Issue 90:July 2014
Welcome to the July 2014 edition of National Pro Bono News, from the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas – please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this edition, read about:
The Final Report of the Review of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Service (NPA), prepared by the Allen Consulting Group (now ACIL Allen Consulting) for the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department, was released on 2 July. The Review covered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, community legal centres in receipt of Commonwealth funds, family violence prevention legal services, and legal aid commissions.
While acknowledging the contribution of pro bono legal work to service sustainability, the Report recognised the limitations on expanding the capacity of pro bono legal work to fill the access to justice gap in Australia. In particular, it highlighted the fact that the services demanded and the skills needed for effective service delivery to disadvantaged clients do not necessarily match the skills of private legal practitioners, and that the supervision and training necessary can at times detract from cost-effectiveness. It suggests the development of poverty law as a recognised specialisation or skill set.
The Report also recognised the limits on the levels of pro bono services that can be reasonably expected from commercial businesses undertaking pro bono legal work as a voluntary activity: “Pro bono efforts of legal practitioners, as well as reduced fee legal work, are providing a valuable input, however there are limits to the discretionary capacity of the profession and the legal of pro bono effort that can reasonably be relied upon.”
The Report found strong indications that current levels of legal service delivery are not sufficient to support the NPA outcomes and objectives. Of particular interest to pro bono providers seeking to strategically direct their pro bono resources may be the service gaps that were found for civil matters, including employment, equal opportunity and discrimination law, migration and refugee law and guardianship law. It reported that many stakeholders providing input into the Review expressed concern that disadvantaged individuals were still unable to obtain legal assistance services to meet their needs. These concerns were most prevalent for disadvantaged groups with civil law matters, particularly highlighting people with a mental illness, people with a disability and people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Although it was beyond the scope of the Review to provide a detailed specification of who should receive which types of legal assistance, the Report indicated that current policy settings and practice suggest that the following groups of disadvantaged Australians should be targeted for assistance:
Drawing on the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales’ Legal Australia-Wide Survey, which found that a small proportion of the population (8.8 per cent) account for 64.5 per cent of legal problems experienced, the Report recognises that for many of the most disadvantaged Australians it is the multiplicity of legal problems facing them that result in substantial, negative impact on their lives and reinforces their disadvantage.
The Report’s key findings were centred around improving the coordination of legal and related support services provided to these clients with complex needs, particularly preventative and early intervention efforts, to reduce the impact that legal problems have on these clients’ lives:
Greater direction is needed from government about who should receive publicly funded legal assistance services and for what kinds of legal problems. There should be a strengthened client-centred approach that enables consideration of the capability of the person along with the importance/complexity of the legal problem faced. Eligibility for legal assistance, as well as service responses, should focus on mitigating the total impact of legal problems on a person’s life, rather than considering each problem separately. Legal assistance services should focus on working with other service providers to incorporate all of a person’s legal, and non-legal, problems.
The Final Report of the NPA Review, which was undertaken from May 2012 to June 2013, was released on 2 July 2014. The findings are available as a series of reports and working papers which can be viewed at: www.acilallen.com.au/projects/23/justice/126/review-of-the-national-partnership-agreement-on-legal-assistance-services/
Not-for-profit Law (formerly PilchConnect), the pro bono advice, resource and referral service managed by Justice Connect, has been a great success since launching in 2008. The merging of PILCH Victoria and PILCH NSW to become Justice Connect last year provided an opportunity for NFP Law’s services to extend beyond Victoria to NSW.
The Productivity Commission in 2010 estimated that there were approximately 600 000 not-for-profit organisations in Australia employing 890 000 people, and the pro bono sector has found itself ideally placed to provide assistance to this growing sector. The Centre’s 2012 National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey of firms with 50 or more lawyers found that 62.8% of pro bono work was being undertaken for organisations, and that four of the top five areas of law and practice undertaken by these firms were in areas that serve not-for-profits: governance, applications for Deductible Gift Recipient status, commercial agreements and incorporations. It also found that many of these areas were also high on the list of areas where the most matters had been rejected, showing the level of need in these areas.
