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Issue 60: July 2010
Welcome to the July 2010 edition of the e-Newsletter of the [Inter] National Pro Bono Resource Centre (the Centre). We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas. In this edition, read about:
6. INTERNATIONAL NEWS: American Lawyer’ s 200 top firm increase pro bono overall by 2% last year whilst hours per lawyer stay the same.
From 1 July 2010, law firms and barristers can apply to the Centre for reimbursement of anticipated costs associated with international pro bono legal work. This is due to a one-off grant of $100,000 made to the Centre from the Grants to Australian Organisations Program of the Attorney-General’s Department. Reimbursement of costs incurred can not exceed $20,000 per project and must be for work undertaken after 1 July 2010.
To ensure funds are available to meet expenses once incurred, applications can be made for preliminary approval of anticipated costs which once approved will be honoured by the Centre when costs are actually incurred.
Application forms can be found here on the Centre’s website.
The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s International Pro Bono Advisory Group has launched a new website that provides a Statement of Principles for International Pro Bono Legal Work, fact sheets and templates, a description of international pro bono matchmakers and brokers and other resources.
The Centre was approached to see if could establish a pro bono panel to support the Parramatta Social Enterprises Hub and at an event held at the Parramatta City Council on 23 June 2010, to celebrate the 3 year program, the following firms were introduced to the audience as panel members: Blake Dawson, Henry Davis York, Sparke Helmore, the Arts Law Centre and importantly small local firm Phang Legal.
Parramatta has NSW’s largest employment concentration outside of the Sydney CBD with over 86,000 people working in the area but is currently ranked twelfth out of forty-five on the SEIFA index (Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage) across Sydney.
Over the past three years the PCC has established the Parramatta Social Enterprise Hub in partnership with Social Ventures Australia (SVA – www.socialventures.com.au) and more recently the Macquarie Group Foundation.
The Hub has provided mentoring and business support to a range of social enterprises, including a number that have been successful in receiving a small amount of seed-funding through the social enterprise category of PCC’s Community Grants program. PCC’s social enterprise program is currently working with 15 enterprises and it is envisaged that four or five may be added to this group each year. As the grants are targeted at the start-up stage of development all the supported social enterprises have to make decisions about the legal form that best suits their needs, as well as a range of operational legal questions.
A number of the social enterprises are arts based initiatives. Others include clothes, cleaning, and food businesses developed by African communities, one providing business support to non-profit organisations and a cafe that addresses youth-related social issues related to generational poverty and unemployment.
Pro bono support for social enterprises has long been the norm in the US as it helps new migrants and other disadvantaged groups to “get up on their own feet”. Other lawyers or firms interested in helping with this work should contact Maria at the Centre.
With 150 clients seen since August last year, the new Cancer Council Legal Referral Service operating across NSW is meeting a need, providing a new model of pro bono legal assistance, and is one where in-house counsel can become involved.
Kate Robertson, Corporate Counsel at Ramsay Health, has been a great supporter of the service and has taken on a number of matters personally with PI insurance being provided without charge by the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme. She has been supported by the pro bono practice of DLA Phillips Fox, an approach that is working well. In-house lawyers at a bank and an insurance company have recently approached the service about being involved.
Law firms in Sydney that have taken on cases so far include Baker McKenzie (who started the Peter MacCallum cancer legal clinic in Melbourne in 2007), Thompson Playford Cutlers, Gilbert + Tobin, Herbert Geer, Turner Freeman, Shanahan Tudhope, and Clayton Utz but more support is needed particularly in Western and South Western Sydney. A regional roll-out is also taking place, with law firms and individual solicitors already signed up to participate in Armidale, Coffs Harbour and other areas.
Professional Services Coordinator at the Cancer Council, Louisa Fitz-Gerald, previously a lawyer at Baker McKenzie says, “Over 95% of the requests lead to legal work being required. Unfortunately some people pass on before the work can be done but very few requests don’t have real substance to them.”
“The areas of law and practice involved include wills and powers of attorney, access to superannuation, mortgage hardship and other consumer credit problems, insurance, employment and immigration issues relating to access to Medicare and overseas relatives for those in the final stages of life.”
“One of the key things we need to communicate to the lawyers involved is the immediacy of the assistance that is sometimes required. If a person only has days to live, or is facing a change of medication that may throw into doubt that person’s ability to control their own affairs, then there is a real urgency for the legal help.”
“Lawyers from the firms with developed pro bono practices have been fantastic with their attitude that they must find a solution for the client. Lawyers wanting to be involved must have this attitude. It’s not just piecemeal legal work”, said Fitz-Gerald.
