Issue 47: December 2008
Centre secures funding for next four years
The Centre is pleased to announce that both the Commonwealth and the State and Territory governments (combined) have indicated that funding for the Centre at existing levels will be provided for the period July 2009 – July 2013 with formal agreements to be entered into in the new year.
The Centre also receives considerable support from the law faculty at the University of New South Wales and a number of private law firms. The UNSW Law Faculty provides it with accommodation and logistical support while law firms provide much input and advice to the publications and initiatives of the Centre.
New signatories for the Aspirational Target
This month the Australian Government Solicitor, DLA Phillips Fox and a number of other smaller firms have signed up to the Statement of Principles containing the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target of at least 35 hours pro bono legal work per lawyer per year taking the number of lawyers covered by the Target to close to 4000 lawyers nationally.
Individual solicitors, law firms, barristers and barrister’s chambers can become signatories simply by agreeing to the Statement of Principles and entering their details online.
To view the list of signatories click here.
National Conference a cracker
All the feedback received about the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference 2008 held in Sydney from 13-15 November 2008 has been very positive. The Centre would like to thank all attendees, chairs and speakers. A good selection of conference papers are available on the conference website and are still being added to. They will be archived on the Centre’s website as an ongoing resource in due course. Any recommendations or resolutions made in particular conference sessions collected by us have been put on the conference blog. Comments and resolutions may still be added to the blog.
The ‘Yes We Can’ resolutions
In his address at the opening plenary of the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference in Sydney, the Chair of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre Peter Stapleton called for a united front of “passion and pragmatism”, and encouraged each legal service provider (both organisation and individual) to detail in one page what is needed to improve access to justice within the Australian community.
These comments have been provided, collated and are available for download here.
Benefits outlined of a strategic approach to cost recovery in pro bono litigation
Robin Knowles CBE QC, Chairman of the Bar Pro Bono Unit of England and Wales, in his address to the conference titled ‘Access to Justice – the State of Things in England and Wales’, stressed the importance of a strategic approach to pro bono delivery particularly with cost recovery in pro bono litigation.
He referred to the legislation in the UK which commenced in October 2008 that empowers a court to make an order equivalent to a costs order against the losing party when a pro bono case is won. The sum ordered to be paid must be paid to a designated charity, the Access to Justice Foundation. The Foundation in turn applies this additional money to help add to the resourcing of the infrastructure that enables pro bono assistance to be made available to others.
The Foundation has been accompanied by the formation of Regional Legal Support Trusts that give the Foundation a picture of the regional and local unmet need so that some of that need can be met from the new money available through the Foundation. They also carry out regional and local fundraising activity and, in time, will help develop regional pro bono activity in a strategic way. The Foundation is attracting other monies as well.
Robin Knowles said in his presentation:
As can come if a strategic approach is taken, the Access to Justice Foundation has large potential for bringing other new resources into the system. Created as the destination for pro bono costs orders, it is now canvassed as the natural destination of choice for monies standing long unclaimed on law firm’s client accounts. The Civil Justice Council recently recommended it as a suitable destination for damages awarded but unclaimed under “opt out” class litigation. The new financial resources available through these and other routes could be very material indeed. In early discussion about pro bono costs orders some had said the money should go to a place chosen by the lawyers in the particular case. The welcome greater potential I have just described is handsome reward for resisting that idea in favour of a strategic approach (emphasis added).
These comments are particularly relevant in Australia at present where both the LIV and the Law Society of NSW have made submissions to their respective Attorney-Generals suggesting that their parliaments legislate to make clear that there is a right to seek a costs order when a pro bono client wins a case.
Robin Knowles’ full address is recommended reading and is available for download here.
Pro Bono in the News – November 2008
Carolyn Burnside, a member of the Barristers’ Animal Welfare Association (and wife of State A-G and Minister for Racing, Rob Hulls) represented pro bono those trying to assist three stallions which were maltreated at the Werribee Park Equestrian centre.
Criminal barristers and solicitors abandoned their briefs outside the County Court in Melbourne to protest declining legal aid fees.
Obituary on constitutional lawyer George Winterton mentions pro bono work done for Aborigines. (Also WA Today)
The LIV President’s Pro Bono Award went to Baker & McKenzie pro bono partner Kenneth Gray for his work with the Peter Mac Institute.
An elderly man has lost his pro bono-assisted bid to regain control over his financial affairs which were taken over because he made hundreds of calls to sex chat lines.
A-G’s speech at the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference.
A Perth couple has won a six-year battle against the Immigration Department to stay in Australia with their Down syndrome son, with Freehills acting pro bono.
Environmental lawyer Kathy Ridge has a personal rule that she will take only one pro bono client at a time but has two at the moment because of NSW planning laws and the controversial Part 3A of the Environmental Planning Act. (Also in Mandurah Mail).
The Law Council of Australia says nationwide there has been a big decline in the number of lawyers prepared to do pro bono work.
Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector, Senator Ursula Stephens, addressed a panel session at the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono conference in Sydney.
Professor George Winterton, one of Australia’s foremost experts on the constitution who, as a young solicitor in WA, provided pro bono assistance to Aboriginal groups, has died.
An open letter to Queensland magistrates which refers to the pro bono work of Brisbane Lawyers Educating and Advocating for Tougher Sentences (BLEATS) for animal cruelty.
Law firms on the Victorian government panel charge discounted rates and are required to undertake pro bono work and comply with equal opportunity policies.
Michael Clarke, the solicitor assisting the families of two young brothers found dead in Ellenbrook, described the deaths as an accident and said he did not expect any criminal charges to be laid.
LIV Honours Excellence and Outstanding Achievements in Law (LIV media release, 7 November)
John Logan, who spent 50 years in practice as a solicitor in Maitland and will be remembered for his pro bono work and constant fight for the “underdog”, has died.
The number of legal firms on the Victorian Government Legal Services Panel (which are required to undertake pro bono work) is to be slashed from 35 to around 20.
A man whose affairs were taken over by the state after he spent $200,000 on phone sex will appeal the orders he says have made his life a misery, with the support of Carers Queensland and pro bono lawyers appointed by the Queensland Public Interest Legal Clearing House.
The Older People and the Law handbook, co-edited by the NSW Young Lawyers’ Pro Bono and Community Services Taskforce, is now only available online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Victorian Court of Appeal judge, Justice Mark Weinberg, in his address to the National Judicial College’s Courts in 2020 conference in Sydney was critical about many legal issues but positive about one: “I am discerning among the young lawyers a . . . powerful commitment to pro-bono work.”
Einfeld pleads guilty to perjury (ABC Radio’s PM program, 31 October)