Issue 93: November 2014
Welcome to the November 2014 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:
In what looks like being a significant moment in the development of legal pro bono culture in the UK, at least eighteen large law firms with offices in the UK agreed last week to participate in a new Collaborative Plan for Pro Bono in the UK (“the Plan”). The firms have agreed to work together to develop the systems and infrastructure to allow pro bono services to be effectively delivered to address unmet legal need in the UK. Importantly, any firm, irrespective of size, can become a Participant, provided they commit to the initiatives listed in the Plan.
The new Plan was announced at the start of the 13th annual UK National Pro Bono Week and further discussed during the 2014 PILnet European Pro Bono Forum. This excellent conference anchored the week by providing an international comparative perspective on pro bono development in Europe.
The Plan incorporates the introduction of an annual aspirational pro bono target of 25 hours per fee-earner per annum with annual de-identified reporting similar to the Australian National Pro Bono Aspirational Target. The reporting service will be provided by TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation global pro bono service that connects NGOs with law firms. Key definitions will be those used by TrustLaw in their global TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, undertaken for the first time in 2014.
However the Plan incorporates more than just an aspirational target. The Participants are committed to ensuring that the Plan provides for a proportion of their pro bono work to be directed to promoting access to justice for low-income individuals. With estimates in Britain of an average of about 80% of firms’ pro bono work being done for organisations, this is an important objective.
It order to do this, the Plan envisages Task Forces being created focusing on subject areas (e.g. immigration) or demographic populations (e.g. homelessness). The Task Forces will assess the need for pro bono intervention, share information between firms working on similar issues, and implement structures that enable end-to-end case work for individuals by outsourcing supervision and risk to external agencies. The firms will continue to support the many existing advice clinics in the UK but will also seek to develop more end-to-end representation for the clinic’s clients.
The Plan was announced against the backdrop of a near complete removal of legal aid funding in the areas of family law, employment, housing, immigration and welfare benefits in the UK. This has heightened the need for a careful strategic approach by firms as to how their limited pro bono capacity can best be used to help address the resultant additional legal need.
Development of the Plan has been led by a number of international firms with Australian lawyers, Nic Patrick from DLA Piper and Sarah Morton-Ramwell from Reed Smith being centrally involved.
The UK National Pro Bono Week and the PILnet European Pro Bono Forum were well attended by Australian pro bono experts including David Hillard (Clayton Utz), Nicky Friedman (Allens Linklaters), Jane Farnsworth (King & Wood Mallesons), Fiona McLeay (Justice Connect) and John Corker (NPBRC). The Australian contribution and influence was evident, and acknowledged as such by Michael Napier, the UK Attorney-General’s Pro Bono Envoy, in the closing session of the PILnet Forum. The message being heard throughout the week was that Australia has developed a unique collaborative and collegiate pro bono culture of which we can be proud, but there is certainly no room for complacency.
The Law and Justice Foundation’s (LJF) discussion paper, Reshaping legal assistance services: building on the evidence base, was launched by NSW Attorney General the Hon. Brad Hazzard MP at the State Library of NSW on Tuesday 28 October 2014 and may provide new innovative ideas for strategic pro bono initiatives.
The paper provides a framework for discussing how Australian access to justice research, policy development and the delivery of public legal assistance services, including pro bono, legal aid, Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS), and community legal centre (CLC) services delivered to the public, can best continue to build upon the substantial evidence base made up of findings from ‘legal needs’ surveys undertaken in Australia and overseas.
The paper also discusses how to translate the broad understanding of legal need, gained from recent ‘legal needs’ surveys in Australia and overseas, into real world change in service delivery to better address the needs of the Australian community and may provide some innovative ideas for pro bono providers when looking at what the reports calls “joined-up services”.
This month Anne Cregan, formerly Ashurst’s global pro bono partner, started a new role as Special Counsel at Gilbert+Tobin (G+T). We caught up with Anne to find out why she decided to make the move, and her aspirations for her new role.
Looking back at your career in pro bono so far, what do you see as your greatest achievements?
I hope I have contributed to the development of a strong pro bono culture among the large commercial firms in Australia; a culture that is focussed on meeting the needs of people who are disadvantaged and marginalised, that thinks broadly about the skills and expertise commercial lawyers can bring to the challenge, and that is professional in the delivery of pro bono services to maximise scarce and valuable legal time. Those ideas are widely accepted as the foundation of a pro bono program now, but were quite radical in the early days of pro bono practice.
My contributions, such as they are, have been primarily around enabling commercial lawyers to act for individuals as well as not-for-profits. We have helped to move pro bono practice beyond the city to meet the needs of people in outer-suburban and rural and remote areas where poverty is concentrated. We have been active in ‘wholesaling’ the delivery of pro bono legal services to increase the number of clients we can serve. We have begun the next generation of pro bono work where firms use their expertise, developed through their pro bono programs, together with their commercial and community contacts to attempt to address some of the causes of our client’s disadvantage.
