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Issue 96: March 2015
Welcome to the March 2015 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:
At the recent 2015 Pro Bono Institute Annual Conference in Washington DC, one of the speakers commented that we don’t get to say “Remember when we used to do domestic violence/ immigration/ housing work?”, because the bitter reality is that these societal problems have not been solved. While considerable pro bono resources are directed at individual clients, and rightly so, not enough additional pro bono effort is directed at eliminating the root causes of social problems.
The conference theme was ‘Helping you fulfill the promise of pro bono’. As David Wilkins of Harvard Law School remarked in the opening plenary, pro bono must be multi-disciplinary because clients don’t just have legal problems, they have ‘problem’ problems. Pro Bono lawyers need to understand the dimensions of their client’s problems.
So how might lawyers fulfill the promise of pro bono? By each of us being a catalyst for change, by using legal skills and networks to help solve or at least reduce the most vexed social issues.
Obviously lawyers cannot do this alone. Several conference sessions addressed the question of how pro bono lawyers could work together with other disciplines, in sessions such as ‘Integrating Pro Bono, CSR and Charitable Giving’, ‘Aligning Pro Bono and Diversity’, ‘Successful Partnering’ and ‘Collaborative Pro Bono: Imagining the Possible’.
‘Imagining the Possible’ focused on a model of collaborative action known as Collective Impact (CI), a framework that brings together different disciplines and sectors in order to proactively seek solutions to end social problems. To be at the CI table, there are five pre-requisites: a common agenda; shared measurement system; mutually reinforcing activities; continuous communication and backbone (administrative) support. The aim of CI projects is to create a sustainable solution (e.g. house people who are sleeping rough and prevent others becoming homeless) and aspires to take these achievements to scale.
Lawyers’ skills are of enormous value to a CI project, not only because of their everyday areas of legal expertise, but also the extra legal knowledge acquired through pro bono legal work. However lawyers can bring even more benefits to the CI table: the ability to work with both the powerful and the disempowered; the ability to facilitate communication among sceptical or distrustful participants; experience in collaborating with experts from different disciplines, as well as having a goal-directed outlook.
While CI projects may not sound particularly new to Australian pro bono practitioners, what was different in the approach at the conference, was the emphasis on pro bono lawyers becoming more ambitious about what they might achieve. This is not necessarily about doing more pro bono work: it is actually about recalibrating the notion of what pro bono work is, and what it might take for lawyers to actually ‘fulfill the promise of pro bono’.
Annette Bain is the former Head of Pro Bono and Community at Herbert Smith Freehills, and now an international pro bono advisor.
The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court of the A snowy conference location – Washington DC in March
United States, addressing the Conference Reception
Registrations are now open for the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference 2015, which will be held in Sydney on 18 and 19 June 2015. The theme of this year’s Conference is ‘The Legacy of the Magna Carta’ on the occasion of its 800th anniversary. Registration fees for the two-day Conference are:
Payment can be made through the Conference’s website – www.a2j15.com.au – which also features a draft program and other information.
Speakers at the Conference include:
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre, Law Council of Australia and the Law Society of NSW look forward to seeing you there.
The hours of pro bono legal work performed in the latest reporting period by in-house lawyers covered under the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme has increased by a significant 22 per cent, from 1,053.50 hours reported in the first six months of 2014 (1 January to 30 June), to 1,285.78 hours in the following six months (1 July to 31 December 2014).
From 1 July 2014 to 31 December 2014, 87 lawyers and 7 paralegals undertook 52 projects under the Scheme, compared with the same period last year, in which 69 lawyers and 8 paralegals undertook 43 projects.
The Scheme, which was launched in 2009 to remove barriers for in-house lawyers wanting to do pro bono legal work, has grown significantly over the past six years. The Scheme has facilitated over 1,000 hours of pro bono legal work in each of the last three reporting periods, a significant increase from the 82 hours reported in the Scheme’s first reporting period.
The most recent period saw new applications from a number of lawyers in the South Australian Crown Solicitor’s Office, as well as from lawyers advising charities and not-for-profit groups.
If you’re an in-house lawyer interested in applying for coverage, please see the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme page. For a full list of projects currently covered by the Scheme, please refer to the Register.
If you’re interested in reading about lawyers who are making a difference through their work covered by the Scheme, check out last month’s edition of the National Pro Bono News, which features a profile on Lieutenant Commander Shannon Richards and his fantastic work with KidsXpress, a charity dedicated to helping children deal with trauma.
