PRO BONO IN THE NEWS: October – November 2015
Below you can find twenty-six articles of interest to the pro bono community that have been published since our last edition (Issue 103, October 2015). Click through to read any news article in full.
You can also follow the latest news in pro bono from Australia and around the world by following the Centre on Twitter: @AusPBC
Reining in the NT’s paperless arrests is progress towards Indigenous liberty
12 November 2015 – The Guardian
At the conclusion of the coronial inquest into why Kumanjayi Langdon died in police custody, the Coroner concluded that he died of natural causes but was “entitled to die as a free man”.The high court on Wednesday issued its judgement in a case challenging the validity of the paperless arrest laws. The case was bought by the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, with the support of a pro bono legal team – including the Human Rights Law Centre, lawyers from Ashurst and barristers from the Victorian Bar.
CLC finds new home through university
10 November 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
The Refugee Advice and Casework Service suffered severe funding shortages after Federal Government funding cuts in April last year. To assist the centre, the University of New South Wales has offered it rent-free premises for the next five years in Sydney’s Randwick. “This support from UNSW has come at a critical time,” says RACS executive director, Tanya Jackson-Vaughan.
Global Pro Bono Survey recognises Clayton Utz as Australian leader in Pro Bono [media release]
9 November 2015 – Clayton Utz
Clayton Utz is ‘first in class’ in Pro Bono practice in Australia and one of the top ten Pro Bono firms globally, according to the latest Who’s Who Legal Global Pro Bono Survey. The survey, now in its third year, recognises firms that stand out as examples of best practice in Pro Bono. Clayton Utz is recognised for a practice that “continues to go from strength to strength” with pro bono “[b]uy-in across the firm…one its greatest strengths.”
School hires lawyer to help families deal with legal issues
9 November 2015 – SBS News
A suburban school is believed to have become the first to put a lawyer on staff. The pilot program helps students and their families deal with issues ranging from transport fines and tenancy disputes to family violence… The lawyer hired by the school, Vinnie Shin, is from the Western Community Legal Centre. His two-year placement at the school has been funded by donations from philanthropic organisations, and a $10,000 grant from law firm Slater and Gordon.
National firm ventures into new territory
4 November 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has opened its first office in the Northern Territory this week… “Many of our lawyers are familiar with the Territory, having last year won a landmark case on behalf of the traditional owners at Muckaty station near Tennant Creek, who were opposed to having a nuclear waste dump on their land.” [Alison Barrett, Maurice Blackburn principal, said] Ms Barrett said Maurice Blackburn also has a strong commitment to running pro bono social justice matters in the public interest.
Machado Joseph disease is devastating families in the Northern Territory’s remote communities
4 November 2015 – Brisbane Times
[After a change in a funding decision to support research] The [Machado Joseph Disease Foundation] was left with little choice other than to seek justice through the courts. Thanks to pro bono support from Gilbert + Tobin and the resulting landmark court challenge to Scullion’s ability to override a previous ministerial direction, the Federal Court ruled on Wednesday Mr Scullion did not have the power to overturn the previous ministerial direction.
Roads and Maritime Services pursues Windsor Bridge community group in court
2 November 2015 – Sydney Morning Herald
The Roads and Maritime Services is pursuing a community group for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars after their legal bid to preserve the historic Windsor Bridge failed. The Community Action for Windsor Bridge group’s leaders say they will be left bankrupt or forced to sell their homes and businesses if they are slapped with cost orders for a case they believe is in the public interest.
Partnerships between CLCs and firms address unmet legal need
28 October 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
Funding cuts to legal aid services have put an increased demand on pro bono work, but partnerships between CLCs and law firms are helping to fill the void, according to a Wotton + Kearney partner. Heidi Nash-Smith, a partner at Wotton + Kearney and former Women in Law Pro Bono award winner, said: “We are seeing some really innovative partnerships between CLCs and law firms to address unmet legal need.”