Not-for-profit Law seeks to fill this need by providing plain language resources for not-for-profits, with the assistance of hundreds of volunteer lawyers from its member firms, on the areas most likely to concern them, as well as training, advice over the phone and referrals for more complex matters.
Earlier this month the Centre attended the Sydney launch of Not-for-profit Law’s new Information Hub, a revamped website that provides simple information on the basics of creating and running a not-for-profit. It functions as a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ for the sector, with fact sheets, guides and other information organised under headings ranging from ‘Getting started’ and ‘Running the organisation’ through to common issues like ‘Reporting to government’, ‘Insurance and risk’ and ‘Tax’. The site covers Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian law, with visitors first asked to elect whether they wish to see information relevant to NSW or Victoria, to avoid confusion (they can also elect to see both).
The sector’s need for assistance has never been greater. Juanita Pope, Not-for-profit Law’s Director, noted that:
Australia’s charities are grappling with unprecedented sector reforms, and there is no end in sight with the Federal Government’s proposed scrapping of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, and significant changes in funding of community services at state levels… The Information Hub has been carefully designed for not-for-profits, which are often run by volunteers – it’s written in their language, and features practical tools to help them with legal problems and keep up to date with changes in the law.
Michelle Hannon (Gilbert + Tobin), Tracy Howe (Council of Social Service of NSW), Juanita Pope, Kate Fazio
and Savi Manii (Not-for-profit Law, Justice Connect) at the launch in Sydney
The assistance that Not-for-profit Law and the pro bono sector in general provide to these organisations is not available elsewhere. Legal Aid and community legal centres do not have the expertise in this area. Corporate law firms in particular, however, are ideally placed to provide this assistance, as they already have expertise in the areas of law that most affect not-for-profits. According to Kate Fazio, Not-for-profit Law’s Manager of Legal Information:
Pro bono lawyers recognise that the not-for-profit sector is a critical contributor to Australia’s economy, employment and social fabric, and they have contributed thousands of hours to developing the resources on the Hub… Many of the community organisations we support are busy helping vulnerable people. Legal issues add stress, uncertainty and significant costs that impact on their delivery of services for the community. When we help charities and not-for-profit organisations with their legal issues, they have more time, resources and energy for doing their important work in the community.
The Information Hub has been thoroughly road-tested by not-for-profits in Victoria and NSW throughout its development and is a great place to refer organisations looking for advice on relatively straightforward matters, as has been recognised by its shortlisting for an Australia and New Zealand Internet Award.
To access the Information Hub go to www.nfplaw.org.au. Not-for-profit Law as a whole is a great specialist legal service for firms to get involved with; for more information on this specialist legal service visit www.justiceconnect.org.au/our-programs/not-for-profit-law.
Tina Turner (Justice Connect), Leanne Ho, Daniel Jacobs (the Centre)
and Teresa Cianciosi (Justice Connect) at the launch in Sydney
This month, DLA Piper’s Regional Pro Bono Counsel & Manager (Asia Pacific), Daniel Creasey, announced that he is leaving the firm to take up a new role at Colin Biggers & Paisley (CBP).
We caught up with Daniel to find out why he decided to make the move, and his aspirations for his new role as CBP’s inaugural Director of Corporate Responsibility & Senior Associate, Insurance.
Tell us a bit about your career up to now
I have worked at DLA Piper for the past 7 years, commencing in the insurance practice whist also fulfilling the role of Melbourne pro bono coordinator. In 2012, I was promoted to the role of Regional Head of Pro Bono, Asia Pacific. Prior to DLA Piper, I spent 2 years at Victoria Legal Aid practicing primarily in criminal law, as well as some civil and family law matters. Before then, I spent 3 years at Corrs Chambers Westgarth where I completed my articles, worked in the intellectual property team and was seconded to what was then the Public Interest Law Clearing House (Victoria) (now Justice Connect).
Looking back over your time at DLA Piper, what are some of the achievements you are most proud of?
I am immensely proud of the many achievements of my team and DLA Piper over the past few years. In particular, I established a strong framework for the pro bono practice to operate in across 12 offices in the region, so as to ensure the smooth, efficient and effective management of the practice. I raised the level of staff engagement across Asia Pacific, appointed local coordinators and pro bono ambassadors, and implemented a communications suite to promote the practice. Under my leadership, pro bono hours have increased 38% across the offices in Asia Pacific and the firm has won a number of major awards and other recognition. I have formed solid, trusted and long-lasting partnerships with major access to justice and human rights groups, such as UN agencies and international not-for-profit organisations.