The Centre has submitted to the Law Council of Australia (LCA) that it should amend the proposed Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Rules to permit a lawyer who undertakes at least a day’s (7.5 hours) legal work on a pro bono basis to claim a maximum of one (1) CPD unit towards the required minimum 10 units of CPD Activity.
It is submitted that the Legal Profession Uniform Law represents a timely opportunity for the LCA and the Australian Bar Association (ABA) to formally recognise this aspect of professional development within its CPD Rules as creation of these CPD Rules is an important step towards having a national profession.
This change would:
This is not a new idea. The Centre previously made a similar submission to the Victorian Law Institute in 2009.
If Australian jurisdictions adopted this suggestion, they would not be alone. There are nine jurisdictions in the USA who similarly permit their attorneys who take on pro bono cases to earn credit toward mandatory continuing legal education requirements.
The full submission is available here.
The Centre thanks Norton Rose Fulbright for their assistance in the preparation of this submission.
This year’s Walk for Justice in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria and the Queensland Legal Walk will be held on Tuesday 12 May. Walks are currently set to be held in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Mackay, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast, Sydney, Toowoomba and Townsville to help support the vital work of Justice Connect, JusticeNet SA and QPILCH.
The Walks get bigger and better every year, with more walkers in each state and more funds raised for local pro bono referral organisations.
In South Australia, the theme is “The Cook and the Chef.” Walkers will be rewarded with a freshly cooked breakfast under the BankSA marquee in Victoria Square, prepared with the help of iconic South Australian Maggie Beer, the Hon. Chief Justice Chris Kourakis, and arguably the most highly qualified kitchen staff in the country! Prizes are on offer for the highest fundraising team, the highest individual fundraiser, the highest fundraising University Team and the highest fundraising Secondary School team.
Continuing a delicious theme, in Queensland the Walk will be preceded by the Great Legal Bake on 17 April, where lawyers are being encouraged to “dust off their aprons, bring out the cake tins and bake some delectable treats” for sale. QPILCH also has five great fundraising tips on the Queensland Legal Walk website. In fact, both the QPILCH and JusticeNet SA pages already have lists of the top supporters on their sites, with more than $2,000 raised between them.
Registrations for the Walks for Justice in New South Wales and Victoria opened today – you could be the first to nominate yourself or your team! The theme for Justice Connect’s ninth Walk for Justice is “Why are YOU walking?” highlighting stories of the very real difference that pro bono assistance can make to people’s lives (see the website for more information). If you come along in Sydney all of us at the Centre will see you there.
As QPILCH notes, supporters in other regional centres are encouraged to consider organising their own walks in conjunction with their District Law Association (or equivalent). If you are in a regional centre and would like to start a walk, please contact QPILCH, Justice Connect or JusticeNet SA.
Walkers in Adelaide for the Walk for Justice 2014
On the day before St Patrick’s Day last week, the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), a project of Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), released its report on the first ever Irish Pro Bono Survey. There were 464 respondents to the survey (48% solicitors, 33% barristers and 19% law students), which was conducted at the end of 2014.
While there are many differences between the responses to the Irish Survey and the Centre’s own Fourth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey of Australian firms with fifty or more lawyers – due not only to differences between the pro bono culture and jurisdictions in Ireland and Australia, but also to differences between survey methodologies, questions and respondents – there are also a number of striking similarities. The questions in both Surveys that relate to obstacles to undertaking pro bono work are a case in point.
Most solicitors (74%) who responded to the Irish Survey nominated being “too busy” as a major obstacle to undertaking pro bono legal work (see PILA Pro Bono Survey 2014, page 9). This reflects similar concerns raised in Australia, where firms most often nominated the issue of lawyers’ lack of time to perform pro bono legal work as the greatest threat to their pro bono program (see Fourth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, page 64), and most often nominated “firm capacity” as one of the top three challenges to their firms’ pro bono programs (62% – see Fourth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, page 66).
The second most nominated obstacle (28%) in the Irish Survey was “pro bono not being taken into account as part of fee targets or billable hours.” This was particularly prevalent in the responses received from lawyers working at large firms, with 47 percent of lawyers at firms with 51-250 lawyers and 40 percent of lawyers at firms with 250+ lawyers highlighting this as a significant obstacle (see PILA Pro Bono Survey 2014, page 9).
