Issue 52: June 2009
Executives Set to Sleep Rough in Luna Park
Tomorrow night, Thursday 18 June, over 200 Senior Executives, including partners and associates from Allens Arthur Robinson, Clayton Utz, Deacons, Hunt and Hunt, Maddocks and Middletons, and our very own Director John Corker will spend the night sleeping on the ‘streets’ of Luna Park in Sydney. The weather forecast is for showers and 11 degrees.
Participants will have soup for dinner and sleep without shelter on cardboard boxes, in an attempt to gain perspective on what it’s like to be homeless for a night. The evening is a fundraiser for the St Vincent de Paul Society so we ask you to make a donation.
To see who is sleeping out and to make a donation see www.ceosleepout.org.au.
New Era Dawns for In-House Counsel Pro Bono in Australia
The National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme and the Australian In-House Legal Counsel Guide were both launched by the NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos at a lunch at DLA Phillips Fox on 4 June. The event was well attended by in-house counsel who were keen to get involved. A number of opportunities were identified and the point made that now is a good time to get involved. Click here for a copy of John Corker’s speech notes.
The Australian In-House Legal Counsel Guide prepared by DLA Phillips Fox is an interactive document which sets out the reasons, business case and steps required in order to establish a pro bono program and includes a useful sample pro bono policy. The Centre together with DLA Phillips Fox, The Australian Corporate Lawyers Association, pro bono clearing houses and other interested persons announced a working group with a view to advocating for a standardized approach across Australia to practising certificate availability and conditions that facilitate lawyers undertaking pro bono legal work. The Centre also foreshadowed an event to be held in NSW to help match interested in-house legal teams with appropriate pro bono projects. For further information contact John Corker.
Deferred Associates are the Big Buzz in the US
*John Corker recently visited the U.S. and attended the US Equal Justice Conference held 14-16 May 2009.
The big buzz in pro bono is definitely deferred associates from the firms. These are young lawyers who were offered places 1 ½ -2 years ago whose start with the firm has now been deferred for 6 or 12 months and are being made available free of charge to legal aid and pro bono programs. Firms continue to pay them anything from a third to 60% of the salary that they might have otherwise received as a first year at the firm. It’s hard to tell how many associates are being deferred but for example the New York Legal Aid Society celebrating its 125th anniversary had received 70 resumes from deferred associates in the past month and placed 23 young lawyers.
The idea of deferred associates is seen as a win/win by the firms. Not only does it keep law firm costs down and allow them to retain the best graduates but is likely to provide these new lawyers with skills that will make them more valuable to the firm when they do start there. This is important in a climate where clients are complaining strongly about having to pay law firm bills that charge out new graduate’s work at corporate rates. For pro bono it’s an exciting development as there will be a whole new generation of lawyers that will have spent a period of time in the public interest sector and bring this knowledge and experience back into the law firms.
There are a number of variations on this theme which include 6 month sabbaticals, lump sum payments to undertake further study and a 6 month training and mentoring program for new associates on a reduced salary. Deferred associates are also heading off to undertake international pro bono work through The Public Interest Law Institute (PILI) and other international lawyer’s projects. The trend is also occurring in London firms. See the Thirteen opt to defer Dentons training contracts story below in Pro Bono in the News.
With Australian firms now having shed over 550 staff this financial year (AFR 29 May 2009), it could be time to look more closely at creative ways to defer incoming graduates and young recruits rather than simply reducing intake.
Many US law firms are simply mainly concerned with their survival but still want to feel generous. So the scrutiny of pro bono matters at intake is greater. It is those organisations that have the closer and long standing relationships with firms that are still ‘getting to yes’ with their new requests for assistance. Firms are not taking on larger matters and there is more scrutiny on out-of-pocket expenses.
It is said that attitude is essential in the downturn. This means maintaining the positive attitude that the Obama administration has introduced. Remarkably there is a strong sense of new opportunities. With the increased demand for legal services particularly in the areas of foreclosures, bankruptcies and consumer debt, new collaborations and models are emerging, particularly new legal hotlines as these are seen as a smart and perhaps the only way to deal with the significantly increased demand for advice and information.
I* was particularly impressed with the State based Access to Justice Commissions interestingly led and created by the State Supreme Courts but involving all key stakeholders. These have been quite influential in leading to additional legal aid funding in a number of States. The retired lawyer’s projects seem to be taking a backseat to the deferred associates issue right now but are seen as an essential part of the make-up of the pro bono sector going forward. More on these two issues in next month’s National Pro Bono News.
