Issue 84: November 2014
Welcome to the November 2013 edition of National Pro Bono News, from the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
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In this edition, you can read about:
At its annual planning day the Centre developed a new strategic plan for the next four years. At the heart of the plan is the NPBRC as an independent centre of expertise whose principal objective is to grow the capacity of the Australian legal profession to provide pro bono legal services that are focused on increasing access to justice for socially disadvantaged and/or marginalised persons, and furthering the public interest.
The full plan can be seen here (PDF).
The integration of the Public Interest Law Clearing House (Vic) and the similarly named entity in NSW announced in December 2012 became complete with the launch of Justice Connect in Melbourne on 14 November 2013. The launch featured a special video of lawyers who have contributed significantly to fighting for the rights of individuals experiencing disadvantage, and those instrumental in the foundation of the two PILCHs, together with speeches from Mitzi Gilligan, Chair of Justice Connect and partner, Minter Ellison; David Hillard, Justice Connect NSW State Committee member and partner, Clayton Utz; Peter Butler, a founding board member and previous chair of PILCH (VIC) and partner, Herbert Smith Freehills; Fiona McLeay, Executive Director, Justice Connect; and the Hon. Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Shadow Commonwealth Attorney-General.
Former Executive Directors of PILCH (Vic)
(L-R) Caitlin English, Mat Tinkler, Amanda Cornwall, Fiona McLeay (Executive Director of Justice Connect), Emma Hunt and Kristen Hilton
The launch emphasised a number of the notable cases where either the NSW or the VIC PILCH have played a connecting role. These included the Tampa case (2001), the Gunns 20 case (2004-2010), the creation of the Human Rights Law Resource Centre (2006), the Autism spectrum case that changed guidelines on access to disability support services (2008), the Victorian Bushfire Legal Help Service (2009), the NSW Stolen Wages cases (2009/2010), , the Offshore Asylum Seeker Project (2011), the Balan Caravaners case (2012), and other cases simply where an individual’s life has been changed for the better.
PILCH (NSW) was established in 1992 and was the first of its kind in Australia. It was an initiative of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), law firms and the Law Society of NSW. Whilst always having its own board, PILCH (NSW) only became administratively and physically separate from PIAC in 2009. The NSW-based staff of Justice Connect will continue to be based in the old Sydney Law School building in Phillip Street, Sydney.
Launch of Justice Connect, Melbourne Town Hall
PILCH (Vic) was established in 1994 as a project of the Consumer Law Centre of Victoria (CLCV), supported by Fitzroy Legal Service, six Melbourne law firms (Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Freehills, Mallesons Stephen Jacques, Minter Ellison, Phillips Fox and Wisewoulds) and the Victorian Bar Council. CLCV managed and provided accommodation and infrastructure to PILCH (VIC) for its first six years. The Victorian staff of Justice Connect will continue to be based at their offices in Bourke Street, Melbourne close to the Law Institute of Victoria. Some contact details have been changed
More detail is available on the new Justice Connect website.
Michael Brett Young, CEO of the Law Institute of Victoria, Stephen Hare, CEO of the Victorian Bar, John Corker,
Director of the Centre and Anton Hermann, National Director, Pro Bono and Community Investment, Minter Ellison
Photos courtesy of Justice Connect.
In its meeting on 26 November the Council of the Law Society of Western Australia endorsed the recommendations presented to it by the WA Public Interest Law Clearing House Reference Group (“Reference Group”) and decided to develop a business plan in consultation with relevant stakeholders (i.e. potential partners and funders) to explore the possible expansion of the existing Law Access Service (managed by the Law Society of WA), as a “central pro bono clearing house service”.
The recommendations endorsed were:
Recommendations 1-6 came from the recently released report commissioned by the Reference Group, Doing the Public Good: a feasibility study of pro bono models for Western Australia with recommendation 7 being developed by the Reference Group itself.
The Reference Group was brought together in early 2012 and comprised representatives from: The Law Society of Western Australia, the Western Australian Bar Association, Legal Aid Western Australia, the Community Legal Centres Association of Western Australia, the Aboriginal Legal Service (WA), Criminal Lawyers Association, Family Law Practitioners Association (WA), the five Western Australian law schools, pro bono coordinators from nearly all major national firms, and from large and medium sized firms and the Courts.
The Doing the Public Good report provides a picture of diverse and growing pro bono activity in Western Australia, with the legal profession in WA engaging in pro bono legal work in a number of ways: through direct requests for clients, ad hoc referrals, referrals from Law Access and the Western Australian Bar Association, or partnerships with publicly funded legal service providers. For example, both the number of pro bono applications received by Law Access, and the number of matters placed or resolved during the 2012/13 year, more than doubled.
However, the report also identified a number of constraints to growth, including a lack of clear access points for clients, some duplication of service provision, inconsistent eligibility criteria across different referral schemes, and the absence of a strategic proactive approach to pro bono work which is directed at responding to unmet legal need.
The Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) are to further expand their services into Northern Queensland. They will be establishing a new office with a full-time solicitor in Townsville and engaging a part-time solicitor for the Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic in Cairns. The Townsville Service will build on the existing QPILCH homeless person’s legal clinic that has been operating in Townsville for over two years. The Cairns service will co-locate with an existing homeless persons welfare agency. These positions have been advertised and applications close on Monday 2 December 2013 – see the QPILCH website for details.
Information on these and many other opportunities can be found on Social Justice Opportunities (www.sjopps.net.au).
by Nic Patrick, Partner and Head of Pro Bono and Corporate Responsibility – International at DLA Piper
A key highlight of the Forum was hearing Pierre Servan-Schreiber, the managing partner of the Paris office of Skadden Arps, describe his pro bono representation of the Hopi tribe of Arizona. The Hopi tribe applied to a French court for an injunction to prevent the sale of cultural and religious artefacts which were to be sold by a Paris auction house. Although unsuccessful in preventing the sale, Pierre was able to purchase one of the artefacts when the auction went ahead, and travelled from Paris to Arizona where he then rode into the desert on a motorbike to return the recovered artefact to the Hopi tribe. He is a truly inspirational pro bono lawyer who went above and beyond the call of duty in the pursuit of justice for his clients.
2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Abadi speaking at the Forum
There was a busy NGO marketplace where law firm representatives could meet with NGO representatives. The NGOs in Europe are increasingly using pro bono more strategically (to run test cases, engage in law reform and policy issues etc). One NGO had a glossy pitch document which listed available strategic pro bono opportunities in the area of disability rights, demonstrating a real enthusiasm for collaboration with law firms.
The PILnet forum always includes sessions on in-house pro bono in Europe. Regular attendees at the conference will have noticed that many of the ‘usual suspects’ appear every year to profile the pro bono work of their Europe-based in-house teams. The usual suspects include GE, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and a few others. In most cases the mandate to get involved in pro bono has come from US-based general counsels and has been a very positive development for the in-house teams who clearly enjoy doing pro bono work, usually in collaboration with law firms, with the blessing of their companies. The real significance of the in-house lawyers is the message that they send to the law firm attendees through their presence and interest in pro bono.
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that there is a growing willingness to consider access to justice work (as opposed to advice for charities and non-profits) in Europe. For example, Caritas Austria received the third annual European Award for an Exemplary Partnership in the Public Interest in recognition of their project with the Austrian Asylum Lawyers’ Network. The Network has developed into a collaboration between eight Austrian NGOs and ten lawyers across Austria who take on legal representation of select indigent asylum seekers. The Network focuses primarily on proceedings before the Austrian High Courts and the European Court for Human Rights.
Although pro bono is in some respects still in its infancy in Europe, PILnet is very effective at finding European lawyers who are doing pro bono work and giving them a platform to share their experiences with others. This has the effect of normalising the practice of pro bono and creates the impression that the pro bono movement is more developed than it is in reality. The benefit of this is that it plays to the competitive psychology of law firms and motivates others to do more and better.
(R-L) Atanas Politov, Marieanne McKeown (PILnet), Nic Patrick, Ozgur Kahal (DLA Piper) and others at the Forum
Most of the participants will have left the forum with a strong sense that the pro bono movement in Europe is gathering momentum, and it is, but there is also a palpable fragility. The role and success of PILnet, an American NGO, in promoting a pro bono culture in Europe cannot be understated. But, whereas the National Pro Bono Resource Centre in Australia and the Pro Bono Institute in the USA exist alongside a robust pro bono movement in the legal profession, PILnet in many ways is the pro bono movement in continental Europe and one cannot help to wonder if the ‘movement’ would continue if PILnet withdrew. Even more concerning is that the success of PILnet is largely attributable to the enormous energy of a handful of extremely impressive individuals who ironically by their own prominence only serve to highlight the current lack of depth of pro bono commitment and leadership on the continent. What is desperately lacking is vocal unambiguous top level support from law firm leaders, and the infrastructure to deliver quality pro bono opportunities to busy lawyers working in firms.
Despite these challenges, I believe PILnet will ultimately succeed in entrenching a pro bono culture in Europe. There are certainly glimmers of hope. There is a demonstrable willingness on the part of European lawyers to participle in public interest lawyering; there is increasing cooperation between law firms and the nonprofit sector; the internationalisation and consolidation of the legal sector is promoting culture transfer and ‘shared values’; and there is real enthusiasm and anticipation surrounding next year’s forum which will take place in London.
Photos courtesy of PILnet.
He started planning his retirement in 2003. He retired five years later in 2008 after a partnership of 37 years as an insurance lawyer. Now ex-DLA Piper partner Michael Gill has found himself in a satisfying role as part of DLA Piper’s global pro bono program and as an ambassador for New Perimeter, the vehicle DLA Piper created to strategically advance its pro bono work for projects primarily in less developed and post-conflict countries.
John Corker caught up with Michael to ask him how this came about and what advice he would provide to other senior lawyers considering retirement.
How long have you been a practising lawyer?
How did your pro bono ethos originate?
What was your involvement in the development of the structured pro bono program at DLA Piper (or its predecessor firms)?
