Issue 86: March 2014
Welcome to the March 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 hours of pro bono work performed in the latest reporting period by in-house lawyers covered under the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme almost doubled, from 545.6 hours in the six month period from 1 January to 30 June 2013 to 1086.2 hours in the six months to 31 December 2013.
In this period, 69 lawyers and 8 paralegals undertook 43 projects under the scheme, compared with the previous six months, in which 37 lawyers undertook 26 projects. The Scheme, which was launched in 2009 to remove an obstacle to in-house lawyers wanting to do pro bono work, has grown significantly over the five years, with the first register reporting 82 hours of pro bono work undertaken by five lawyers.
The most recent period saw new applications from a number of lawyers in the South Australian Crown Solicitor’s Office and lawyers from the National Australia Bank. Work undertaken by another recent applicant included pro bono advice to not-for-profit and community groups referred to Telstra Legal by Justice Connect.
If you’re an in-house lawyer interested in applying for coverage, please see the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme page. For more information see the previous story on the insurance scheme featured in the July 2011 edition of the National Pro Bono News.
|The Centre recently made a presentation to a meeting of the Regional NSW Law Society Presidents to encourage more regional practitioners to become more involved in providing pro bono estate planning services to Aboriginal people. The Centre has been working with the Law Society of NSW, Ashurst, Legal Aid NSW and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NSW/ACT) to expand and extend the pro bono legal work in this area, not only in NSW but elsewhere in Australia.
It is estimated that only about 2% of Aboriginal people in Australia make Wills. This compares with about 55% in the general community. Around 70% of the burial disputes that go to court in Australia involve Aboriginal People.
To address the low rate of making Wills and the problems that arise as a result of dying intestate, in some areas of NSW, Wills, Powers of Attorney and Appointments of Enduring Guardian have been prepared by local and visiting lawyers for Aboriginal people mainly at dedicated “Wills Days”.
Ashurst (formerly Blake Dawson) has been involved in preparing Wills and other estate planning documents for Aboriginal people on a pro bono basis since 2000 and has developed a model of service delivery that has been successful (with over 90% of clients finalising their Wills and other documents). In addition to the distribution of their estates, clients involved in this project are concerned about burial and about the guardianship of minor children. These are factors that can motivate an individual to make a Will.
Ashurst’s model of a “Wills Day” involves lawyers attending a local Aboriginal organisation, providing a couple of hours of community legal education in relation to Wills and alternative decision-making to members of the local Aboriginal community in the morning and taking instructions from those who want to prepare a Will or other estate planning documents during the afternoon. Ashurst then drafts the documents in time to meet with clients to review, finalise and execute their documents either the next day for remote communities or the next week for less remote communities. Between 15 and 20 clients attend most workshops (with more people, including workers in local Aboriginal organisations, attending the CLE on the first morning).
Ashurst finds that Wills days are more successful when they have the active participation of a local Aboriginal organisation and where the Wills and other documents are prepared and made available for clients to execute in a short time frame. Where possible it has also been helpful to work with the local community legal centre or Legal Aid office, for example, the community legal centres or Legal Aid offices in Nowra, Lismore, Dubbo, Broken Hill, the Central Coast, Hawkesbury Nepean and Albury-Wodonga have helped drive the work in those regions. Kingsford Legal Centre has driven this work in its catchment area in Sydney.
“Wills Days” are usually run in partnership with the local Aboriginal organisation which arranges the venue, advertises the day, encourages members of their community to attend and provides food (eg, morning tea and a BBQ for lunch) for attendees.
Ashurst is willing to share their experience with any practitioners wanting to develop this program. The Centre, through the Law Society of NSW, is encouraging more regional legal practitioners to get involved. Please contact the Centre or Anne Cregan, National Pro Bono Partner at Ashurst, for further details.
Ashurst currently has Wills Days planned for the Illawarra, Hawkesbury-Nepean, Coffs Harbour, Eden, Narooma, Brewarrina, Bourke, Dubbo, Gilgandra, Walgett, and Lightning Ridge.
Professor Prue Vines, UNSW, “Where there’s a will …”, Uniken, p. 18 June 2013.
In December 2013, King & Wood Mallesons became a signatory to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target. This month we profile the ‘KWM in the Community’ program.
King & Wood Mallesons have had a long-standing pro bono practice and in the past few years have developed an integrated pro bono/community strategy under the banner of the “KWM in the Community” program. With a significant component of their pro bono work being done for not-for-profits, it was a strategic decision by KWM to align the coordination of their pro bono and philanthropic programs. This has resulted, they believe, in more impactful relationships with Australia wide and local not-for-profit ‘charity partners’ who they support in a multi-tiered arrangement.