Lawyers Walked for Justice on National Pro Bono Day
On 15 May 2009, over 1,200 walkers in four states braved the chilly autumn air to participate in the second annual Walk for
The 5km event was held simultaneously in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and raised almost $30,000 for the Public Interest Law Clearing Houses in each State (and the new Justice Net SA to be launched on 3 July 2009).
Left to Right: NSW walkers David Robb, President of PILCH and Partner of Allens Arthur Robinson ; Amy Kilpatrick, Director of PILCH (NSW); Robert McClelland, Commonwealth Attorney-General; and Joe Catanzariti, President of NSW Law Society, Partner of Clayton Utz
The Walks attracted significant support across the legal profession and were led by the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Attorneys-General of Queensland, NSW and Victoria, and Chief Justices and Judges from the State Supreme and District Courts.
The Walk coincided with the London Legal Support Trust Walk, which is now in its fifth year. This year over 4,000 lawyers assembled at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and walked 10km past the city’s legal landmarks to raise a record £310,000 for legal centres across the United Kingdom.
Launch of Lawyers Beyond Borders Creates International Pro Bono Opportunities
Australian lawyers will have greater opportunities to provide pro bono assistance across the globe following the recent launch of Lawyers Beyond Borders (LBB).
Torrential rain did little to dampen the spirits of over 400 attendees from the legal community who were inspired by heartfelt and sometimes humorous speeches from the highly regarded panel of guest speakers including the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, Commonwealth Attorney-General, The Hon Robert McClelland and Justice Richard Refshauge.
The launch of LBB has come at an opportune time. Australian Volunteers International (AVI), the creator of LBB, has reported that due to the economic downturn and the large number of redundancies, an unprecedented number of lawyers are looking for national and international opportunities to use their skills and contribute to communities around the globe in a meaningful way.
Many law firms and government departments have demonstrated their support for the initiative by offering employees a leave of absence to take part in the program. Assignments are due to be available on the Lawyers Beyond Borders website in June 2009.
The Commonwealth Attorney-General has announced the establishment of an International Pro Bono Advisory Group with the aim of building effective partnerships in overseas legal capacity-building and access to justice work. More on this next month!
Retired and Career Break Lawyers Project Final Draft Report
The Centre has now completed the draft report on how to engage retired and career break lawyers in pro bono legal work.
The report is entitled “Potential Senior Pro Bono Lawyers and Career Break Lawyers Opportunities in Pro Bono legal work” and can be downloaded on the Centre’s website. This draft report focuses on reporting the last eight months of research, findings and recommendations regarding this project.
The report has been distributed to all of the stakeholders involved including public interest clearing houses (‘PILCHs’), community legal centres (‘CLCs’), large law firms, bar associations, law societies, the Aboriginal Legal Service, Legal Aid, law foundations, government departments and individual retired and career break lawyers.
In order to further develop the recommendations in the report, the Centre has asked the stakeholders to contribute any comments they may have by the end of June. The Centre expects the final report to be published at the end of July.
The Centre is very pleased to announce it has now received a further $40,000 from the Attorney-General’s department to help create pro bono opportunities for retired and career break lawyers. Sophie Grieve, Project Manager, will be working with the Centre for a further six months to aid the implementation of these opportunities.
The Centre wishes to thank everyone who has been involved in the project so far for their valuable contribution. If you are interested (or you know someone who is) in being part of this project please contact Sophie Grieve on (02) 9385 7776 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Large and Small Firms Sign up to Target
This month the Centre welcomed national firm Corrs, Chambers Westgarth and the HHG Legal Group from WA as signatories to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target.
Corrs joins major firms, Allens, the Australian Government Solicitor, Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz, DLA Phillips Fox, Gilbert + Tobin as signatories to the Target which now covers more than 7000 Australian lawyers. All lawyers and firms are encouraged to sign up which can be done easily online.
With a team of nearly 50 people in both Perth and Albany, HHG Legal Group from WA finds its staff jump at the opportunity to do pro bono legal work. For the full story see below.
Taking Care of Business in WA
According to Simon Creek from HHG Legal Group*, to ‘do good’ you have to ‘do well’. What that means is that lawyers need to turn the usual approach to participating in social justice work upside down.
“We interview a lot of articled clerks and they want to go into criminal law or social work. They don’t want to be business animals,” says Creek.
“But you need to run a profitable business first and then you can return to the things you would have liked to go into at the beginning. Otherwise, you’ll end up running a legal service that is under funded and under resourced.
“You have to look at the business, but when you succeed, you go back and redo the budget and the business plan.”
HHG Legal Group, based in Western Australia, is one of the firms that has signed up to the Pro Bono Aspirational Target. And as per Creek’s philosophy: “The firm has done well and we want to give something back. We want to retain the balance between being a profession and a business.”
