The second forum in the mid-size and emerging pro bono practices ‘Pro Bono Development Project’ was held in early June at the offices of Collins Biggers & Paisley with pro bono leaders attending via video-link from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Following on from the success of the first forum held in February, the topics discussed were the strategic planning process for a pro bono program (in the context of a broader community engagement strategy), the factors involved in initiating and managing pro bono projects and collaborations, and relationships with referral bodies, community legal centres and not-for-profit organisations.
The presentation on strategic planning was led by Daniel Creasey (Collins Biggers & Paisley), with some of his key messages being:
- It’s vital to get buy-in from all aspects of the business
- Plan vigorously for the planning session with a top-down and bottom-up approach
- Ensure comprehensive data collection beforehand; and
- Think of the process as being about bringing people on a journey.
Joanna Renkin (Lander and Rogers) led the discussion on projects and collaborations with key messages including:
- Take the approach of ‘can we do something together?’ and have open flexible conversations with potential collaborators.
- You increase your chance of success considerably if you have had a volunteer based at the organisation for some time and thus establish a strong link.
- ‘What is going to have the broadest possible impact’? is the main question we ask ourselves when seeking to establish a pro bono project.
Jillian Mitford-Burgess (Henry Davis York) led the discussion on referrals and relationships, citing four essential aspects of fruitful relationships:
- Respect for the other party (individual or organisation) is the most essential component for a successful relationship.
- A commitment to form a strong connection e.g. clinics with a regular attendees tend to work best.
- A mindset that the firm and its lawyers are there to serve and support the other party.
- Seeking to gain the fullest possible understanding of the other party’s motivation and need from the outset. Try and put yourself in their shoes and create an open dialogue e.g.: use open questions like, “can you tell me what your wish list for support would be?”
A third forum in the series is planned for later in the year, building on the first two. Firms are encouraged to contact one of the above with suggestions for topics.