Victorian justice review welcomed
26 October 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
The Victorian State Government’s Access to Justice Review, which will improve vulnerable Victorians’ access to legal assistance services, has been welcomed by the industry. Attorney-General Martin Pakula MP announced the review last week, which is aimed at reducing barriers to dispute resolution and improving access to legal assistance services.
Lawyers pledge to back elderly gay couple who were ordered to take down gay flag in Port Melbourne
15 October 2015 – The Age
Lawyers want to defend a gay elderly couple for free, after the couple was ordered to remove a gay pride flag from their Port Melbourne apartment balcony. Lawyers specialising in human rights, and ownership corporation disputes, have challenged a “first and final” notice issued to Maurice Sheldrick, 78, and James Bellia, 72 by the building’s body corporate.
Colin Biggers & Paisley Foundation to assist Melbourne Apartments Project purchasers [media release]
15 October 2015 – Colin Biggers & Paisley
The Colin Biggers & Paisley Foundation has been referred by Justice Connect to provide pro bono legal assistance to purchasers under the Melbourne Apartments Project. The aim of the project is to help people currently living in social housing to move to home ownership and to free up social housing properties for those most in need.
Australian-first program crowdfunds community legal centre placements
15 October 2015 – ABC News
A new training model for legal graduates in Western Australia aimed at addressing a reduction in government funding for community legal centres is an Australian first. The Piddington Justice Project has successfully crowdfunded $36,000 to help legal graduates gain experience, while taking the burden off the under-resourced centres to train them.
Free legal aid should be a basis for picking judges: PM
10 November 2015 – The Times of India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that his government was committed to justice for all which was important for the overall development of the country. “I believe in sabka saath, sabka vikas and with that there must be sabka nyay,” the PM said, stressing that free legal aid to poor should be made a criterion in selection of judges. He emphasised that the dedication and commitment of administration in ensuring justice may open up new ways.
Award-winning lawyer champions community service
7 November 2015 – Australasian Lawyer
Growing up in a small farming town in the Manawatu NZ, Stacey Shortall’s parents instilled an obligation to contribute to the community from a young age. “It was easy to follow,” she said. “I strive to provide the same example to my own children.” Shortall, a Wellington partner at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts has pioneered an impressive number of initiatives to help the lives of disadvantaged children.
Legal aid rules not failing domestic violence victims says minister
20 October 2015 – Radio New Zealand News
The Justice Minister is defending the legal aid system against accusations that it discriminates against victims of domestic violence. A single adult must earn less than $22,000 a year to apply for legal aid, and hundreds of victims cannot afford to get protection orders because of that threshold. It is free to file a protection order, but the Law Society says many people cannot afford legal representation and do not qualify for legal aid.
The unstoppable human rights lawyers
5 November 2015 – The Express Tribune
I have always believed that one must be kind and helpful towards others, no matter how senior one’s position is. Advocate Faisal Siddiqi, along with several other human rights lawyers serving the country, is one example of a person who has truly inspired me in this way… Mr Siddiqi specialises in pro-bono human rights litigation and has worked for landmark cases including the Baldia factory fire case, seeking justice and compensation for the 255 deceased workers of the factory.
2016 candidates tasked on justice for the poor
24 October 2015 – Daily Monitor
As the 2016 general election draws closer, a group of more than 40 free legal aid service providers has launched a manifesto from which they will demand commitment from every candidate to support easy access to justice by all Ugandans… [Legal Aid Service Providers Network (Laspnet)] is a membership network of non-state actors that have been at the helm of providing legal aid services to the economically disadvantaged for over a period of years.
Lawyers can’t be expected to plug the gap in legal aid provision
6 November 2015 – The Guardian
“By denying poor people justice, we are denying ourselves a functioning justice system.” The government needs to face up to its responsibilities rather than rely on the goodwill of the legal profession, if access to justice for all is to be preserved. This week is National Pro Bono Week, when we celebrate the legal profession’s provision of free legal services to those who otherwise cannot afford them.
