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Issue 79: May 2013
Welcome to the Walk for Justice 2013 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:
The 6th National Walk for Justice is coming! Walks for Justice are held every year to raise much-needed funds for pro bono clearing houses across the country. This year, Walks will be held this Tuesday (14 May 2013) in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle and Sydney and will support JusticeNet SA, PILCH NSW, PILCH Vic and QPILCH.
Past walkers have included High Court Justices, Attorneys-General, community legal centre lawyers, and law students. For more information and to register go to walkforjustice.org.au.
The Centre plans to launch its new resource, Pro Bono Partnerships and Models: A Practical Guide to What Works to coincide with National Law Week (13-19 May 2013). The resource will be available online free of charge through the Thomson Reuters ProViewTM platform accessed through the Centre’s website.
What Works is intended to be a resource that assists those involved in providing, seeking and brokering pro bono legal assistance to:
• Better understand best practice working models of pro bono legal assistance
• Better understand the issues that affect what works in pro bono
• Design and develop a project proposal that is easily recognisable by pro bono service providers as a worthwhile opportunity and maximises the likelihood that the project will work well
• Use relevant case studies as evidence to support their proposed use of that model
• Evaluate the likelihood of the project’s success using criteria developed from the identified features of successful projects
It is a practical resource divided into two parts. The first part focuses on potential partners that might work together to deliver pro bono legal services. The second part contains information about models that are being used to deliver pro bono legal assistance. For each model a full discussion of the benefits, challenges and features of effective projects using that model are provided, supported with direct quotes from people who have experience with the use of that model.
Given the finding in this resource that relationships are key to the success of any pro bono program or project, it is hoped that promoting a better understanding of stakeholders’ motivations in doing pro bono work will assist potential partners to develop and maintain effective working relationships.
What Works is supported by case studies that bring each model to life with real life experiences of the lessons learned.
The NSW Attorney-General tabled the NSW Law Reform Commission’s report on security for costs and associated costs orders in Parliament on 26 March 2013.
The Commission sees merit in courts having the specific legislative authority to make pro bono costs orders on the basis that it was “particularly influenced by the importance of pro bono legal advice, assistance and representation in securing access to justice”, but stops short of making a recommendation in this regard. This is due to the fact that the terms of reference of the inquiry did not squarely cover this issue. The Commission notes that stakeholders may have devoted more attention to this issue if it had been apparent that “significant changes were to be proposed to pro bono costs regimes”.
The Commission does not see a reason why costs should be recoverable in some pro bono matters (as is currently the case with court-based pro bono referral schemes), but not others. It does not support the establishment of a special fund for receipt of the proceeds of a pro bono costs order (like the Access to Justice Foundation in the UK), but would nevertheless “prefer investigation of a model that would direct any funds recovered back into pro bono litigation”.
The report makes a number of important recommendations for improvements regarding orders for security for costs and public interest litigation. It recommends giving courts a broad power to make orders for security for costs with court rules to include a list of discretionary factors that the court should take into account. The recommendations aim to clarify that orders for security for costs may be made in the increasing number of cases where the litigation is supported by litigation funders.
The report also recommends new provisions to clarify the law relating to security for costs in public interest cases, in line with provisions that apply in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
The Commission notes that the issue of a court having the power to order costs in pro bono matter has “significant implications for the indemnity rule on costs, and for the way that pro bono litigation is funded in New South Wales”. The Commission suggests that further consultation is desirable.
The Commission received over 50 submissions (including three submissions from the Centre). The Centre will continue to advocate for specific legislative authority to be given to courts to make pro bono costs orders. The Centre takes the view that this is important so as to distinguish pro bono from no-win no-fee cases.
For a copy of the Law Reform Commission’s Report, click here. For information on costs recovery in pro bono matters, contact the Centre’s Policy Officer Maria Twomey on email@example.com or on 02 9385 7775.
In a recent working paper published by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, based on an analysis of the National Law Survey 2012 results, findings confirm that illness/disability is strongly associated with legal problems, with problems most frequent among those with a mental illness/disability (particularly if combined with a physical illness/disability).
The paper states that the new LAW survey findings provide strong support for the continued integration of legal, health and human services more generally, and for the further development of effective referral practices between such services.
