The new Client Management and Self-Care — A guide for pro bono lawyers was launched at the National Access to Justice Conference held in Adelaide on 23-24 March 2017. It is available for download and adaptation here. The guide has been created for lawyers by law firms, with input from the legal assistance and mental health sectors, and the Australian Pro Bono Centre, to meet the practical needs of lawyers and others working in the pro bono space.
Pro bono work often involves engaging with vulnerable or marginalised individuals. These individuals may differ significantly from the clients that lawyers in commercial private practice usually encounter, and will often require greater sensitivity of treatment on the part of pro bono lawyers, as well as additional practical measures. Working with clients in distress can have an impact on a lawyer’s own wellbeing and mental health. It is vital that practitioners are able to identify and address any symptoms or signs of, for example, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma or burnout in themselves or in their colleagues.
The Guide is designed to be a practical resource for firms to use in their pro bono programs. It covers topics such as: how to communicate with vulnerable, difficult or linguistically diverse clients; how to assess client capacity and manage expectations; how pro bono work and traumatic cases can impact wellbeing; and symptoms and triggers of stress. The Guide includes user-friendly lists, flowcharts, links and role plays.
Available here in PDF and Word formats, the Guide was jointly developed by Sparke Helmore Lawyers, Henry Davis York, Clayton Utz and McCabes Lawyers, with substantial input from other law firms, organisations in the legal assistance sector, experts in mental health and the Centre.
By publishing the Guide under Creative Commons Licence 4.0, we encourage others to adapt content to suit their needs. A number of law firms have already adapted the guide for their own situation.