Issue 40: May 2008
Welcome to the May 2008 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:
|The Commonwealth Attorney-General announced a one-off allocation of additional funds totalling $10 million to support the operation of the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program (CLSP) for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) on 18 April.
The Attorney-General also announced a one-off additional funding of $7 million to Legal Aid to help meet the most pressing needs, particularly in the area of family law. The Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus announced an additional $4.9m to support the operations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services.
This long-overdue additional funding follows from the completion of the Commonwealth’s review of its Community Legal Services Program, and will provide much needed resources to CLCs. As the review report indicates, “The last significant injection of funding into the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program was $3.6m in 1999–2000 to establish five new community legal centres in regional and remote areas (Kalgoorlie, Broken Hill, Gippsland, Mt Gambier and Riverland)”, so this is a significant, albeit one-off boost to the CLSP program.
All those who have been involved in making the case for additional funding over the years should be congratulated and congratulate themselves. The Centre understands that these monies will be allocated to individual CLCs this financial year and some effort has been made by the Department to allocate favourably to those centres of highest need.
In his press release, the Attorney-General said: “I pay tribute to the dedication of all of those who contribute to community legal centres or who undertake legal aid work.” This of course includes the 3500 individuals who volunteer at CLCs each year, the law firms that have helped CLCs in so many creative ways and the lawyers who work tirelessly on legal aid matters at rates that sometimes don’t even cover costs.
As, Liz O’Brien, Convenor of the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC), said: “Funding the provision of free legal help through CLCs is cost-effective because for each dollar made available to CLCs, centres leverage at least one additional dollar through the effective use of volunteers, and save taxpayers many more dollars in avoided costs in other areas of government.”
In a July 2007 survey by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre on Community Legal Centres and their use of Pro Bono Assistance, 53% of respondents said they would not be able to deliver certain services at all without pro bono assistance. Around 70% said that the lack of pro bono assistance would affect the service delivery in some areas to the extent that services could not be delivered at current levels, or their operational capacity would be affected.
Half of the new money for ATSILs will be allocated for much needed capital expenditure in particular to install air conditioning in rural and remote areas. $1m will be allocated to the ALS in WA which has been facing for some time increased workloads due to a specialist unit task force that was set up in 2007 by the Assistant Police Commissioner of WA to deal specifically with sexual assault cases in Aboriginal communities. $1m will be allocated to increase ATSIL capacity to service community courts.
ATSILS are operating in an environment of heavy demand for their services and need support from the private profession. You will hear more from the Centre on this issue.
|South Australian lawyers will join lawyers in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in a “Walk for Justice” at 7am on 19 May 2008 to raise funds to establish a pro bono clearing house in South Australia. The Law Society’s Justice Access Committee is supporting this initiative and urges the profession to get behind this landmark project.
Like the walks overseas, the Adelaide walk will be led by senior lawyers and judges and will pass by some of the significant legal landmarks in the city. Adelaide’s 5-km walk begins at the Elder park rotunda. The route meanders along the River Torrens and back, before passing through Adelaide University and terminating in the courts precinct. Free refreshments await all participants in Victoria Square.
Lawyers who walk will pay a small registration fee of $5 and seek sponsorship from their colleagues and friends. Corporate sponsors are now being sought. All proceeds raised will go directly into the PILCH project. The highest individual fundraiser will receive a prize of a dozen bottles
To register, individual lawyers can contact Kerry Affede at the Society: email@example.com. The Committee is hoping that SA firms will get behind this project and offer a sponsorship. If your firm would like to show support for this project and sponsor this event, please email Michelle Griffith (Member & Community Services) at firstname.lastname@example.org.Law firms are encouraged to get in on the ground floor with this new initiative. Sponsorship is $500 plus GST per firm and your name will be mentioned on everything!
To register to walk in Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne, please click on one of these links:
|The National Pro Bono Resource Centre launched its new website in May 2008 featuring a lot of new information and resources. The website aims to be a major resource for the public, students and the pro bono community. Check it out.
