Issue 85: February 2014
Welcome to the February 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 Centre welcomes both King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) and Gadens Sydney, which joined the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target as signatories this month. This brings the number of Australian lawyers covered by the Target to almost 10,000 lawyers. The Scheme started in April 2007 and in its first reporting year covered about 3000 lawyers. For a list of current signatories see here.
KWM (previously Mallesons Stephen Jacques) has had a significant pro bono legal practice for many years, led since 2001 by Jane Farnsworth, Special Counsel, Pro Bono and Community. The National Pro Bono News will profile the KWM pro bono practice in its next edition.
Gadens Sydney has recently developed their formal pro bono practice. Last year the practice experienced strong growth (see table below) under the firm hand of pro bono coordinator, Jodie Wauchope and some strong partner support. Their recent pro bono projects include work for the Lilla Aboriginal community in Watarrka National Park in the NT) and development of the National Aboriginal Art Registration system, a joint pro bono project with the Arts Law Centre.
In its annual Legal Service Expenditure Report for 2012/2013, the Commonwealth has published pro bono hours per lawyer figures for the service providers that seek to provide legal services to the Commonwealth. This was the fifth year that these figures have been released. This year’s report indicates that there are now 110 legal service providers on the Legal Services Multi Use List (LSMUL), 61 of these having only joined the list in the 2012/2013 year.
It was heartening to see that 73 of the 110 providers included a numerical report of their pro bono work, indicating that the practice of keeping records of pro bono work is becoming more widespread across firms.
However, 37 of the 110 providers are listed with ‘no report’. The Centre understands that the preponderance of these firms failed to report. However, this figure also includes firms which had reported but were not included and also some firms which were not required to report as they had not undertaken any Commonwealth work during the year. The Centre understands that a revised report, that includes data from firms that were not initially included, may be issued in the next few weeks.
Some of the legal service providers displaying significant growth in pro bono hours per lawyer over the past year are highlighted in the table below. Interestingly these firms span the range of large, mid-size and small firms indicating that growth is not a consequence of firm size.
Based on 2012 and 2013 figures as reported in the 2012 and 2013 Commonwealth Legal Services Expenditure Reports
Also worthy of comment are those firms which, in their first year of reporting, reported above the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target of 35 hours per lawyer per year.
The Commonwealth Legal Service Directions 2005 provide that an agency, approved Commonwealth company or approved government GBE, when deciding whether to use a particular external legal services provider on the LSMUL to undertake Commonwealth legal work, must take into account the amount and kind of pro bono legal work the provider has undertaken or will undertake and whether the provider is a signatory to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target.
Legal service providers appointed to the LSMUL are required to commit to a target for pro bono work which must be the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target or a specified alternative. In accordance with the reporting template provided by the Office of Legal Services Coordination, legal service providers who provide legal services to the Commonwealth are required to report on their pro bono work within 30 days of the end of each financial year.
The full report is available here. The pro bono legal services section is on pp 16-18.
The announcement of $4m over four years to support self-represented litigants (SRLs) in the Federal Court of Australia was made by former Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, in July 2013. This allocation of funds to pro bono clearing schemes around the country (and legal aid in Western Australia) was recently confirmed by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and has been allocated to QPILCH to provide services in Queensland, Justice Connect to provide services in NSW, ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, JusticeNet SA to provide services in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and to Legal Aid Western Australia to provide services in WA (with Law Access at the WA Law Society helping to source pro bono contacts).
The Scheme is based on the successful SRL schemes being run by QPILCH (that now operate in all courts and QCAT in Brisbane except the Magistrates Court), first started by QPILCH in the Queensland Court of Appeal in December 2007. These schemes have had strong court and law firm support and the new schemes are also anticipated to elicit similar support.
The QPILCH Federal Court self-representation service is to start on 17 February 2014, and similar to its other SRL services, will provide advice and legal assistance (but not representation) to self-represented litigants in all areas of law other than native title (no PI insurance) or immigration (referred for representation in appropriate matters). The service also offers to help with the drafting of documents such as applications, statements of claim, defences, affidavits and submissions and court forms in appropriate cases.
The Federal Court self-representation services in the states and territories other than Queensland are in the process of recruiting staff, and settling procedures with the court. They are expected to start in or around April 2014.
Firms interested in participating in these schemes should contact the coordinating organisation in the relevant state or territory.
Also of interest to firms may be a conference being held in Sydney from 15-17 April 2014, run by the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration, titled Assisting Unrepresented Litigants – A Challenge for Courts and Tribunals Conference.
Do you require funding for a legal project that will benefit Victorians? You could be eligible for some of $300,000 in grants funding available from the Victoria Law Foundation. Applications close 18 March 2014. The grants support projects which help make the law easier to understand, and are open to any organisation, not just legal bodies. Any questions or for support in preparing your application, contact the grants and awards manager. Find out more at www.victorialawfoundation.org.au/grants/general-grants.
Alternately, applications for general grants of up to $50,000 through the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW Grants Program close on 21 March 2014 (small grant applications of up to $5,000 are accepted at any time). To find out more, visit www.lawfoundation.net.au/grants/apply. Please note that you must discuss your project proposal with the Grants and Legal Information Manager before submitting your application.
The Centre appreciates the support of the Victoria Law Foundation and Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, most recently in the production of Social Justice Opportunities (see below).