Australian pro bono coordinators were also concerned with this issue. Respondents from 11 of the 19 firms (58%) where “pro bono hours are treated as non-billable” nominated this issue as among the top three challenges to their pro bono program (see Fourth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, page 66).
The Centre has highlighted its concern elsewhere that a number of large firms are moving away from providing full billable hour and/or financial target credit for pro bono work. Full credit is important, not only in demonstrating the seriousness of the firm’s commitment to its pro bono program, but also to provide its lawyers that already are working at full capacity with the practical means to provide pro bono legal assistance on the firm’s behalf (see also Fourth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, pages 58-60).
Social Justice Opportunities (www.sjopps.net.au) is not only a practical guide to the steps you need to take to find a job or volunteer position in the social justice sector. It also includes a listing of current employment and volunteering opportunities, in the ‘Latest Opportunities’ section.
Whether you are a student, new lawyer or anyone else looking to volunteer or work in the sector, you can keep abreast of all the latest opportunities by visiting the site regularly, or by joining more than 1,700 people following @SJOpps on Twitter or almost 1,400 liking us on Facebook.
If you would like to advertise a social justice job or volunteer position on the site, particularly one aimed at law students or new lawyers, please email us for details. It’s easy and free!
Please also contact us with any feedback you have, or let us know how the site has helped you!
Here’s what’s going on in the Twitter feed right now:
Articles of interest to the pro bono community since Issue 96 of National Pro Bono News (February 2015). Click through to read any news article in full.
Former refugee wins industry award
24 March 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
A supervising solicitor and migration agent who fled Croatia and Bosnia in the mid-1990s has been named Young Migration Lawyer of the Year. Last week Marina Brizar was recognised for promoting the rights of refugees and asylum seekers with the Law Council of Australia’s 2015 John Gibson AM Young Australian Migration Lawyer of the Year Award.
Survey open: Thomson Reuters TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono
19 March 2015 – Asian Legal Business
We want your data! Submission period for the 2015 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono is now open. The TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono is an initiative of TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service. The TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono looks at how much pro bono work law firms are undertaking on a country-by-country basis around the world and identifies global trends in the pro bono market place.
Elderly Mr Fluffy victims want reprieve from five-year limit on staying in their homes
16 March 2015 – The Canberra Times
Bad business for govt to keep cutting legal aid funding
3 March 2015 – Lawyers Weekly
Free legal advice via Skype for Bega Valley women
27 February 2015 – Bega District News
Lawyers call for review of new court fees
9 March 2015 – Daily Graphic (Accra)
Working pro bono: good idea or an excuse for State inaction?
16 March 2015 – The Irish Times
Singapore improves legal infrastructure through Criminal Legal Aid
10 March 2015 – The Global Legal Post
‘We must try to rid society of its fear’
5 March 2015 – The Nation (Bangkok)
Unlocking the Funds for Justice – Pro Bono Costs
16 March 2015 – Family Law Week
Hundreds of attorneys petition top Texas court over law prof’s 1-year suspension from pro bono work
23 March 2015 – ABA Journal
Some 250 fellow attorneys are backing a Texas law professor in his unusual effort to overturn a one-year suspension that, supporters say, will have the effect of depriving pro bono clients of skilled appellate work in death-penalty cases. David Dow, who teaches at the University of Houston, was held in contempt by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for making a late filing in a death-penalty case.
Pro Bono Partnership looks after nonprofits
20 March 2015 – Westchester County Business Journal
Rule 6.1 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct handbook says: “Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.” The rule does not elaborate on why lawyers should participate in pro bono services, but for Susan M. Corcoran, an attorney in the White Plains office of law firm Jackson Lewis PC and a volunteer for Pro Bono Partnership, “You just sort of do it because you want to do it, and you continue to do it.”
State bar considers requiring all law students to do free legal work
12 March 2015 – Los Angeles Times
New rule rewards Louisiana lawyers for doing pro bono work
12 March 2015 – The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
PBI honors William J. Casazza and the Law & Regulatory Affairs Department of Aetna Inc. [press release]
2 March 2015 – The Pro Bono Institute
Clemency effort, slow to start, will rely on an army of pro bono lawyers
28 February 2015 – Washington Post
The non-traditional form of pro bono
25 February 2015 – Maryland Daily Record