Issue 66: May 2011
Welcome to the Walk for Justice 2011 edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas – please email email@example.com. In this edition, read about:
3. NEWS: A4ID Award Goes to Advocacy Campaign Against Illegal Logging in South America Which Leads to Law Reform
Where else would you want to be on a crisp May morning than walking for justice with hundreds of your colleagues? This event is now in its fourth year and continues to attract more and more walkers for a leisurely stroll around city landmarks to raise funds for the important work that pro bono clearing houses do. You will be amazed who you can run into and have a chat with.
The Walk for Justice is the opening event for National Law Week (16-20 May 2011) and will take place from 7am in
CLICK ON ONE OF THE LINKS ABOVE TO REGISTER TO WALK IN YOUR CITY!
The main demand is now for help with employment, tenancy, and housing issues. This is not surprising with the closed CBD impacting on over 50,000 jobs (many now relocating) and with 10,000 homes to be demolished and 200,000 insurance claims expected, it gives some idea of the scope of claims. Community Law Canterbury is currently working in all the Earthquake Recovery Centres, which currently number 10, in the worst impacted areas. It has always had a strong tradition of private lawyers volunteering their services but according to Paul O’Neill, the number it can call upon at present has dropped from over 100 to about 20.
So fundamental was the damage done to the operation of the legal system in Christchurch in the first instance, the initial focus was simply how the courts might operate, particularly to deal with people on remand or under arrest. The courts had to sit in the police station to deal with these matters while only a limited number of lawyers were still able to function to represent clients.
In September 2010, when the first earthquake hit Christchurch, Malcolm Ellis, the Canterbury branch manager of the NZ Law Society, still had power and telecommunications at his home and was able to mobilize a response quickly from there. However when the second earthquake occurred in February this year his house was destroyed and he found it more productive to work from Melbourne for 10 days.
His scepticism about the creation of a national legal profession, which occurred in NZ in 2008, was swept away when the head office of the Law Society based in Wellington was able to contact all lawyers in the Canterbury district immediately and ascertain which firms were still able to operate and who needed help. He said, “that was great, and also they have been able to deal with a batch of inquiries about where wills or copies of wills may be held. They have been worth their weight in gold”
O’Neill says he was impressed with the coordinated nature of the Victorian Bushfire legal response and hopes that something like that can still develop around the Christchurch earthquakes but he says, “the access to justice issue for the average person remains unresolved. We are working with govt agencies to improve community access to justice and are likely to be funded to provide legal education to other NGOs and community specific to the Earthquake but we are now engaging politically to try and implement a policy similar to the bushfires.”
The NZ Law Society soon after the quake struck, set up an Earthquake Assistance section of its website and a free 0800 helpline number. However, the emphasis of the service was on advising callers on the operational status of lawyers and firms in the Christchurch area.
From this initiative has developed a Christchurch Lawyers Relocation Directory that provides contact details for lawyers who may now be operating from their house or their garage, and a Lawyers Support Fund to support lawyers facing hardship and coordinate offers of assistance from other New Zealand lawyers (accommodation, office space, etc).
If a person had no legal representation, the caller to the helpline could be put in contact with a lawyer who had volunteered to provide preliminary legal advice on a free basis. However, according to Geoff Adlam, Communications Manager for the NZ Law Society, there have not been many requests from unrepresented individuals seeking free legal assistance and he advises that this aspect of the service is likely to end shortly. This is despite there being an advertisement about the service in the Christchurch paper for 3 or 4 days.
The Earthquake Assistance section of the website for the public contains pamphlets on common areas of law such as motor vehicle accidents or making a will but, perhaps in contrast to the factsheets posted on the Australian disaster response websites, none are specific to common areas of law arising after a disaster such as insurance, employment or tenancy law, or what to do about a lost key document such as a birth certificates or a will. However, earthquake specific factsheets do exist on the website of Community Law Canterbury.