The KWM in the Community program has provided a way of directing KWM’s ongoing pro bono and charitable work to meet the common values and goals of their staff. The specific charitable targets of the firm are to:
The program involves a range of initiatives to achieve multi-level support for members of their community who are most in need and the organisations that assist them. It allows for the engagement of KWM staff from both legal and non-legal teams through the wide range of support they provide. KWM staff have the opportunity to assist with pro bono advice, charitable giving and volunteering initiatives.
The KWM in the Community program is overseen by the KWM in the Community Board. Each KWM office has a Pro Bono and Charities Committee to initiate and organise pro bono and community projects as well as a pro bono partner and a pro bono coordinator.
Pro bono program
A core belief at KWM is that with success comes a responsibility to use their legal skills to give back to the community. KWM provides pro bono legal advice to advance and protect the legal rights and interests of the disadvantaged in our society.
To the period ending June 2013, their legal staff provided in excess of 30,000 hours of pro bono assistance, including pro bono legal work on matters for community and non-profit organisations and by participating in free legal clinics to help disadvantaged members of the community.
The free legal clinics assisted by KWM staff in 2013 include:
KWM’s charitable giving is formalised through the Workplace Giving program. KWM staff donate money directly from their pay to selected charity partners. KWM matches staff donations dollar for dollar.
Through the combined giving of the firm and staff they contributed over AUD$800,000 in 2013.
KWM has a number of community partnerships with organisations who have goals consistent with that of the KWM in the Community program. These include the National Children and Youth Law Centre and The Smith Family. These partners are one of the key ways that they are able to achieve their charitable targets. They also have local charity partners that work collaboratively with their staff in different states.
KWM staff support their community partners through the provision of pro bono advice, volunteering, donations and business support services.
In 2013, Trish Matthews, a Senior Associate in the Dispute Resolution team in Melbourne was recognised at the Australian Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards when she won the Pro Bono Award for her outstanding contribution to legal outreach services for disadvantaged clients.
Trish and her team provide legal services to people in Western Melbourne and Footscray who are homeless or at risk of homelessness through the Justice Connect Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC). In 2013 Trish’s team undertook matters for 189 clients. Trish was also instrumental in establishing KWM’s involvement in the Footscray Community Legal Centre’s Refugee Legal Service (RLS) established in response to the growing need for legal advice and education for African refugees and immigrants. Over the last 10 years Trish has supervised and mentored 120 KWM clinic lawyers.
Trish Matthews (centre) with Kess Dovey (who manages the Refugee Legal Service program) and
Chris Povey (Principal Lawyer at the Justice Connect Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic program)
In 2013 KWM also won the Australasian Legal Business (ALB) CSR Firm of the Year award, for the fifth year in a row. Pro bono initiatives with KWM clients werea key factor in the making of the award. This included their work with GE on theLawyers in Schools program, a program which aims to ameliorate broader social problems through legal education and early intervention.
KWM currently has 750 FTE lawyers in Australia.
The Centre recently joined the National Rural Law and Justice Alliance, Australia’s first peak non-government organisation for regional, rural and remote (RRR) law and justice. The Centre’s project officer, Dan Jacobs, now sits on the Alliance’s Council to provide a pro bono perspective. The Alliance hopes to mirror the success of the National Rural Health Network by drawing issues that affect access to justice in RRR areas to the attention of government and the general public. The creation of the Alliance was sparked by the success of the first and second National Rural/Regional Law and Justice Conferences (hosted by Deakin University in Warrnambool and the University of New England in Coffs Harbour).
When the Centre conducted its biennial National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey of Australian firms with more than fifty lawyers in 2012, the respondents highlighted the many issues facing those who wish to provide pro bono assistance in RRR areas. For example, the increased travel, accommodation and HR costs makes it much less likely that a firm will second a solicitor to a RRR CCC rather than a CLC located a taxi trip away from its city office . Sixteen of the 39 respondents had provided pro bono legal assistance focussed on clients in RRR areas in the previous two years, however the proportion of this work actually conducted in these areas (rather than remotely, from the firms’ city offices) was much smaller. Only four firms had attempted to use video-conferencing in this work.
The Centre has on occasion directly assisted law firms to create partnerships with community legal organisations and other not-for-profit organisations in RRR areas (for example, see the NBN Regional Legal Assistance Program pilot project in partnership with Hobart Community Legal Service and DLA Piper), however our major role is to promote effective models of pro bono legal work focussed on these areas, whether through direct relationships or through partnerships (see the Centre’s guide Pro Bono Partnerships and Models: A Practical Guide to What Works for examples of successful outreach programs, secondments and fellowships).