Free legal advice has grown with aid cuts and court fees, says charity
6 November 2015 – The Guardian
LawWorks offers free service to most vulnerable and has seen 55% increase in applications, but warns pro bono is no alternative to legal aid. Demand for legal advice and support has soared after cuts to legal aid and the introduction of court fees, according to the charity that coordinates solicitors’ pro-bono clinics. A report by the organisation LawWorks… shows a 55% increase in applications over the past financial year.
In-house lawyers “bashed up” by Gove must consider compulsory pro bono, says head of GC 100
3 November 2015 – Legal Futures
in-house lawyers, “bashed up” by justice secretary Michael Gove over the issue of pro bono, should have an “open debate” about making it compulsory, the chair of the GC100 Group has said. Graham Vinter, former general counsel of BG Group, said in-house lawyers should recognise that “there is a problem” over pro bono.
A day in the life of … Sarah Slaughter (Caseworker, Bar Pro Bono Unit)
3 November 2015 – Family Law
What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis? “Caseworker. I process applications from litigants in person for assistance to the Bar Pro Bono Unit – that means a lot of administrative duties! I check the applications to ensure all relevant documentation has been enclosed, then arrange for a senior barrister to review the file and decide whether the charity is able to assist.”
Developing a pro bono programme: Law Society guidance [media release]
2 November 2015 – The Law Society
The Law Society has today published a guide for solicitors and law firms wishing to develop a pro bono programme, as National Pro Bono Week begins. The guide provides a framework and tools to support solicitors to develop a strategy and embed pro bono in their working lives.
2015 Pro Bono Survey
October 2015 – Who’s Who Legal
Now in its third year, the survey – which is open to law firms of all sizes from all jurisdictions – provides a valuable insight into the culture of pro bono within the legal profession… While all firms who took part in the survey are making valued contributions, the following 10 firms stood out as examples of best practice: Clayton Utz, Kirkland & Ellis, DLA Piper, Kim & Chang, Latham & Watkins, Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey Jr e Quiroga, Morrison & Foerster, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Schulte Roth & Zabel and White & Case
UK firms asked to do more work for free [paywall]
29 October 2015 – The Times
The UK legal profession must be bolder in backing pro bono efforts and mirror US counterparts with targets for minimum free hours, a former Law Society president said this week. Michael Napier, former senior partner at the national law firm Irwin Mitchell, was speaking on the eve of an annual week marking lawyers’ free work as he prepares to step down after 14 years as the attorney-general’s pro bono envoy.
PILnet announces new President [media release]
2 November 2015 – PILnet
PILnet is pleased to announce that Garth Meintjes has been named its new President, succeeding Ed Rekosh, who served in this capacity since he founded the organization in 1997. Meintjes brings to PILnet more than two decades of nonprofit, foundation and human rights experience… He will begin his role at PILnet in December and will be based in the organization’s New York office.
Coca-Cola legal division serves up a week of pro bono activities
30 October 2015 – America Bar Association News
For the Coca-Cola Company Legal Division in Atlanta, Ga., participating for the first time in the American Bar Association’s National Celebration of Pro Bono Week proved to be the real thing. Led by co-chairs Carolyne Hilton and Lawrence Dietrich, the company’s Legal Division Pro Bono & Community Service Committee scheduled a full week of service activities that began on Monday with more than 60 Legal Division associates attending a kick-off event.
Firms Pledge Nearly $2 Million for New ‘Low Bono’ Effort [paywall]
14 October 2015 – Am Law Daily
Nineteen major law firms have pledged $1.9 million to help provide affordable legal services to people in the New York City area with modest incomes who make too much to qualify for free legal aid. The effort, dubbed the Court Square Law Project, marks the second “low bono” project announced this year by firms attempting to address the pressing need for legal services for limited-income clients.
STORIES IN THIS ISSUE:
AUSTRALIAN PRO BONO NEWS