A copy of the paper is available here.
A six-year action by members of the African community in Kensington, Victoria, with the support of the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre, law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler and barristers Jeremy Rapke QC, Emrys Nekvapil and Phoebe Knowles, has led to an historic settlement in the Federal Court which will see a public inquiry commenced by the Victoria Police by 1 June 2013 into its training and ‘field contact’ practises with a view to stamp out racial profiling by police.
The case can be traced back to complaints made about racial taunts, increased police surveillance and arbitrary stopping and searching of African youths made to the Office of Police Integrity in 2006, further complaints made to the Human Rights Commission in 2008 without satisfactory resolution, and thus proceedings being launched in the Federal Court in November 2010. These complaints relate to police behaviour in and around the Flemington housing commission flats during “crime-busting” exercises.
The relationship between Arnold Bloch Leibler and Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre is a long one and a great example of a CLC working closely with a firm to address a fundamental public interest issue. There have been a number of forums hosted by ABL concerning racial profiling, one in 2011 which developed a draft ‘stop and search receipting’ protocol whereby people who are stopped and searched by police are given a receipt setting out the legal reasons for being stopped or searched. This has been used in the UK and is still pushed for by Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre. Other firms are working with the Centre as part of their Police Accountability project.
A further forum was held only two weeks ago titled After the Discrimination Case, which discussed the strategy for participating in the forthcoming call for community comment by the Victoria Police on their policy on ‘field contacts’ and cross-cultural training. Anyone with an interest in policing and justice is being strongly encouraged to participate.
Peter Seidel, Public Interest Partner at Arnold Bloch Leibler said it had been an honour for his firm to represent these courageous men (initially 17 but only 6 remaining at the date set down for hearing due to 11 applicants withdrawing because of being frustrated and overwhelmed by the traumatic experience of seeking redress through the courts).
“We have done so though pro bono contributions by our solicitors and counsel – a commitment that runs into millions of dollars – because we believe in the fundamental importance to civil society of their brave and tenacious struggle for justice” Peter said.
For more information see the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre website.
Mid size firm K&L Gates (recently Middletons in Australia) have signed up to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target. The firm has worked hard in the past 12 months to increase the size and scope of its pro bono program. National Pro Bono Partner, Andrew Mansour of the Melbourne office is overseeing the expansion of the practice. He says remarkably the practice has managed to double its pro bono hours per lawyer in just 12 months to where the figure is now in the high teens and still rising.
This has been achieved by appointing pro bono coordinators in the Brisbane and Perth offices of the firm to add to the existing pro bono coordinators in the Sydney and Melbourne offices. It has also been achieved through consolidating and strengthening its relationships with PILCH in Victoria and NSW and with QPILCH in Queensland and also with various CLCs and other pro bono referrers across the country. A successful pro bono secondment program has also been established with an Indigenous organisation in Broome.
As Andrew admits, part of the impetus for this change has been the merger with international law firm K&L Gates who have offices across five continents and already have strong pro bono practices in many of their offices, particularly in the US where the pro bono target is 60 hours per lawyer.
Feedback from the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference held in Melbourne on 21 and 22 March 2013 indicates that it was a well received conference with many people taking away important new contacts and ideas, particularly from the presentations of our international guests and the subsequent discussions.
The conference attracted a record number of 350 delegates over two days.
Some conference papers are now available on the Conference website and will be loaded onto the Centre’s website for archiving purposes.
The Welfare Rights Centre in Sydney has been advised that all of the funding provided to the Centre by the NSW Family and Community Services Department will be withdrawn as of 1 July 2013. This funding currently provides 40% of the total funding for the Centre and will therefore lead to a significant reduction in its services and an expected increase in unmet legal need in this area.
The Welfare Rights Centre provides advice and representation on all Social Security matters and also undertakes policy and law reform work. The Centre, with a staff of 11, and an average of about 20 volunteers at any one point of time, provided assistance to 2,930 clients in the last financial year.
This is one of the oldest community legal centres in the country; in fact, it marked its 30th birthday with a rally of over 300 people, calling on the NSW Government to re-consider its decision.
