Linda Macpherson & Karen Dyhrberg

Co-CEOs

Tell us about yourself and how you came to be in your current role

Linda: I began my career in private practice at Clayton Utz in the Brisbane office with the Banking and Finance team. In 2004 to 2006, whilst I was at Clayton Utz, I was seconded to LawRight (then known as QPLICH) to establish and supervise the Consumer Law Advice Clinic in conjunction with the University of Queensland. The clinic was established as there was no specialised legal service in Queensland at the time to assist low income and disadvantaged Queenslanders with credit and debt problems. I returned to Clayton Utz, becoming the firm’s Pro Bono Coordinator before then moving in-house as a lawyer with Suncorp. I was fortunate to be able to return to LawRight in September 2016 part-time to fill in as Principal Solicitor for Karen who was on parental leave. In July 2017, I began sharing the CEO role with Sue Garlick and when Sue left in early 2023, Karen was appointed Co-CEO.

Karen: I started at LawRight as a graduate seconded from Corrs Chambers Westgarth. It was 2008 – the year the first Queensland Legal Walk (then called the Walk for Justice) was held on National Pro Bono Day. I returned to LawRight full-time in 2010 to manage the pro bono referral service, and was later Principal Solicitor for several years before moving into the Co-CEO role in May 2023. I’ve been involved with all 17 Walks including as the inaugural Lady Justice.

Please give us a snapshot of the activities of LawRight

LawRight improves the lives of vulnerable people by increasing access to justice through strategic partnerships with members of the legal profession including law firms, barristers and in-house legal teams from corporate and government legal unit members. LawRight’s programs through its services of Pro Bono Connect, Court and Tribunal Services and Community & Health Justice Partnerships improved justice for 1,782 people in the last financial year.

Pro Bono Connect (PBC) assesses applications for legal help and connects vulnerable people and NFP organisations to the Queensland legal profession for pro bono assistance. This assistance may be full pro bono representation, advice or assistance with discrete tasks. PBC has coordinated public interest referrals since 2001 and manages the Queensland Law Society and the Bar Association of Queensland referral schemes.

Our Court and Tribunal Services have onsite offices and services at the Brisbane court and tribunal registries and deliver remote services throughout Queensland to increase access to vulnerable people navigating complex court and tribunal proceedings. LawRight also delivers in-person advice and representation services to self-represented debtors at the debt enforcement hearings at the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

LawRight’s Community and Health Justice Partnerships of Homelessness Law and Multicultural Law implement a best practice, outreach based, trauma-informed service delivery model. Staff are fully embedded in 11 frontline homelessness, community and health agencies in both Brisbane and Cairns. As part of its Homelessness Law program, the service has targeted projects to direct support to where it’s needed for people facing homelessness.

What are some examples of the impact of the pro bono work of your members?

Tara, a retired pensioner, had spent a significant amount of money building a live-in container home on her friend’s property. This was on the understanding that she would be able to reside there, and that if the friendship ended, her friend would reimburse her for the costs of the container home. The friendship subsequently broke down and the friend prevented Tara from entering the property and refused to reimburse her for the cost of the container home. Tara attended 6 appointments with LawRight pro bono member firms who were able to take detailed instructions, help her to prepare and file a statement of claim, and provide her with advice and guidance about the litigation process. In August, Tara attended an informal settlement conference where, due to the assistance from the member firms, the matter was resolved and the friend agreed to let Tara remove the container home from his property.

Jenny was in a relationship with Mark for approximately 13 years, in which they had two children. Mark frequently used drugs and verbally and physically abused Jenny. In the lead up to their final separation, there was an incident on a rural property where Jenny allegedly pointed a gun at Mark (the incident). Two months later while they were disputing custody arrangements for the children, Mark made a complaint to the Police about the incident which resulted in criminal charges being laid against Jenny and a domestic violence protection order being made. Jenny had an unblemished career as an enrolled nurse and worked predominantly with adult patients, but lost her job as she was not able to obtain a Blue Card.

Jenny was then forced to work in admin and rostering while she applied to review the decision of Blue Card Services. LawRight assisted the client to represent herself through appointments but prior to the final hearing, referred the matter to pro bono Counsel for representation. The Tribunal decided to set aside the negative notice. Without the assistance of Counsel, Jenny would have represented herself and the outcome may have been very different. Submissions made by Counsel persuaded the Tribunal Member that the incident was a one-off which occurred in the context of an abusive relationship that was unlikely to be repeated.