The Centre’s new website contains:
Please click around the new website at www.nationalprobono.org.au and provide us with some feedback.
|The 2008 Law Week in Victoria is going to be held from
12–18 May with a focus on providing easy access to legal information to those most in need. The event is coordinated by the Victoria Law Foundation and the Law Institute of Victoria, and is supported by the City of Melbourne.The theme of this year’s event is “Reaching Out”, with a focus on people with special needs and those who face difficulties accessing legal information and services, such as rural and ethnic communities, seniors, young people and Indigenous
Australians.Highlights of the Week include:
It’s an unusual mix for the work week: For three days Jackie Emery is with the corporate practice at DLA Phillips Fox, and for the other two days she is based at the Aboriginal Legal Service in Parramatta.This is the first rotation in her graduate program with the firm, which sees Emery moving back and forwards between two very disparate worlds.“It feels odd sometimes but it is also very exciting and the time goes so fast,” says Emery. “I’m lucky to be exposed to such different areas of law.”As the pro bono secondee, Emery says that the main part of her job is to drive around to juvenile detention centres and answer questions from the kids. “Some of them want to appeal their sentence, some want to get bail, some want to discuss their case and others just want to talk. I don’t always have the answers but I tell them ‘I’ll find out for you or I’ll give you a call’. I can go back to the ALS office and speak to our senior solicitors who are always happy to help which is important as I haven’t done much criminal work up until this point.
“At the moment, I have the opportunity to observe and assist with matters in court. In the near future, I hope to do simple advocacy work in the Children’s Court for the kids. I did an advocacy course as part of my Professional Legal Training at UTS which was highly enjoyable. There’s not much scope for advocacy in my corporate work.”
On Tuesdays, Emery heads off to Cobham, a boys’ detention centre, and Juniperina, a girls’ facility. She sees an average of eight to 11 kids on her visits.
“The boys are less chatty than the girls. The girls will see you and say, ‘Nice outfit. I like your shoes.’ Many of them seem sweet and sometimes it’s hard to reconcile that with their criminal history. They are quite polite when they speak to a solicitor.
“The offences are very varied: robbery, robbery in company, larceny and some violent offences such as common assault and grievous bodily harm, just to name a few. It’s not always so simple that only a legal response is adequate. I sometimes have to liaise with a DoCS worker or a juvenile justice officer or a carer, and make enquires on their behalf to help as much as I can,” says Emery. If it’s appropriate, she drafts and lodges bail or appeal applications on their behalf and gives them an update the next time she sees them.
Her placement with the ALS didn’t come by chance. “I put my hand up as I’ve always been interested in public law. I wanted to do some face to face work that has a community focus. It’s a privilege to work in an organisation where everyone is passionate and committed to providing legal representation to the Indigenous community.”
|“This is my last semester of law, thank god!” says Mikadie Joyce, a final year Arts/ Law student, who is a current intern with the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. For Mikadie, the rush to the finish line has a special urgency: She’s due to give birth to her first child, two weeks before the end of session.
“I just have to finish all my research assignments early. I’m busy, busy. No Easter break for me!”
She’s chosen to squeeze in the internship at the Centre because she felt it would complement the intensive course she undertook at the Kingsford Legal Centre over the summer break.
“Access to law is really important, but it is restricted financially. Pro bono opens the field a little wider,” says Mikadie.
A mature-age student, Mikadie considered both criminology and law when she returned to studies.
“It needed to be something to hold you for five years, and I’m happy to say that law has. It is constantly changing and evolving as you go through your years of study.
“The social justice project choices at uni are quite good, and I’m now leaning towards a career in Legal Aid. There are elements of the judicial system that can be seen as quite farcical. It can be disheartening when it seems that justice is only really available to certain social groups.
“I had no idea when I started the degree how I would use it. At the beginning, there’s so much reading and it feels like there’s not a lot of practical application of the law. It’s quite academic. Towards the end you have more choice. I did work experience with a criminal barrister in the city and that was good. It put it in perspective,” says Mikadie.
