PRO BONO IN THE NEWS: September – October 2015
Below you can find twenty-six articles of interest to the pro bono community that have been published since our last edition (Issue 102, September 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
Law report calls for wider access to Legal Aid funding
13 October 2015 – The Age
Litigants representing themselves should be offered access to some advice and assistance from Legal Aid, as most people who decide to go it alone are doing so because of cost, a new report recommends. The Law Institute of Victoria released a report on the state’s under-pressure Legal Aid system on Tuesday, recommending the state adopt the Queensland system, which supports lawyers who volunteer their time to assist those who either choose, or can’t afford, to go to court without a lawyer.
Firms urged to rethink approach to overseas pro bono
12 October 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
Speaking at a panel at the International Justice Mission’s Premier Breakfast, Federal Circuit Court Chief Justice John Pascoe suggested firms wanting to improve access to justice overseas must “start by actually listening”. “I think it’s important that from countries like Australia, we don’t go to places like Asia thinking we know all the answers … there are a myriad of ways [to help] but talking down to people never helps. As an example, he cited an organisation in Cambodia that provides police officers with money to buy petrol for their motorbikes so they can investigate crimes.
Grants Strengthen Community Legal Centres [media release]
9 October 2015 – Attorney-General of Victoria
Community legal centres will receive a $3.2 million boost in their ability to help vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians, following a series of grant allocations. Attorney-General Martin Pakula announced the grants at the launch of the West Justice Community Legal Centre in Werribee today [9/10/15]. The West Justice Community Legal Centre, launched by Member for Werribee Tim Pallas, was one of 28 recipients of a Community Legal Centre Assistance Fund grant.
Mid-size firms catching up in pro bono stakes
5 October 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
The Australian Pro Bono Centre has released its eighth Annual Performance Report on the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target, based on data provided by 77 law firms [and 24 individuals] that have agreed to use their best efforts to achieve a target of 35 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer, per year … Australian Pro Bono Centre director John Corker said: ‘In a tightening legal services market, it is a tribute to the dedication of these firms that they have maintained and grown their pro bono programs despite today’s competitive challenges.’
Law firms up ante in feel good factor [paywall]
2 October 2015 – Australian Financial Review
The nation’s mid-sized law firms, long criticised for punching under their weight in pro bono efforts, have boosted the number of free hours worked by lawyers for underprivileged or poorly resourced clients by 20 per cent in the past year, despite a tough legal market hitting bottom lines. The Australian Pro Bono Centre revealed that lawyers worked almost 375,000 hours for free in the 2015 fiscal year, but said firms could do more to ply their expertise for the public good.
Three anti-war protesters sue Defence Force over alleged assault during protest
30 September 2015 – news.com.au
THREE anti-war activists have launched legal action against the Australian Defence Force claiming they were “hooded, stripped naked and dragged along the ground” during a protest in Victoria last year… The trio have engaged law firm Maurice Blackburn, which lodged proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court today. Their lawyer, Jacob Varghese, who is acting for them pro bono, said once the names of the individuals involved were provided, the protesters intended to sue the officers for assault and battery.
Canberra lawyer to trek Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains in support of UNICEF child protection
28 September 2015 – Canberra Times
Canberra solicitor Brodie Williams has personally raised more than $8000 for UNICEF’s child justice programs to trek the incredibly challenging Simien Mountains, alongside armed protection and medical assistance… DLA Piper, a global partner with UNICEF, has pledged to raise $1.5 million in cash over five years and support them with $5 million of Pro Bono assistance.
Luke Batty inquest verdict due to be handed down in Victoria
27 September 2015 – The Guardian
Nine months after witnesses concluded giving evidence, the inquest into the death of 11-year-old Luke Batty will be brought to a close on Monday… Batty has been supported throughout the inquest pro bono by a team from Shine lawyers. Without them she would have needed tens of thousands of dollars or to have represented herself throughout the gruelling evidence that lasted 13 days.