He believes that it is important to train up all staff, particularly the junior lawyers, to realise that the firm is about a lot more than making money. “We have to do our bit for the greater good.”
The message is certainly filtering through the ranks. “The staff have jumped at the opportunity to undertake pro bono work and some go on to do a lot of after hours pro bono under the auspices of the firm. It seems that when lawyers are allowed to do some pro bono, it makes them hungry for more,” says Creek.
HHG Legal Group runs a clinic one Saturday a month for Freshstart, a naltreone-based drug addiction treatment clinic, and it provides on-going pro bono support for the Arthritis Foundation, the Heart Foundation, Make a Wish Foundation and the Cancer Council. It also participates at the Fremantle Legal Community Centre and the Albany Community Legal Centre.
In addition to pro bono work, some of the firm’s profits are diverted to a number of charities, including Compassion Australia, the Salvation Army, Freshstart and PCYC.
All the firm’s pro bono work is registered and co-ordinated, with reports going back to the directors every three months so that they can monitor how they are tracking against the Target.
“We’ve always been well and truly ahead,” says Creek.
Thanks to Clayton Utz
Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen recently announced the decision to list the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) as a deductible gift recipient (DGR), meaning donors can claim a tax deduction for gifts to the organisation.
Clayton Utz has been providing pro-bono support to the Diplomacy Training Program for a number of years and helped to guide the organization through the process of seeking and obtaining DGR status, including providing advice on necessary changes to the Constitution and liaising with officials at the ATO.
Patrick Earle, Director of DTP
DTP director Patrick Earle expressed his appreciation of Clayton Utz’s contribution. “As a small organization with already overstretched staff we could not have achieved this result without the generous help and expertise of Clayton Utz. Our hope is that tax deductibility status will help us to build philanthropic support for the Diplomacy Training Program’s work. Very few organizations active on human rights have DGR status the government’s decision is much appreciated recognition of the value of the Diplomacy Training Program’s work.” Mr Earle said.
The timing of the decision is welcome, he said, with this year marking the 20th anniversary of DTP’s establishment. In that time it has provided practical training to over 1,400 advocates.
The DTP is an independent non-government organization (NGO) affiliated with the Faculty of Law at UNSW. It seeks to advance human rights and empower civil society in the Asia-Pacific region through quality education and training, and building skills and capacity in NGOs and for individual human rights defenders and community advocates.
The DTP’s most recent course was run in Darwin/Batchelor on Indigenous rights, with participants from Australia, China, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines and Burma.
Senior’s Rights Legal Clinic Manager & Principal Solicitor (0.6EFT)v -Melbourne
The Public Interest Law Clearing House (Vic.) Inc. (PILCH) is seeking a highly-motivated professional to supervise the Seniors’ Rights Legal Clinic (SRLC) and manage the ongoing development and promotion of the clinic. The ideal candidate will be a legal professional with significant post-admission experience with excellent communication skills.
This is a maternity cover position and the appointment is for a fixed term of 12 months. This is a great opportunity to contribute to a much needed, growing legal service.
The SRLC provides free legal assistance to older Victorians through a growing network of clinics. The clinics are located in close proximity to existing community hubs where other services for older people are already located. The clinics are staffed by pro bono lawyers from participating law firms and legal departments including Holding Redlich, Herbert Geer, Deacons, Hall & Wilcox and Lander and Rogers.
Interested applicants should contact Penny Morrow on (03) 8636 4407 or by email to email@example.com
Applications are due by 29 June 2009 and should be sent to: Executive Director, PILCH, PO Box 16013 Melbourne 8007.
Coordinator / Lawyer, Refugee Advice and Casework Service (Australia) Inc (RACS) – Sydney
RACS seeks energetic Coordinator / Lawyer with strong skills to effectively manage a dynamic refugee legal centre, as it begins a new clinical program with Sydney Law School. Essential: management/leadership experience & commitment to social justice. Desirable: solicitor/migration agent, experience in the refugee sector, policy skills, networking ability. Salary package up to $71,600.
To obtain an application kit including selection criteria, contact Edward Santow on tel. (02) 9385 9656 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications due Wednesday 24 June 2009.
In the News – May 2009
Click through to read any news article in full.
In his speech, President of LIV, Danny Barlow, said: I’ve found that one of the keys to success in the law is to get involved. Whether that is through pro bono work with your local community legal centre, or as a volunteer with a community group, find something you are interested in and offer your services.
A Melbourne barrister has offered to do pro bono work for the pioneering Masters family in their bid to stop Parks Victoria evicting them from land they have occupied for 147 years.
