyers, and to be an excellent resource for government agencies and departments looking to formalise their pro bono commitment. Topics in the Guide include:
- the benefits of pro bono legal work for government lawyers and their agencies or departments
- how government can support its lawyers to do pro bono work
- constraints and regulatory requirements applying to pro bono legal work
- the types of pro bono work that government lawyers can do
- examples of existing government pro bono legal work
- tips on how to establish a pro bono policy
- government pro bono FAQs
- useful contacts and other resources that support government pro bono legal work.
The Guide acknowledges that, depending on time and resources, government agencies and departments may seek to develop a pro bono policy that either supports their lawyers to undertake pro bono legal work in their personal capacity (subject to compliance with internal controls, and provided no conflict arises) and/or involves their lawyers in a structured pro bono program through which legal work is directly sourced by the agency or department.
Elizabeth Carroll (IP Australia) spoke at the launch of ‘Pro Bono Legal Work – A Guide for Government Lawyers’
Ms Carroll says in the Guide:
“The Pro Bono Centre should be congratulated for developing this guide to undertaking pro bono work for government lawyers. It draws upon the extensive experience of key individuals and organisations working in pro bono settings who have dedicated considerable time and effort to ensuring the guide is an essential resource for government lawyers looking to engage in pro bono work.”
The Centre is hopeful that the assistance provided by the Guide will result in greater numbers of government lawyers becoming involved in pro bono legal work, thereby increasing access to justice for socially disadvantaged and marginalised people in Australia.
The Guide can be downloaded here.