After her early years as a model, travelling and working overseas, Mikadie says she had started to feel that it was time to apply herself. “I’ve really enjoyed studying and learning more. It’s good to feel that you’re going to contribute to the world around you.”
|Tabitha Lovett, manager of the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) in Victoria, is travelling in the United States on a Winston Churchill Fellowship researching and reporting back on pro bono legal, business and advocacy services and programs available for non-profit organisations.Here she talks to Aviva Lowy, journalist for the Centre.
Q. Some of the Pro Bono Legal Programs you are visiting use the services of accountants and other professionals. Do you think there is scope for PILCH to broaden its offering from straight law to include those associated professional services?
Although the pro bono legal programs I have visited across the United States are classified as Community Economic Development Projects, they focus more on the provision of legal services to non-profit organisations rather than financial services. Many of them are in a similar position to PILCH in that they are able to leverage support from accountants and financial planners to present training and seminars for non-profits on financial issues affecting the sector, but not to accept referrals to provide free, direct services one-on-one.
There are volunteer based organisations in the US that provide free financial services to non-profits and small businesses such as Wall Street without Walls (in Washington and New York) and an organisation called Community Resources Exchange in New York. However, they provide advice on business management rather than make referrals for free accounting services.
PILCH has recently established a specialist legal service for non-profits called pilchconnect is in the process of developing an extensive web-portal with e-bulletin updates, fact sheets, frequently asked questions and precedents. pilchconnect’s web-portal will also include links to other pro bono service providers such as Good Company or Volunteering Australia, which may have accountants and financial planners on its database of volunteers to assist with financially related matters. The National Australia Bank has been a great supporter of pilchconnect, both with funding and also providing a website designer and access to its corporate skilled volunteer program. We have also had discussions with CPA (a peak professional body for chartered accountants), so this is an area with future potential.
Q. Have you visited any of the US services yet? Can you talk about some of those experiences?
I am currently based at the offices of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), which is a non-profit civil rights law firm and was the original model for PILCH. NYLPI combines a Pro Bono Clearinghouse that refers community groups and non-profits with an in-house practice that blends strategic litigation, community organizing and advocacy.
The NYLPI partners with grass roots advocacy groups and community organisations on advocacy campaigns that further those priorities, and also undertakes impact (strategic) litigation where appropriate by co-counselling with NYLPI’s member firms.
The services I visited in the US outside of New York — the Washington D.C. Bar Pro Bono Community Economic Development Project, Volunteer Legal Services and the Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles — provide similar services to the community sector (referrals, seminars and workshops) as the original Not-for-Profit Project which PILCH’s Public Interest Scheme ran before pilchconnect was established.
The organisations in New York, Lawyers Alliance for New York (LANY) and Pro Bono Partnership assist non-profits through a combination of direct legal representation from in-house attorneys, a telephone resource hotline, educational programs and referrals to the private legal profession.
Q. What is the potential for students to become involved?
As well as student internships programs at the pro bono services, the US Universities’ Law Schools have a large number of subjects with a clinical component. The Clinics provide students with client contact and opportunities to develop practical legal skills, such as opening and managing a file, researching and providing advice and the Universities direct significant resources towards funding and supervising the clinics. Lawyers in the US are not required to undertake article clerkships before being admitted so the students consider professional development through clinic participation to be a vital component of their degrees and preparation for practice.
The variety of practice areas is impressive, from clinics focusing on elder law, immigration, housing, health care, policy, consumer protection and disability rights to transactional business law clinics for non-profits and small businesses. The transactional law clinics are very popular, particularly for students who have business degrees or who want to be corporate lawyers.
Q. Any lessons learnt or advice given to you that we can talk about?
One of things I’ve found most surprising about the pro bono services and student clinics for non-profits in the US is that there are not enough non-profits requesting advice to satisfy the demand from student clinics and law firms for pro bono matters. So it makes for a very competitive environment.
For instance, in New York State, there are five Universities with business law student clinics, NYLPI and LANY mentioned earlier both refer non-profits in New York City, as well as Pro Bono Partnership which works with corporations and law firms outside of New York City and has two offices in New York State (White Plains and New Jersey). Even Legal Aid in New York has a Community Development Project with a pro bono referral service.