Nic then found others ways in which I could assist. Later, I also became involved in putting together with your Centre a professional indemnity insurance solution for corporate lawyers and working with the NSW Law Society and LawCover on that. Having been a Law Society President and Chairman of LawCover was not a disadvantage. My knowledge, experience and long term relationships with many of the key people helped.
Nic led the firm in the establishment of the Homeless Persons Legal Service (HPLS) clinic at Newtown. I joined the roster, going back to a role which I first filled as a young lawyer in Redfern in 1971. I still volunteer at a homeless person’s shelter where I sleep over one night every three months. I have seen familiar faces at both places.
These experiences reinforce the messages that you get more from it personally than you give and the real gift is not the time that you give but the part of your heart that goes with it.
How did your retirement plans change to include working with the DLA pro bono program?
DLA Piper actually has a history of pro bono going back to the 1960s and particularly in Chicago so even though they are a large corporate law firm, they understand that the law is a calling, it’s more than a business!
When Nic Patrick went to London as head of Pro Bono International, Dan Creasey took over his role in this region. He asked me to lead a project about identifying roles for the firm in micro-insurance solutions to assist development and disadvantaged people in countries right across the world.
Lisa Dewey, the Director of New Perimeter, asked me late last year if I would do an appraisal of a teaching project, the aim of which was, in conjunction with Mexico Appleseed, to encourage the Mexican legal profession to embrace the culture of and need for pro bono as part of professional life. The teaching courses took place over 5 years in 5 Universities in Mexico and involved people from Appleseed and DLA Piper. New Perimeter has all projects independently appraised.
I went to Mexico City; I interviewed University staff, students and the Board and senior staff of Appleseed. Then I interviewed those from the firm involved in creating, managing and teaching the courses.
I then prepared the report for the New Perimeter Advisory Board in what was similar to a report for an insurer client, something that I have done hundreds of times over three decades of legal practice.
I used familiar legal skills. I enjoyed this. I am hoping that New Perimeter saw value in my work and that it may lead to more of these assignments from New Perimeter.
What is your experience of the New Perimeter model of service delivery so far?
In the context of a large international law firm, it presents a fabulous opportunity for persons from diverse offices to come together and form important bonds, especially when people are working together on one particular project. An example is teaching a course on legal drafting skills at the Law School of Tanzania in Dar Es Salaam. The Law School program is a one-year course intended to supplement the student’s law degree and completion is compulsory in order to practice. The program is for many students the first exposure to interactive and practical legal training and clinical legal education. The New Perimeter team teaches for two weeks each year, reaching about 400 students. Lawyers from DLA Piper teach in teams with lawyers from our client, GE. You are there with colleagues from other countries, clients and an NGO, using your skills to teach the future lawyers and leaders of Tanzania.
You are doing it together, and then debriefing, and then catching up some time later and telling some of the war stories and seeing photos on the website that bring back the memories. It’s not until you get into the space of actually living it that you see how dynamically good it is for all concerned, including those teaching.
Not everything about large international law firms (or large international corporations) is seen in positive terms. They need to do things which show their commitment to social responsibility generally and their communities in particular. Law firms have the additional incentive that they are more than a business; they are a calling. And the big internationals are uniquely placed to make significant contributions because of their wealth, size and spread, both geographically and competencies.
You seem to have been playing the role of facilitator, investigator and reporter, and more recently, educator. Have you had to develop new skills?
I would like to think that as long as I am blessed with good health there will be no shortage of useful things to do. I will maintain my relevance. I have come to appreciate that many senior lawyers suffer greatly from the loss of relevance after 40 years or more of a huge investment in knowledge and skill.
You seem to have found a role with the global program that is almost naturally based on your skills and experience. Do you think that there are any particular roles that senior lawyers are well suited to?
Although it might not be strictly pro bono, I have been the deputy chair of the board of our local retirement village and nursing home since 2009 and I bring my legal skills to that board. Any lawyer that has experience with issues like personal responsibility of directors, liability issues, occupational health and safety, environmental concerns, can very easily go onto the board of a charity or not-for-profit organisation and make a very useful contribution.
What advice would you give to senior lawyers who are considering retirement?
It’s becoming much more accepted that harmony in your life comes, to some extent, from your generosity. You have had that investment over all those years in legal skills. They are still useful and will give you satisfaction in continuing to use them for the good of others, especially the needy and the disadvantaged. And don’t forget the rest of the world!
I have said to my friends we don’t retire; we just change what we do.
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 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 October to November 2013. Click through to read any news article in full.
15 November 2013 – Lawyers Weekly
15 November 2013 – Sydney Morning Herald
Power is all in a day’s work for top legal eagle Mark Leibler [paywall]
Clutz named a leading international pro bono firm
14 November 2013 – The Guardian
SINGAPORE: Funding for legal aid could rise: Indranee
UK: Record number of junior lawyers working pro bono
TrustLaw Connect Awards 2013: Collaboration Award
TrustLaw Connect Awards 2013: Legal Team of the Year
TrustLaw Connect Awards 2013: Lawyer of the Year
6 November 2013 – The Law Society Gazette
Who’s Who Legal: Pro Bono Survey Results
Who’s Who Legal: Pro Bono Leading Firms