I’m also very proud of the signature projects (4 in the Asia Pacific region) that I have devised and implemented, which are long term and high impact projects designed to tackle systemic issues. I also proud of the relationships I have built with commercial clients that provide opportunities for in-house counsel to undertake pro bono projects in partnership with DLA Piper staff. In my view, DLA Piper has established the leading pro bono practice in this region.
What prompted your move to CBP?
CBP is a rapidly growing firm which is looking to significantly scale up its corporate responsibility (CR) practice and has never had someone in this type of CR leadership role before. After 7 years at DLA Piper, I was looking for a new and exciting challenge. My passions are corporate responsibility, human rights, access to justice and litigation. I was looking for an opportunity to bring those passions together.
When CBP approached me I was incredibly excited about the idea of coming into a firm with a CR practice more in its infancy and helping to build something amazing. DLA Piper will continue to grow and develop its pro bono practice, but it is now very well established. The opportunity to help create something from a relatively blank canvas at CBP is not only exciting and challenging, but will also be extremely fulfilling. On top of that, CBP is a leading insurance firm and Patrick Monahan is unquestionably a guru in this area. The opportunity to work for him is a truly remarkable opportunity.
What is driving CBP to scale up its CR and pro bono practice?
From my observations and discussions with senior personnel, CBP has recognised that it too can be a major player in tackling unmet legal need in Australia, thereby having an immensely positive impact on the communities in which it operates. It wants to play its part and now wants to have a more coordinated and strategic CR offering. Drilling down further, CBP wants to meet the pro bono aspirational target of 35 hours per lawyer per year.
Earlier this year, The Australian published an article highlighting the varying pro bono performance of firms listed in the Commonwealth Legal Services Expenditure Report. The article grouped the 21 largest firms that reported to the Commonwealth into three bands of pro bono performance: 1) those that exceeded the National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s aspirational pro bono target of at least 35 hours of pro bono work per lawyer per year, 2) those that were at least half way to meeting the target, and 3) those performing at less than half the target’s benchmark. CBP fell into the third category and I think that triggered a conversation amongst CBP’s partners about its CR practice and perhaps how they could do things differently. There is a very active group at the partner level leading a groundswell of support for pro bono and community projects at the firm.
In a rapidly growing firm, the leadership recognises that having a strong pro bono and community culture, and opportunities for all staff to be involved in pro bono and community work, is an important part in attracting and retaining quality staff, and how the firm is viewed externally. I think it’s also important to note that established pro bono practices all started somewhere. And CBP is starting from an excellent base.
CBP’s Managing Partner, Dunstan de Souza, recognises that the firm needs to do more and wants to make it clear that every CBP lawyer needs to play a role. Mr de Souza envisages a CR practice that is ‘whole of firm’, meaning that all staff have the opportunity to collaborate and contribute through free legal work, fundraising, awareness raising and volunteering. I’m looking forward to bringing all of those moving parts together.
What kind of pro bono work has CBP done up to now?
CBP has undertaken a wide range of free legal work for individuals and organisations in the past. I will have a better feel for the pro bono work that the firm is doing once I start in the role in September. CBP has relationships with a number of organisations and charities. When requests for pro bono assistance are received by the firm they are assessed and, where appropriate, they are placed with suitably qualified lawyers.
One of the first things I will be looking to do is to establish a pro bono policy and a pro bono manual for the effective assessment and placement of matters. I will then look at ways to build on CBP’s existing pro bono client network and add many more to the mix. CBP is a very collaborative firm, with a strong emphasis on its people, so there is excellent scope to frame pro bono and community projects to be framed around that approach. That’s exciting.
You are going from a very established and successful pro bono practice at DLA Piper to a firm that is at a much earlier stage in developing a pro bono program. What do you see as the challenges for you in the role?