Firms that go above and beyond recognised
25 September 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
Standout firms have been recognised for their pro bono work, employee programs, innovation and more, in a range of corporate categories at the Australian Law Awards… Salvos Legal & Salvos Legal Humanitarian was awarded the Pro Bono Program of the Year award – not for a certain program they run, but for their entirely pro bono-based operation. “The whole firm is based around the concept of pro bono and has developed not only an absolute philosophy around pro bono, but looks at the whole person [client] and links to other services [the non-legal issues],” one judge said.
ASIC lawyers win award for pro-bono volunteering with young people [media release]
22 September 2015 – Australian Securities and Investments Commission
ASIC lawyers this week won an award for their pro-bono volunteering work in helping young people. The award, from National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, recognised the work of 38 ASIC lawyers. These ASIC staff volunteer with the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre Cyber Project, which is supported by ASIC, Telstra and law firm King & Wood Mallesons. The award was shared with lawyers from other supporting organisations.
Australian Law Awards winners revealed
18 September 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
The Australian Law Awards, which recognise the best and brightest in the legal profession, were presented on 17 September this year. Winners include Pro Bono Program of the Year: Salvos Legal & Salvos Legal Humanitarian.
Ottawa program offering free legal advice for Syrian refugee sponsors expanding nationally
2 October 2015 – CBC News
A new Ottawa-based project that matches lawyers giving free advice with people who want to sponsor Syrian refugees has received so much interest that it’s now being rolled out across the country. “Like many Canadians, members of the bar, of the legal profession, are feeling incredibly moved and motivated to try to do something in light of an unprecedented crisis,” said Jennifer Bond, an assistant law professor at the University of Ottawa, who helped create the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program.
Defence lawyers end free legal service for low-income Albertans, saying it’s time for government to step up
1 October 2015 – Calgary Herald
Defence lawyers in Calgary and Edmonton announced Thursday they will no longer offer a free service helping low-income Albertans who have been denied legal aid coverage, saying it’s time for the government to increase funding to the program. In a joint news release, the Criminal Defence Lawyers’ Association in Calgary and its Edmonton counterpart said volunteer lawyers have provided free representations to nearly 900 people denied legal aid coverage on how to apply for a court order forcing the government to pay for their legal representation – a process known as a Rowbotham application.
Bar Association asks its members to provide legal aid pro bono to migrants detained in Czech Republic
5 October 2015 – Radio Praha
The Czech Bar Association has urged its members to offer their services to the foreign migrants held in Czech detention centres. Many are held in detention, without money, no knowledge of the Czech language, and no chance, on their own, of obtaining legal help.
Pro bono providers need to adapt to survive
14 September 2015 – The Lawyer
Only 10 years ago, the pro bono landscape looked very different. Legal aid and public funds supported a web of pro bono organisations like … leaving the profession needing only to provide limited top-up resources in the form of adviser hours and support for particular cases … Now things are different in two ways. The obvious one is that there is no money … Less obviously, the types of pro bono help needed have also changed. Giving social welfare law advice to a client is no longer easily picked up by a corporate associate from a City firm; there is a serious skills mismatch.
Demand for free help almost doubles since cuts to legal aid
13 September 2015 – The Guardian
The number of applications for legal assistance received by the Bar Pro Bono Unit has almost doubled over the past three years since widespread cuts to civil legal aid were introduced. The increased demand … has led to serious strains on the resources of charities and the goodwill of hard-pressed barristers and solicitors, as lawyers warn that pro bono work is not there to plug any legal aid gap.
Pro Bono Institute Opens Search For President And CEO [media release]
13 October 2015 – Pro Bono Institute
Pro Bono Institute (PBI) is accepting applications for the position of President and CEO… The new President and CEO will bring significant expertise and knowledge of pro bono, a global perspective, and an unparalleled passion for the field. The ideal candidate is a visionary, an exceptional leader, an effective strategic manager, and a superb communicator. Esther F. Lardent founded PBI in 1996 and has led the organization for the past 19 years until her transition to strategic advisor this summer.
