Issue 59: June 2010
Welcome to the June 2010 edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (the Centre). We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas. In this edition, read about:
1. National Legal Profession Reform – Community Legal Service Volunteer Australian Practising Certificates: A step forward and backward
The consultation draft of the Legal Profession National Law released on 14 May 2010 provides for a free or low-cost volunteer Australian practising certificate that authorises the holder ‘to provide legal services as a volunteer at community legal services’ but not otherwise for pro bono legal work. This authorisation becomes a condition on all practising certificates and all in-house corporate and government lawyers providing legal advice and services (but not legal policy advice) will be required to hold a practising certificate (‘at a reduced cost’).
This is good for lawyers who wish to volunteer at community legal services whether they be on a career break, retired, in a law-related job, or in-house with government or a corporation. Whilst these lawyers can and do volunteer now at community legal services, this change has the potential to increase their number, as it clarifies their role, authorising them to provide legal advice, and many will pay less for the privilege.
However, it represents a missed opportunity to remove the constraint that confronts many in-house lawyers who want to organise a pro bono project for their corporate legal team, e.g. to provide legal services to a community organisation with which the corporation may have an existing charitable relationship. This type of pro bono project is currently authorised (and exists in NSW) under the NSW practising certificate regime and is authorised under Queensland Law Society Administration Rules 2005 (as amended in April 2010) but would not be possible under the new draft National Law. There are corporate teams who want to do this now in Victoria but can’t obtain appropriate practising certificates. This Centre makes available the PI insurance cover through the LawCover National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme.
The proposal for a national practising certificate that authorises the holder to undertake pro bono legal work was contained in a submission to the National Legal Profession Reform Task Force from this Centre, DLA Phillips Fox, the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association, PILCH (VIC) and JusticeNet (SA) and will be pressed again in response to the consultation draft.
The 3rd National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference will bring together lawyers, policy makers, academics and law students on 27 – 28 August 2010 at the Sebel Citigate, Brisbane.
Sessions will be in four streams: criminal justice, pro bono, civil and family law,
The conference will feature many prominent local, national and international speakers such as:
· Esther Lardent, President and Chief Executive Officer, US Pro Bono Institute
· The Hon Robert McClelland, Commonwealth Attorney-General
· Ambassador Jeffrey L Bleich, US Ambassador in Australia
· The Hon Acting Justice Ronald Sackville AO, Supreme Court of NSW
The Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network Ltd (ICAN) based in North Queensland recently released a research report on why so many Indigenous people in remote communities are entering into exploitative, unfair arrangements to buy, lease, lay-by products and services they cannot afford and simply don’t understand.
Blake Dawson and the National Pro Bono Resource Centre met with ICAN in Cairns to develop strategies to tackle some of the problems identified in the new research report. Strategies will include training for financial counsellors, case work against rogue traders and the use of ‘Do Not Knock” stickers to deter unsolicited door to door salesman in remote communities.
Similar issues in other parts of Australia will be discussed at the Australian Financial Counselling and Credit Reform Association national conference being held in Melbourne from 7-9 June and opportunities for other firm’s pro bono programs to be involved may emerge from these discussions. For further information contact John Corker.
The ICAN Research Report Unconscionable Conduct and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People can be downloaded at www.ican.org.au .
ABC Coverage of the issues raised in the research report can be seen and heard at:
ABC TV News
ABC AM radio program:
Click here to see photos from across the country.
The first day of National Law Week 2010 (Monday 17 May) was National Pro Bono Day. The centrepiece of this day was the Walk for Justice, now in its third year.
This year over 1,400 members of the legal community participated in the Walks for Justice in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. Walkers around the country included Attorneys-General, Members of Parliament, Judges, Magistrates, lawyers and staff from private firms, legal aid, pro bono clearing houses and community legal centres, law students and many others.
For more information and many, many photos please follow this link.
In Victoria Fitzroy Legal Service launched the Law4Community website. This website is tailored for the professional needs of community sector workers in Victoria particularly when interviewing clients. It provides a legal service directory, a series of practical legal checklists on common problems such as family violence, housing, and immigration and a collection of articles on current social reform. Developed in close cooperation with community sector workers it looks likely to meet a need.
Also in Victoria, the Victoria Law Foundation went live with www.victorialaw.org.au a database driven website of articles and pamphlets provided by a range of agencies across a broad range of topics from business and consumers to family law and crime. This site aims to ‘provide access to plain language resources about the legal system and the legal issues that affect Victorians in their everyday lives’. It also provides a contact guide to generalist and specialist legal agencies in Victoria. This is an ambitious site with a very good interface and search engine but may duplicate other services and would seem to require a lot of effort from contributing agencies to keep it up to date. It makes available in one place a large collection of pamphlets and fact sheets that have been prepared by agencies.