Christchurch was a city of 420,000 people over an approximate radius of 40 km with about 1200 lawyers before the recent quake. The number of queries being made to the Centre about earthquake related matters has increased twenty-fold in the six months following the September earthquake so, like many services in the Christchurch area; they are simply overwhelmed by the demand. However they have been approached by a number of individual lawyers who want to help and are talking to the NZ Law Foundation about setting up a fund to obtain tangible help, like providing a campervan to provide outreach services to those in need.
O’Neill says, “Our hope is over time we will develop a Victorian Bushfire type legal response but it is slow in coming, and in part this is a failure of both the legal profession and government but we feel confident that the goodwill is there.”
The A4ID Legal Partner Award was won by Antonia Horrocks from Shearman & Sterling LLP for her work with Progressio. She supported the international development charity to strengthen its advocacy campaign against illegal logging in South America which has devastating effects for both the environment and the local communities Progressio works with.
As this problem is compounded by the demand for illegal timber from the UK and Europe, the charity wanted support from A4ID to establish a robust piece of EU legislation to address it. The legal advice and guidance provided by Antonia was instrumental in building a case for what has now become Regulation (EU) No. 995/2010 which bans imports of illegal timber to the EU.
Both Judy and Julian come to the Centre with an already impressive range of experience in social justice work, demonstrating their commitment to improving social justice.
“It is my goal to have a legal career. Central to my conception of that legal career is the concept of social justice… Without taking into consideration how the law impacts on the most disempowered in our community we cannot pretend to talk about ‘justice’”.
Julian’s earlier career as an educator and community worker provided him with the practical experience of working with the disadvantaged which sparked his interest in understanding and using the legal system to promote social justice.
“I have worked with some of the very groups who are most at risk from injustice – the homeless, people with disabilities and young people”, he says. “I am passionate about improving access to justice for those most disadvantaged in our communities”.
Judy volunteered as a student telephone advisor at Holborn Citizen’s Advice Bureau in the UK while she was on exchange at the University College London. While undertaking her internship with the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, she continues to volunteer at Macquarie Legal Centre, providing clients with information and referrals.
“My experience of volunteering in community legal centres is really satisfying. I love being able to see a client’s problem from the beginning to the conclusion of their matter, and know that I helped to resolve their problem in a way that will make their life better”.
In addition to conducting research for the Centre’s “What is Social Justice” paper, Judy will also assist in preparing a legal career guide for law students which focuses on social justice opportunities.
“As a law student in my final semester of university, I believe that a publication which provides information on why and how to get involved in social justice as a student and recent graduate is a great idea. From my experience with law students, I think that many students would like to get involved in volunteering but don’t know where to start”.
Judy and Julian’s student experiences with social justice certainly enhance their ability to contribute to the work of the Centre.
The Tenants Union of Victoria, located in Fitzroy, is looking for a Lawyer to provide legal advice and casework to clients of the Tenants Union Legal Service. The Tenants Union aims to help individual tenants and to work for social change to improve conditions for all tenants into the future, and in this role you would be assisting primarily residential tenants (including public and community housing, caravan park and rooming house residents) as well as advocates, advisers and other Tenants Union staff. Employment would be on a 9 days per fortnight basis.
Applications close Wednesday 11 May 2011. For more information please visit http://www.tuv.org.au/about+us/employment.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from April – May 2011. Click through to read any news article in full.
27 April 2011 – The New Lawyer
Lawyers in Victoria have called on the state government to inject more funding into legal aid as part of next week’s State Budget. The Law Institute of Victoria says the government must deliver to legal aid and other justice initiatives if the Government’s law and order priorities are to be effective. The LIV is also calling for an expansion of specialist court programs into other “hot spots”.
25 April 2011 – The Canberra Times
18 April 2011 – The New Lawyer
18 April 2011 – The Northern Advocate
15 April 2011 – ABC News
14 April 2011 – Lawyers Weekly
14 April 2011 – Law Careers.Net
13 April 2011 – ninemsn News