Requests come in by phone through the Cancer Council Helpline or from referrals by social workers in hospitals in Sydney but also a number of regional areas. Long and complex matters for clients in regional areas are often handled by Sydney firms by phone and post.
The Service was launched at a function held at NSW Parliament House on 24 June chaired by Jennie Brockie and launched by the Hon Frank Sartor MP and Andrew Penman, CEO of the Cancer Council.
The Service commenced in August 2009 in partnership with PILCH NSW but in February 2010 the Cancer Council decided to run a stand-alone service. Lawyers and firms wanting to be involved should contact Louisa Fitz-Gerald.
It’s been 12 months since the National Pro Bono PI insurance Scheme provided by LawCover was launched. During that time five pro bono projects have been approved under the Scheme.
The projects are the Optus in-house legal team charity work, Karma Currency Foundation, Community Organisations Sydney (Information and Cultural Exchange (who provide services to young people in the greater western suburbs of Sydney) and the Touched by Olivia Foundation (who provide support to children with special needs), Cancer Council Legal Referral Service (Ramsay Health), and the Community Legal Advice Service – Strathfield Plaza (Korean community).
The total number of hours of pro bono legal work undertaken by lawyers on these projects who relied on PI insurance under the Scheme for the year was 83 hours.
This is its first year of operation and one of the main barriers to a greater use of the Scheme has been the inability of national corporations to commence a national pro bono legal program because their Victorian based lawyers are unable to obtain a practising certificate that permits them to undertake pro bono work. Three large corporations have approached the Centre with this issue. The Centre is continuing to lobby the Victorian government and has made a submission to the National Legal Reform Process in an effort to rectify this situation.
For further information and to apply for insurance cover see http://www.nationalprobono.org.au/page.asp?from=8&id=236
LawWorks (the Solicitors Pro Bono Group), the Bar Pro Bono Unit and the ILEX Pro Bono Forum, being the three pro bono arms of the legal profession in the UK, have taken the enlightened step of bringing their operations together under the one roof and in so doing formed a new legal charity, the National Pro Bono Centre.
The new National Pro Bono Centre will operate from new premises at 48 Chancery Lane not far from the Law Society of England and Wales at 113 Chancery Lane. The building is also expected to become a hub for charities in the sector.
As it has in our States of Victoria and Queensland they expect that it will “improve joined-up thinking, co-ordination, collaborative working and provide a more efficient service to all stakeholders in pro bono – members of the public, and the lawyers and voluntary sector agencies serving the public.”
This week saw the American Lawyer magazine lists the 200 highest-grossing firms in the US based on revenue per lawyer, pro bono commitment, diversity and associate satisfaction. Firms are separately ranked by their pro bono score. Half of the score comes from the average number of pro bono hours per lawyer, while the other half represents the percentage of lawyers who perform more than 20 hours of pro bono work.
Whilst growth has slowed from previous years these are still remarkable figures by Australian standards and are impressive in the face of the US economic downturn.
Among the firms listed were:
For the full results see the AmLaw website (must log in)
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), located in Sydney, is looking for a Chief Executive Officer. This role includes advising the Board on strategic priorities and determining the tactics adopted by PIAC to achieve public interest outcomes on key issues in changing environments. Applications close 26 July 2010. For more information (including a position description) please visit their website at http://www.piac.asn.au/job/chief-executive-officer.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from June – July 2010. Click through to read any news article in full.
2 July 2010 – Commonwealth Attorney-General
The Attorney-General has announced the commencement of the new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. States & Territories will receive $785M over 4 years to deliver Commonwealth funded legal aid services, including $92M+ more funding in the 2010-11 Budget. This replaces the former arrangements where the Commonwealth was principally a buyer of legal service.
28 June 2010 – Lawyers Weekly
McCullough Robertson has appointed Heather Watson as a partner to its non profits and community partnerships team. Watson joins the partnership from 1 July, with managing partner Guy Humble telling Lawyers Weekly that her appointment was driven by both clients and firms having an increasing focus on corporate social responsibility.
23 June 2010 – Corporate Counsel
How far has the acceptance of pro bono come in the law departments of large companies? At least two have made it mandatory. That was one surprising nugget that the Pro Bono Institute’s Esther Lardent mentioned when she met with a group of ALM reporters and editors. Abbott Laboratories and American Airlines now require their lawyers and legal staffs to pitch in 10 hours a year, said Lardent.