Doctors Prescribing Pro Bono for Patients in Need
1 October 2015 – The PB Eye
At first it may sound counter-intuitive, but people often need legal assistance in order to be healthy. In many cases, low-income individuals with medical challenges also face legal difficulties, which can negatively impact their health and delay their recovery. That’s where medical-legal partnerships step in. Medical-legal partnerships integrate legal services into the delivery of healthcare in order to address health-harming legal needs that disproportionately affect people living in poverty.
The Uphill Challenge of In-House Pro Bono
28 September 2015 – Metropolitan Corporate Counsel
Here’s the good news: Great things are happening today in pro bono. That’s especially true when it comes to corporate pro bono. In-house participation, in the form of unpaid legal services to meet unmet legal needs, is surging. Alas, so is demand. That’s the bad news. More and more corporate law departments are heading down the trail blazed, some 35 years ago, by Aetna under the leadership of retired executive vice president and general counsel Stephen B. Middlebrook, the visionary behind the oldest corporate pro bono program in America.
PBI Offers Guidance on Pro Bono for Social Enterprises
29 September 2015 – New York Law Journal
While we are usually delighted to see coverage of pro bono in the media, we were troubled by inaccuracies about our work in a Sept. 9 article, “The Case for Pro Bono Support of Social Enterprises.” The article asserts that Pro Bono Institute provides “little guidance” regarding the eligibility of for-profit businesses including social enterprises for pro bono services. A quick check with us would confirm that we regularly provide intensive fact-specific guidance regarding these complicated matters.
AILA Prez Calls For More Pro Bono Attys For Immigrants [paywall]
29 September 2015 – Law360
Victor Nieblas Pradis, the first Mexican-American president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, emphasized the need for more pro bono attorneys for vulnerable immigrants in a recent Law360 interview while calling for more EB-5 visas and greater diversity outreach at AILA.
CPBO Honors Best Buy and Volunteer Lawyers Network for Their Decade-Long, Sustainable Collaboration [media release]
24 September 2015 – Pro Bono Institute
Corporate Pro Bono announced today that it has selected Best Buy, a signatory to the CPBO Challenge initiative, and Volunteer Lawyers Network to receive the 2015 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award – Small Law category for their more than decade-long collaboration with VLN.
CPBO Honors BNY Mellon, White & Case, and The National LGBT Bar For High-Impact Collaboration [media release]
24 September 2015 – Pro Bono Institute
Corporate Pro Bono announced today that it has selected BNY Mellon, a signatory to the CPBO Challenge initiative, White & Case, and the National LGBT Bar Association to receive the 2015 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award in the Large Law category. The awardees were selected for their collaborative development of the Online LGBT Tax Resource, an innovative tool that leverages technology to provide pro bono legal assistance to same-sex married couples in the United States.
Papal Visit Opens Arms at Pro Bono Clinic [paywall]
21 September 2015 – Legal Times
This week, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington expects business as usual in its pro bono law intake center before and after Pope Francis drops by on Thursday. Still, the attention of the coming papal visit has boosted the legal services group in recent weeks. Catholic Charities Legal Network, the legal-services leg of the local nonprofit, has seen a 10 percent to 15 percent uptick in the lawyers wanting to help in the past month, James Bishop, the network’s director, said.
Seattle lawyers up for gun tax lawsuit
11 September 2015 – Guns.com
With the city facing a triple threat challenge from some of strongest Second Amendment groups in the nation, Seattle is adding to its legal team. Last month Seattle Mayor Ed Murray … signed a contentious measure to put a $25 tax on each firearm and up to 5 cents on each round of ammo sold in the city. This in turn triggered a promised lawsuit … Now city officials have tapped in four lawyers from the prominent international firm, Steptoe & Johnson, to work with City attorneys pro bono who weighed in Wednesday at King County Superior Court.
Nevada Attorney General Laxalt unveils First in the Nation Program
11 September 2015 – DVIDS
Capt. Nic Danna … was recently named the director of the Office of Military Legal Assistance for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office … This new office will offer free legal civil services to active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard service members, as well as veterans in the state of Nevada. The program will be the nation’s first attorney general led public-private partnership to give our military communities better access to pro bono civil legal services.
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AUSTRALIAN PRO BONO NEWS