My immediate priority from September is to find out exactly what the partnership wants to do in the CR space. In my first 3 months, I will consult, one-on-one, with each and every partner (there are more than 60) at the firm to learn about the pro bono work the firm has undertaken in the past, what interests and concerns them about CR, the type of work and relationships they want to see, how they want their staff to be engaged and what expectations they have. It will be challenging to consolidate the views of all partners and distill that in a strategic plan for the next 2 to 4 years. But it will also be a fantastic way for me to meet and greet everyone across the firm.
If the firm wants to expand its CR offering quickly (particularly to meet the aspirational target), a further challenge will be sourcing the right kind of work and projects for the firm. The kind of pro bono work that is right for DLA Piper may not be right for CBP. I will need to decide which pro bono referral schemes the firm should join and which pro bono clients might be appropriate. I will need to identify pro bono champions within the firm to assist me in taking the practice to the next level and understand the skills, expertise and interests of everyone across the whole firm. It’s an amazing opportunity for me and I cannot wait to start with CBP.
What proportion of your time will be spent in your CR and pro bono role?
I will effectively carry two roles at CBP and my time will be split 50/50 – half as Director of Corporate Responsibility and half as Senior Associate, Insurance. In the CR role, I will report to the firm’s Managing Partner and in the Insurance role, I will report to the Head of Group (Insurance).
My role at DLA Piper has given me plenty of experience with juggling a pro bono role with practice. The ability to manage both roles boils down to a number of key skills – being open, collaborative and communicative; setting realistic and achievable goals; having excellent time management skills; and being a leader.
On the CR front, after I have consulted with the partnership and devised a strategic plan, I will also set a work plan for the CR role, in consultation with the firm’s Managing Partner, with 3, 6 and 12 month timeframes. On the Insurance front, I’m incredibly excited to be returning to practice with a much greater volume of contentious work. I enjoy the cut and thrust of litigation and the opportunity at CBP allows me to effectively bring my two passions together.
What does CBP see in its future pro bono work?
Much will be revealed after I have completed my partner and staff consultations. Those discussions will form the basis of a strategic plan, which I will be endeavoring to formulate over December and January. A formal launch of CBP’s CR practice will hopefully occur early in the new year.
From my discussions with the firm thus far, CBP plans to have a leading pro bono practice consistent with its size, business objectives, expertise and interest. Crucially, CBP wants to have a CR practice that is embraced by the partnership at large, built from the ground up. While the Managing Partner is a vocal and extremely enthusiastic supporter of CR, it is abundantly clear to me that the scaling up of CBP’s collective CR offering has strong and wide ranging support right across the firm.
This is a tremendously exciting time for CBP and I look forward to joining a dynamic team of people.
Independent Forensic Services (IFS) offers forensic science expertise in the areas of forensic biology, DNA analysis and interpretation and bloodstain pattern interpretation.
Due to the company’s significant growth over the last two years, it is now in a position to offer its services on a pro bono basis for a selected number of cases each year.
Examples of the type work undertaken include: independent review of work previously conducted by state or federal laboratories; provision of an expert opinion in relation to the strength and/or significance of the evidence; review of DNA analysis results and interpretation of findings; assisting in provision of appropriate lines of questioning when challenging forensic evidence in court; and performing laboratory examinations (or re-examination) for biological evidence.
Recognising the significant budget constraints in criminal casework, the company may also offer to conduct work at a reduced Legal Aid rate if its pro bono capacity has been exhausted.
IFS is located in Sydney, but undertakes work in all states and territories across Australia and would also be happy to assist with casework internationally if required.
Further information on IFS services can be found on its website www.indepedentforensicservices.com.au. If you wish to discuss a case with IFS to ascertain whether it can be of assistance, please contact IFS at email@example.com or on 0478 789 804 or 0431 954 694.
The Victoria Law Foundation has awarded $130,000 to four diverse legal projects aimed at helping people better understand the law, and is now seeking applications to share in the $300,000 in grants available in the next round. Applications close 8 September 2014.
In the last round, Sunshine Youth Legal Centre, Youthlaw, the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria and Fitzroy Legal Service each received between $20,000 and $55,000 for targeted legal education projects.
Sunshine Youth Legal Centre will partner with local schools to find out why young people are accruing public transport fines, and the reasons they can’t pay them.