22 June 2010 – The Mercury
The Tasmanian Government has announced its intention to introduce a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, designed to enshrine civil and political rights including the right to vote, free speech and religious freedom. The proposed Charter is also understood to include protections for additional economic, social and cultural rights, unlike recent similar legislation in Victoria and the ACT.
22 June 2010 – Thomson Reuters Foundation AlertNet
Thomson Reuters Foundation has launched the website TrustLaw (at www.trust.org/trustlaw/). It aims to connect non-profit groups and social entrepreneurs in need of legal assistance to lawyers who are willing to work without charge. TrustLaw hopes to transform access to pro bono legal support and act as an international hub for news, views and resources on anti-corruption and good governance issues.
“Mother of Animal Law” to visit Australia – Voiceless’ 2010 Animal Law Lecture Series [media release]
21 June 2010 – Voiceless
In San Francisco 30 years ago, a handful of attorneys set in train a revolution that has touched the lives of billions of animals worldwide. This August, one of those pioneers of the animal law movement, leading US animal lawyer Joyce Tischler, will speak at events across the country as part of Voiceless’ fourth annual Animal Law Lecture Series. Please follow this link to find out more about the Series: http://www.voiceless.org.au/lecture
18 June 2010 – Pro Bono Australia
PILCH Victoria has received a funding boost from the Victorian Government for its Pilch Connect service, which provides pro bono legal services to Not For Profit organisations. The Minister for Community Development Lily D’Ambrosio has announced that the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) will receive $274,000 to continue its work to support community organisations through the service.
17 June 2010 – Lawyers Weekly
Former High Court Judge Michael Kirby has become the first Australian to be awarded the internationally renowned Gruber Justice Prize. Kirby’s shares this accolade with South Africa’s Prof John Dugard and the Indian Law Resource Centre. The Gruber Justice Prize is worth $US500,000 and was awarded to Kirby for his ongoing contribution to human rights law and justice issues throughout his career.
16 June 2010 – The Law Gazette
A National Pro Bono Centre is to open this summer in the UK to act as a ‘hub’ for pro bono charities. The NPBC, which has been registered as a new legal charity, will bring together in one building LawWorks, the Bar Pro Bono Unit and the ILEX Pro Bono Forum. It will be based in Chancery Lane, London.
17 June 2010 – Commonwealth Attorney General
The Federal Government has launched Australia’s Framework for Law and Justice Engagement with the Pacific. The private sector contributes significantly to the Pacific law sector by providing pro bono legal advice and other legal services. Last year, the A-G announced the creation of an International Pro Bono Advisory Group to guide and coordinate pro bono assistance by Australian lawyers overseas.
15 June 2010 – PR Newswire
The pro bono efforts of major law firms in the US held steady in 2009 despite the continued pressures of the economic downturn, according to the Pro Bono Institute’s 2009 Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge Report. In 2009, 134 of the nation’s law firms performed 4,867,820 hours of pro bono work, an increase of nearly 24,000 hours from 2008. The total translates to nearly $2 billion in free legal services.
9 June 2010 – Legal Week
Allen & Overy, a UK firm with offices around the world including Australia, is advising Rwanda as the once war-torn nation changes from civil to common law to boost foreign direct investment. The firm currently has a 12-lawyer team on the ground, training the country’s legal community on the common law system and general commercial law as part of the changeover process.
4 June 2010 – Financial Times
Includes profiles of various pro bono projects in South Africa, including a pro bono legal project in Mitchell Plains, a township east of Cape Town, the Cape Law Society’s insistence that all it its members do 24 hours pro bono a year and the “banking the unbanked” initiative by Standard Bank.
3 June 2010 – The New Lawyer
The Commonwealth Government and the Northern Land Council will face a Federal Court legal challenge over plans for a radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory. Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is working with NSW law firm Surry Partners, and Julian Burnside QC, to commence proceedings challenging the nomination of the Indigenous land, at Muckaty Station near Tennant Creek.
2 June 2010 – Lawyers Weekly
Proposed changes under the National Legal Profession Reform draft Bill which would provide free or low cost practicing certificates for lawyers volunteering at community legal centres has drawn both praise and criticism from the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.
2 June 2010 – The Footscray Mail
Footscray Community Legal Centre lawyer Ha Le will combine her legal expertise and Vietnamese heritage to pioneer a new legal service in the western region. The Vietnamese Legal Service and Community Education project is scheduled to get under way next month after funding was secured from the Victorian Law Foundation for a 12-month pilot program.