Social Security law is an area of law where limited pro bono legal advice is provided as the relevant expertise does not exist in many law firms. In the 2012 National Law Firm Survey, Social Security law ranked 25th out of 38 areas of law as an area of pro bono practice and 29th out of 38 in areas of law where matters had been rejected.
Welfare Rights Centre rally, 3 May 2013
The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service in its March 2013 report Supporting Justice III, provides a nationwide picture of pro bono legal work by America’s lawyers. Rule 6.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that “a lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono public legal services per year” and “that a substantial majority of the 50 hours” should be to persons of limited means or to organisations that support the needs of persons of limited means. A notable finding of the study was that the annual average pro bono hours per lawyer across the nation was 56.5 with a median of 30 hours. The survey was based on a representative sample of 2,876 attorneys.
Interestingly the majority of respondents indicated that the state of the economy did not impact on the amount of pro bono they provided in 2011, the data reflecting them doing more rather than less.
The report breaks down, by firm size, the average amount of pro bono hours in 2011. The lowest average hours are in the second largest category being firms between 51-100 attorneys that provided an average of 39.9 hours per lawyer. The highest figures are in the large firms (more than 101 attorneys) who provided 77.7 hours per lawyer and with sole practitioners who provided 62.7 hours per lawyer.
The full report is available here.
Check out Social Justice Opportunities for information on finding a job or volunteering in the social justice sector. The website includes a ‘Latest Opportunities‘ section, which provides a list of current jobs and volunteering opportunities around the country. For example:
To keep abreast of all the latest opportunities you can follow @SJOpps on Twitter or like us on Facebook.
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from March to May 2013. Click through to read any news article in full.
6 May 2013 – Lawyers Weekly
In-house lawyers want their number of approved hours for pro bono work increased or allocated differently so they can finish advising on select matters. Lawyers are spending large parts of their day grappling with the legislation and case law relevant to a specific pro bono matter, without enough time to follow it through, Telstra legal counsel John Cross has said.
6 May 2013 – News.com.au
A pro bono service for workers representing themselves in unfair dismissal cases has been launched by the national industrial umpire. The Fair Work Commission said a Victorian pilot of the free legal scheme would begin this month, with plans to extend the program to NSW in June.
2 May 2013 – The Age
1 May 2013 – The Age
29 April 2013 – Sydney Morning Herald
26 April 2013 – The Australian
Queensland forums to spark pro bono partnerships debate [media release]
26 April 2013 – The University of Queensland
26 April 2013 – The Australian
15 April 2013 – The Age
21 March 2013 – Lawyers Weekly
3 April 2013 – Lawyers Weekly
1 April 2013 – Illawarra Mercury
30 March 2013 – The Maitland Mercury
25 March 2013 – Lawyers Weekly
21 March 2013 – Lawyers Weekly
17 March 2013 – The Age
‘Pro Bono – An Ethical Obligation or a sign of Market Failure?’ speech by Commonwealth Attorney-General
16 March 2013 – Commonwealth Attorney-General
1 May 2013 – New York Law Journal
1 May 2013 – Thomson Reuters
30 April 2013 – Vance Center eNotes
22 April 2013 – The National Law Journal
INDIA: Top judges moot an idea: Free legal aid could give lawyers a leg up
21 April 2013 – The Times of India
20 April 2013 – The New Zealand Herald
15 April 2013 – The Hutt News
15 April 2013 – The Straits Times
US: Pa. Chief Justice reminds lawyers to offer pro bono services for civil legal aid
15 April 2013 – The Pennsylvania Record
11 April 2013 – Global Times
8 April 2013 – The Lawyer
SINGAPORE: Academy of Law looking for feedback on proposed pro bono scheme
2 April 2013 – The Straits Times
UK: Legal aid cuts in England and Wales come into force
1 April 2013 – BBC News
31 March 2013 – The Lawyer
22 March 2013 – Law 360
21 March 2013 – Law 360
15 March 2013 – Daily Monitor
US: Legal aid groups sue over LA plan to have 5 courts hear eviction cases instead of 26
14 March 2013 – ABA Journal
SINGAPORE: More pro bono work & effective communication with Law Society members
9 March 2013 – Channel NewsAsia