In NSW the Government launched Law Assist a new section of the LawAccess NSW website. This section aims to provide practical resources for people without a lawyer and helpfully goes through the key practical issues associated with self representation. e.g an example of how to prepare a chronology of events supported by documentary proof is provided. Detailed instructions are provided in relation to self representing in debt and small claim matters whilst such content is still planned in the areas of car accidents, fines and AVOs. Information about pro bono services are limited to the NSW Law Society and Bar Pro Bono Schemes. This site is a useful addition to the Law Access service in NSW and is likely to provide a practical resource for the increasing numbers of people who are self-representing in courts and tribunals.
The Commonwealth launched its new Access to Justice website which provides a geographic guide to the closest relevant law related service that can provide information, and help the inquirer ‘understand his/her options and decide what to do“ depending on the postcode and the issue the inquirer inserts into the search engine on the site. Search results provide contact details and ‘distances to’ legal aid offices CLCs, Family Relationship Centres, ATSILs, courts and tribunals, law societies and some specialist regulators and ombudsman so an inquirer can be provided with as many as 60 hits in a city location or 6 in a regional location.
This site will be useful for community agencies who identify that a client has a legal problem and want to identify the nearest appropriate legal service to where the client lives. The topic index needs development. E.g no hits for ‘mobile phone’ or ‘internet’.
The Victorian Bar celebrated the tenth anniversary of the formalisation of its Pro Bono Scheme (administered by PILCH) at a reception held at the Supreme Court of Victoria on 17 May 2010. This occasion also marked the inaugural conferring of the Victorian Bar Pro Bono Awards, presented by Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, whose speech, titled ‘Propping up the System,” addressed the relationship between legal aid and pro bono. This speech is recommended reading and can be found on the Supreme Court of Victoria website. Awards were presented in seven categories, including: Victorian Bar Pro Bono Trophy: awarded to Julian Burnside AO QC Public Interest Award: presented to the ‘Gunns 20’ team of barristers who worked on the Gunns litigationJustice Innovation Award: presented to the barristers involved in the Bushfire Legal Help response to the Black Saturday fires last year).
For a full list of awards presented please refer to the Victorian Bar website.
|Scotland Scotland’s Lord Advocate (similar to our Solicitor-General), Ms Elish Angiolini QC, extolled the virtues of pro bono legal services at a conference on pro bono, hosted in Government offices, at Victoria Quay, Edinburgh on 14 May 2010. She said “Let me state from the outset: this is in no sense a substitute for a properly funded system of legal aid but the legal profession needs to ensure justice is not restricted to those who can afford to pay for it”.
While noting that unmet legal need was an “unfortunate reality” Ms Angiolini said: “Housing, employment, health issues and other social problems can often pose significant challenges, and affording legal advice is particularly difficult in the current economic climate.” She concluded by stating that “by putting aside a little time for pro bono work, lawyers can make a huge difference to the lives of others and can get great personal satisfaction in return.”
The conference featured sessions on the provider’s perspective, law centre and voluntary sector speakers; pro bono in law schools; the profession’s perspective, speakers from solicitors’ firms of different sizes; and from LawWorks. Alaska Alaska’s Attorney General Dan Sullivan recently called on the State’s attorneys to do their part in the Governor’s campaign to end the state’s cycle of sexual assault and domestic violence. Earlier this month Sullivan sent a letter to attorneys across Alaska, encouraging them to provide more pro bono services to victims of abuse aiming to increase the number of attorneys representing victims on a pro bono basis. Sullivan said one of the best ways to reduce the violence is to ensure victims have legal representation. Many don’t, he said. And the victims’ group Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault last year was unable to find pro bono attorneys for nearly 100 victims seeking legal aid, Sullivan said.
Amnesty International, located in Sydney, is looking for a Casework Coordinator (new position). This role is responsible for the coordination of cases of people reporting human rights violations to Amnesty International in Australia and people seeking assistance with applications made in Australia for refugee status. Applications close 4 June 2010. For more information (inlcuding a position description) please visit their website at http://www.amnesty.org.au/jobs/comments/23060/.
Articles of interest to to the pro bono community from May 2010. Click through to read any news article in full.
Rock fishing widow faces deportation
28 May 2010 – South Australian Attorney-General
WA pro bono lawyer handed legal gong
USA: New York Chief Judge boosts efforts to tap retired lawyers for pro bono
Law Students Launch Parramatta Legal Clinic
The University of Western Sydney has today launched the Parramatta Community Justice Clinic in an initiative aimed at assisting vulnerable community members by providing free legal advice and support. UWS worked in partnership with the NSW and Federal governments, Macquarie Legal Centre, Parramatta City Council, local law firms and businesses.
19 May 2010 – Tasmanian Attorney-General
17 May 2010 – Commonwealth Attorney-General
17 May 2010 – Clayton Utz
16 May 2010 – The Juneau Empire
Attorney General Dan Sullivan is asking lawyers to donate their time to provide legal assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
12 May 2010 – The North West Star
11 May 2010 – Commonwealth Attorney-General
11 May 2010 – The Wall Street Journal
11 May 2010 – JD Supra
6 May 2010 – iafrica.com