Trainees at London firm Denton Wilde Sapte who agree to defer their start date, receive a cash payment of £7,000, with an additional £3,000 if they choose to pursue a specific charitable or pro bono project during the course of their deferral year.
All Australian law schools should make students work free of charge on disadvantaged people’s cases to teach them about legal realities they may never experience, says retired High Court judge Michael Kirby.
Article on Sue Gilbey, a founding member of A Peace of the Action radio program covering peace, social justice, human rights and environmental issues, talks about inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and lawyers working pro bono to defend the rights of people in detention in the courts of the Refugee Tribunal.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and his occasional sparring partner NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos were seen deep in discussion during last Friday’s pro-bono charity walk in Sydney.
Aboriginal people in Broken Hill met with representatives from Sydney this week to find out about the NSW Government’s Aboriginal Trust Fund Repayment Scheme.
In a speech delivered at Sydney uni for the launch, the A-G speaks about the value of pro bono work.
Speech delivered at the State Library of NSW.
Staff at the Footscray Community Legal Centre (FCLC) have asked Maribyrnong Council to ban door-to-door salespeople from entering the municipality in a bid to crack down on dodgy trade practices.
4,000 walkers led by a glittering array of legal stars will walk today to raise funds for London’s Legal Advice agencies.
Moonee Valley residents with legal problems can drop in for free professional advice in Ascot Vale and Niddrie. The service is run by Essendon Community Legal Centre
Retiring Chief Executive of DLA Philips Fox, Tony Crawford, says that he is proud of the firm’s contribution to the community through its pro bono and community care programs.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights, which has mobilised dozens of pro bono lawyers to defend Guantanamo detainees, concerned that the Obama administration won’t end “Bush’s dangerous experiments with our legal system.”
31 residents of New Farm’s Gleneagles retirement village who are being evicted by a Brisbane property developer have gained support from Caxton Legal Centre and started proceedings in the Commercial and Consumer Tribunal to overturn the eviction notice.
Deacons has marked National Pro Bono Day with the release of its second Pro Bono Report.
Announcing the law firms that successfully tendered to provide government legal services for the next four years, Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said all had to commit to pro bono work.
In a world first, the Inner City Legal Centre will launch a legal advice service specifically geared towards the intersex community.
National Pro Bono Day, on Friday 15 May, will be marked by simultaneous walks in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide organised by the Public Interest Law Clearing House in each of these States.
Two prominent national business figures have flagged a national campaign to raise funds for a new legal challenge to the Gunns Ltd Tasmanian pulp mill and say they may seek out pro bono legal assistance.
Melbourne barrister Carolyne Burnside, wife of racing minister Rob Hulls, is a committee member of the Victorian Bar’s animal welfare panel for which more than 90 barristers perform pro bono work.
Simon Howard, solicitor with the Illawarra Legal Centre, said the centre had seen an increase in inquiries about termination of employment covering redundancy, entitlements and unfair dismissal.
Innocence projects, originating in the US in the early 1990s, are collaborations between university students investigating real cases of alleged wrongful convictions and solicitors and barristers working on a pro bono basis. Article by UK Network Chair.
Law Week is opportunity to find answers to a range of legal issues including accessing pro bono legal advice.
A novel approach to help accelerate reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is being developed by London-based law firm Travers Smith.
Restrictions on NSW practising certificates that prevent in-house and government lawyers from doing pro bono work will be lifted from July 1 and other states are considering a similar move.
The Financial Markets Foundation for Children receives pro bono assistance from Hunt and Hunt lawyers.
Law students improving the world through pro bono work before they begin practising.
Currently housed at ACON, the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) will soon look to extend their hours, and possibly their office space, to provide a new, once-a-week after-hours service for positive people in need of legal advice.
The Migration Institute of Australia is working with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to provide pro bono assistance for bushfire victims needing advice and lodgement of applications.
A modern youth hub on the site of a former air-raid shelter, the Phoenix Youth Centre, will also house the Footscray Community Legal Centre.
Milkcrate, a unique theatre group, is being used to ensure the views of homeless people are heard during the national consultation on human rights. CEO of PIAC, Ms Robin Banks said, ‘There’s nothing quite like Milkcrate Theatre because it is homeless people explaining their problems, their frustrations and their hopes in an honest, revealing and direct way. That’s why PIAC and the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) are using the group to encourage homeless people to contribute to the national consultation on human rights’.
Gary Burns, a prominent gay activist who is taking legal action against former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett over comments he allegedly made comparing gay men to pedophiles, is receiving pro bono assistance from the non-profit Public Interest Advocacy Group.