Monday 12th November 2018
EXPERTS TO TEAM UP WITH PRO BONO LAWYERS
ExpertsDirect Pro Bono is a new service just launched for lawyers that aims to put them in touch with experts in a myriad of fields who are prepared to offer their services for free or at low cost in matters where the lawyer is acting on a pro bono basis. ExpertsDirect will be providing their services, including their Research, Case Management and Quality Assurance Teams, on a pro bono basis for participating pro bono law firms.
The service has been developed by the Australian Pro Bono Centre working closely with ExpertsDirect, professional services consultants, to tackle one of the key challenges in pro bono litigation; the availability of experts who are also willing to act pro bono in appropriate cases.
Frequently in litigation, compelling expert evidence will be a crucial factor in establishing a client’s case. And in matters assisting clients who are experiencing significant disadvantage, the cost of engaging an expert to provide that evidence is usually beyond the client’s means. This is the problem that ExpertsDirect Pro Bono seeks to address.
“ExpertsDirect engages with a wide range of professions, with expertise in fields ranging from medicine, rehabilitation and finance to technical fields such as construction, engineering and IT. When we sent out an expression of interest to our curated panel of 5000 experts, we found that there’s a genuine enthusiasm amongst many of our experts to ‘give back’ and a desire to make a difference to the future wellbeing of vulnerable people. Working with the Australian Pro Bono Centre, the new ExpertsDirect Pro Bono service plans to facilitate this,” said ExpertsDirect CEO, Richard Skurnik.
“We know first-hand the impact that a good expert can have upon any given case. We also understand that volunteering is enormously rewarding. We are committed to giving our experts the opportunity to become involved in some of these interesting cases,” he said.
CEO of the Australian Pro Bono Centre John Corker is delighted that experts have indicated a willingness to work pro bono in appropriate matters and only too aware of what a difference these services can make in pro bono cases.
“This is potentially a big step forward for other professions and experts to develop their pro bono culture. The cost of expert reports, advice, attendance at meetings and providing evidence can be considerable. This continues to be a barrier to lawyers taking on deserving matters on a pro bono basis. We are delighted that experts in a broad range of fields are willing to consider becoming involved in matters we consider appropriate for referral,” he said.
It is important to realise that the scope of the task to be undertaken by the expert, and the charge, if any, for such service, will ultimately and properly be a matter for agreement between the pro bono lawyer and the pro bono expert,” Corker said.
There are instances where expert evidence has assisted an entire community. Recently in a town in Western NSW, the licensee of a local pub lodged an application to transfer their liquor licence to premises closer to the town’s Aboriginal community. Concerned about the effect on the community, several Aboriginal elders objected to the transfer, and commenced proceedings with the pro bono assistance of a national law firm.
At the law firm’s request, a planning expert agreed — also on a pro bono basis — to prepare a report on the proposed relocation’s impact on the community. This involved assessing the site’s proximity to local amenities such as schools, shops and parks, and measuring the foot traffic of residents walking past the site. Based on the report, the licensee’s application was rejected and the Aboriginal community won the day.
“Given the community’s limited means,” said Corker, “pro bono expert assistance was key to the success of their case.”
Applications to ExpertsDirect Pro Bono should be directed to the Australian Pro Bono Centre at www.probonocentre.org.au/expertsdirect-pro-bono-services
For further information or comment please contact John Corker on 02 9385 7371 or 0402474628.