Disadvantaged young people will also find support to better understand the law through the Youthlaw project “Reach out and connect”, which provides funding for legal education sessions and testing of Youthlaw’s new legal videos and mobile phone app.
The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria will develop a new website for people representing themselves in intervention order proceedings, with information about the court, legal services and the police. The information will be tailored for both applicants and respondents and will be explained using multimedia tools such as videos, interactive FAQs and online application forms.
The final grant went to the Fitzroy Legal Service, to design and deliver training explaining the criminal justice system to community workers. The project aims to assist community workers to more effectively support their clients experiencing criminal law issues.
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre has been fortunate enough to receive grants from the Victoria Law Foundation in the past, for projects as diverse as the Australian Pro Bono Manual and Social Justice Opportunities. We strongly encourage you to speak to the Foundation about any project that you are considering that can help Victorians better understand the law.
The foundation’s next General Grants round closes on 8 September 2014. To find out more about our grants (including small grants of less than $5,000, which can be applied for at any time) visit www.victorialawfoundation.org.au/grants.
Last week all signatories to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target were sent details on how to report on their performance in the 2013/2014 financial year. These reports are due on 11 August. If you did not receive an email or have any other queries please contact the Centre.
There are now 85 law firms and legal practices and 38 individuals who have signed up to the Target, representing approximately 19% of the legal profession in Australia. Every year, signatories confidentially report on the number of hours of pro bono legal work they have performed and, in the case of law firms, how many hours per lawyer this represents. By signing up to the Target, signatories demonstrate their commitment and contribution to improving access to justice for disadvantaged people in Australia by agreeing to aspire to providing at least 35 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer per year.
The Centre tracks this performance and produces an annual report (which, however, is entirely de-identified). Reports from previous years can be found on the Centre’s website, under Our Publications ⇒ Reports, Guides, Speeches etc.
Signatory law firms with 50 or more lawyers can choose this year to report within the Fourth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, which was also sent recently to all law firms with 50 or more lawyers and is due on 11 August. If you did not receive the Survey please contact the Centre.
Check out Social Justice Opportunities (www.sjopps.net.au) for information on finding a job or volunteering in the social justice sector. The website includes a ‘Latest Opportunities’ section, which provides a list of current employment and volunteering opportunities around the country- as of today, there are more than thirty jobs, PLT placements and internships listed.
If you would like to advertise a social justice job or volunteer position on the site, particularly one aimed at law students or new lawyers, please email us for details. It’s easy and free!
Here’s what’s going on in the Twitter feed right now:
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from June to July 2014. Click through to read any news article in full.
30 July 2014 – Lawyers Weekly
Ashurst’s Australian pro bono head Anne Cregan has quit the global firm to join Gilbert + Tobin. Cregan has been a partner at Ashurst since 2007. She is joining G+T as a special counsel, and is due to start with the firm in November. Cregan will join a team of five dedicated pro bono lawyers at G+T. The firm’s pro bono group is led by partner Michelle Hannon.
23 July 2014 – Clayton Utz
Leading independent Australian law firm Clayton Utz has secured a significant win for our client The Hunger Project Australia before the Full Federal Court, paving the way for not-for-profit organisations that are engaged in fundraising activities to seek endorsement as public benevolent institutions.
18 July 2014 – Lawyers Weekly
15 July 2014 – Lawyers Weekly
2 July 2014 – Northcote Leader
9 July 2014 – Arts Law Centre of Australia
30 June 2014 – Lawyers Weekly
10 July 2014 – Business Day
11 July 2014 – The Observer
23 July 2014 – Legal Week
DLA Piper’s Tony Angel on why international law firms have huge responsibilities when it comes to pro bono work
Earlier this month I returned from Bangladesh, where I visited the UNICEF-funded child justice projects DLA Piper is supporting to help protect some of the country’s most vulnerable children. As part of a three-year partnership, we are providing the UK Committee for UNICEF with pro bono assistance to the value of $5m (£2.9m) and have pledged to raise a further $1.5m (£873k) for child protection programmes.
27 July 2014 – Dallas News
18 July 2014 – WBAA (Purdue University)
17 July 2014 – National Law Journal
10 July 2014 – The Guardian
30 June 2014 – Above the Law
30 June 2014 – American Lawyer