Services in other states also report that the firm’s demand for transactional law matters is constant and as a result recruiting new non-profit clients is often a Key Performance Indicator for the service’s lawyers.
This competitive environment also means that the pro bono brokers have become very adept at designing projects and programs to meet the law firms’ demands for pro bono opportunities. For instance, at NYLPI’s Pro Bono Clearinghouse today we were organising the Summer Externship Program which involves NYLPI placing the member firms’ summer clerks with public interest community organisations in New York City for two-week placements. It requires a lot of coordination but it provides the firms with new links with the participating non-profits and the firm’s future junior lawyers with professional development opportunities. Last summer more than 16 firms participated and over a 100 summer clerks were placed with 31 public interest organisations. It is a new service offered by NYLPI to its members and an innovative way to create future partnerships and bridge the private legal and public interest community sectors.
Finally, I would encourage anyone reading this article to look at the Winston Churchill Foundation website, particularly if they have an idea for a project that would benefit from international research. The Fellowship has provided me with the most wonderful opportunity to look at the services and student clinics which assist non-profits and also to research future projects and directions for PILCH’s Public Interest Scheme.
|The ninth edition of the Queensland Law Handbook is a plain English guide to the laws affecting all Queenslanders. Each of its 36 chapters explains key legal concepts and provides details of legislation and major cases. The handbook costs $77 or $55 concession. All proceeds go directly to Caxton Legal Centre and help provide free legal services to the community. Order online at www.caxton.org.au or
call 07 3254 1811.
|Solicitor, Self-Representation Civil Law Service, QPILCH
The Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) is seeking applications for the full-time position of Solicitor for the Self-Representation Civil Law Service.
The Solicitor provides advice and assistance (not representation to litigants) and coordinates volunteer lawyers, liaises with partners and other agencies as well as promotes the service to the profession and public. An annual salary of $65,000 is offered plus 9% superannuation as well as five weeks annual leave.
Admission as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland as well as litigation experience is essential.
A copy of the position description can be obtained by telephoning 07 3012 9775 or by emailing email@example.com. Applications can be sent to the Coordinator, QPILCH, GPO Box 1543, Brisbane QLD 4001 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications close 5 May 2008.
VB LAS Manager (0.8–1.0 EFT)
PILCH is currently seeking a highly-motivated professional to manage the Victorian Bar Legal Assistance Scheme (VB LAS). The ideal candidate will have an excellent understanding of the legal and legally related issues that marginalised and disadvantaged people face as well as the legal profession and court procedure. Excellent communication skills are a must as is solid post admission experience working as a barrister or solicitor.
Applications are due by 8 May 2008 and should be sent to: Executive Director, PILCH, PO Box 13121 Law Courts, Melbourne 8010, or by email to email@example.com.
Please direct inquiries about the position to Penny Morrow at PILCH on 9225 6672.
|Pro bono disclosure a welcome initiative (The Australian, 11 April)
It is unfortunate that the nation’s law societies have been so quick to oppose the federal Government’s proposal to introduce pro bono reporting as a corollary to receiving government legal work.Law students gain pro bono experience (UQ New Online, 11 April)
UQ law students have been learning the ins and outs of pro bono practice in a joint project with the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House.Lexicon theft of my children: Rowling (The Australian, 16 April)
RDR Books, being sued by JK Rowling over Harry Potter lexicon, is receiving pro bono representation.Marino Moller Lawyers truly a regional law firm (Cairns Community Newspapers, 16 April)
Far north Queensland law firm heavily involved in pro bono work.
‘Billable hours for the soul’ drive lawyers to Texas (Brisbane Times, 16 April)
Lean time for law associates in the US (from the Wall Street Journal, reproduced in The Australian, 18 April)
Gordon Wood’s money troubles threaten Gap trial (Live News, 18 April)
The stained glass ceiling has been shattered (The Age, 28 April)
Where did all the money go? (Brisbane Times, April 26)