The Centre also plays a role in encouraging students and young lawyers to work or volunteer in RRR areas through Social Justice Opportunities, which was created in response to feedback from students at smaller and regional universities who advised that little information was available to them on how to volunteer and seek employment in the social justice sector. We also feature current jobs and volunteer opportunities on the Social Justice Opportunities website and promote these positions via Twitter and Facebook, and at any given time approximately half of the positions listed are located in RRR areas.
The new National Rural Law and Justice Alliance includes members from the community legal sector, academia, not-for-profit organisations & networks and the private law profession, and is currently seeking members who:
Membership is free, and it is up to the joining organisation to decide on an appropriate level of engagement. There is no requirement to attend a set number of meetings. Individuals can also join through ‘Friends of the Alliance’ membership and help support NRLJA’s work. ‘Friends’ can nominate four among their number to sit on the Council.
For more information on the National Rural Law and Justice Alliance and possible membership please refer to the Alliance’s website or join its mailing list. You can also contact the Executive Officer, Catherine McFaul, on 03 5227 2625. Further contact information can be found here.
TrustLaw Connect, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service, has invited Australian law firms to share information about their firm’s pro bono program for inclusion in the inaugural TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, to be launched in May 2014.
The aim of the Trust Law Index is to provide a picture of the global pro bono market and compare a law firm’s pro bono performance with other firms within a country and on a country-by-country basis. It has indicated that three specific country lists will be created, including for Australian firms.
With its new Index, Trust Law is taking a different approach to the reporting of pro bono work to that of the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target. The Target has been successful in fostering a uniquely strong and collaborative pro bono culture in Australia by avoiding the creation of league tables and by not attempting to publicly rank firms against each other.
In contrast to this approach, Trust Law proposes to publish a list of firms by name indicating the number of pro bono hours per fee earner per year, and the percentage of fee-earners undertaking ten or more hours of pro bono per year even though other information collected will be aggregated on an anonymous basis.
The Index may provide an additional source of information about the provision of pro bono legal services in various countries. However the Centre shares the concerns that have been raised by a number of firms about the risk that the Index will create a ‘league table’ for Australian firms, which is contrary to the collaborative spirit of pro bono in Australia, especially if it is designed by an organisation that does not have much involvement with Australian pro bono practice. Some firms have also questioned the utility of attempting to compare practices across very different jurisdictions.
The 3rd Southeast Asia/Asia Pro Bono Conference & Workshop will be held in Singapore over three days from 2-4 October 2014.
The theme for this year’s conference/workshop is “Creating vibrant pro bono ecosystems to strengthen access to justice”. On October 2nd and 3rd the conference will be held at The Joyden Hall, right in the heart of the bustling Arts & Heritage District of Bugis, situated near the Hotel Intercontinental and the Raffles Hotel, (with other budget accommodation available nearby) and workshops will be held on October 4th at The Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore.
This year the event has been expanded to a three day event following on from the success of the 1st and 2nd Southeast Asia/Asia Pro Bono Conferences & Workshops held in Vientiane, Laos in 2012, and in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2013.
The event will celebrate and emphasize pro bono legal work, discussing ways to further the outreach of the pro bono ethos in Southeast Asia and around the globe. As in previous years, the event will include speeches, panel discussions, question and answer sessions, poster presentations and interactive workshops led by experienced local and international lawyers, members of the judiciary, government officers, academics and others.
The hosts for the event are the Singapore Law Society, BABSEA CLE and BABSEA CLE Singapore. The National Pro Bono Resource Centre is a member of the international organising committee and a co-founder of the conference.
The Singapore local organising committee includes representatives from law firms Herbert Smith Freehills, White and Case, DLA Piper, Latham and Watkins, and Drew and Napier, the Fortis Law Corporation and Beacon Law Corporation, from corporates Citibank, and Hewlett Packard, as well as the National University of Singapore.
Recently Chief Justice Robert French AC, of the High Court of Australia explored the question of why lawyers may act pro bono and who benefits, in a speech given to the Law Summer School in Perth titled Pro Bono Publico, Cui Bono?
The staff of the Centre wish to express their deep sadness and condolences after learning of the passing of our former volunteer, Ivana Ukropina. During her nine months as a volunteer with Centre last year, Ivana worked on the paper Pro Bono Legal Services in Family Law and Family Violence: Understanding the Limitations and Opportunities, Social Justice Opportunities and many other projects.
Ivana convinced us to take her on as a volunteer, at a time when we weren’t actually looking for volunteers, with her exceptional enthusiasm and eagerness to both learn and make a difference. We have never encountered a volunteer with a more positive attitude to work, so energetic and happy to do whatever was needed – no matter how small or mundane the task. At the age of 29 she had her whole career and life ahead of her and she was so determined to make something of herself and took delight in helping others. It has been shocking for us to discover that a life so full of promise was prematurely cut short, and we wish to pay tribute to her and the contribution she made in the short time that she volunteered with us.