Are there any particular projects that you are particularly proud of?
Again, in this work, I need to emphasise that we were only one player among many dedicated people and organisations.
What prompted your move from Ashurst to G+T?
With the inevitable changes to structure and culture with the merger (Blake Dawson with Ashurst) I felt that I was no longer able to continue to develop the program to maximise its effectiveness in serving people who are disadvantaged and marginalised. I thought I should get out of the way for someone who might have a better chance!
I was so delighted and honoured to be offered a role in the G+T pro bono team; Australia’s first, largest, and still, after all these years, one of the small handful of strongest and most effective practices.
Gilbert + Tobin have such an entrenched pro bono culture. There is a real understanding of the role of lawyers as ‘housekeepers of the legal system’ with a responsibility to ensure that everyone in our society has access to legal representation and advice. Working with the pro bono partner, Michelle Hannon, and her talented team, supported by the commitment of the firm, there is a great opportunity to take on important, transformative legal work. The practice will also continue to serve people in the legal issues which have such an impact on their day-to-day lives. Going back to being primarily a lawyer was also a great attraction!
What will be the focus of your new role? – especially in the context of G+T as another leading pro bono firm with a long-established pro bono practice
As an extra pair of experienced hands, I hope I can also support an expansion of the areas in which we operate, and increase the number of people and organisations we assist. I hope to work with the team to address some of the causes of our client’s disadvantage through law reform work and litigation. There is also a great opportunity use the firm’s expertise and contacts to address the causes of disadvantage and to support the aspirations of our clients.
Part of my role, too, will be to bring knowledge of the pro bono and community sectors in Victoria and WA to support the development of G + T’s practice there and to further facilitate assistance of people outside the capital cities.
What do you see as the challenges for the role?
Are there any new projects you will be involved in?
As the global pro bono partner at Ashurst you were influential in the development of international pro bono. Does G+T have any plans to expand in this direction?
What are your aspirations for the G+T pro bono practice?
So much of the work of pro bono lawyers is, rightly, focussed on ensuring access to the legal system and addressing disadvantage. This is our professional responsibility and should remain at the core of our work. For established, third generation practices like G + T’s though, there is also the opportunity to support our clients in meeting their aspirations as well as addressing immediate problems. To build on to the core practice to support our clients in this work would be a great next step in the evolution of pro bono legal practice.
The QPILCH Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC) has been working with its host community agencies, pro bono law firms and colleagues in the community legal sector to ensure that clients experiencing homelessness and related forms of disadvantage are resourced to successfully navigate the G20.
They have contributed to community and service provider forums, conducted pro bono lawyer training and developed resources, such as an informal ‘identification (ID) template’. These IDs are particularly designed to facilitate positive interactions between their clients and the police during the G20.
With support from QCOSS, Mission Australia’s Roma House and an HPLC partner firm, they have purchased and distributed around 800 lanyards and transparent pouches to over 25 community agencies across Brisbane, which can be used by vulnerable clients to hold their tailored ID template.
People who are homeless, at risk or otherwise marginalised can get free legal advice about their G20 rights and obligations from any HPLC around Brisbane.
Congratulations to the nominees and joint winners of the Pro Bono Partnership Award presented at the 2014 NSW Justice Awards, held on 29 October 2014.
Representatives from King & Wood Mallesons, GE, NAB/MLC, Casula High School and Canterbury Boys High School
The first partnership, between King & Wood Mallesons, in-house lawyers from GE and NAB/MLC, and Casula High School and Canterbury Boys High School, has delivered the Lawyers in Schools program to over 300 students in the last five years. Most students at these schools are economically disadvantaged and often have a high migrant population.
The second partnership, between Baker & McKenzie and Youth Off The Streets (YOTS), has provided pro bono legal advice with a focus on assisting young people engaged through YOTS’ services for more than eight years. It has helped around 64 young people who have accumulated fine debts due to extreme personal and domestic circumstances.
Kelly Roberts, Baker McKenzie and Min Bonwick, Youth Off the Streets
The Centre is proud to sponsor this Award which celebrates and promotes innovation in pro bono relationships that effectively address unmet legal need in a particular community and improve access to justice for people experiencing disadvantage.
The six nominees for the 2014 Pro Bono Partnership Award are just a sample of the many productive pro bono partnerships that exist across Australia. Below is a brief description of the work of each partnership.
Casula High School and Canterbury Boys High School with King & Wood Mallesons and in-house legal teams of GE Sydney, NAB and MLC
A survey conducted in 2013 showed that after completing the program, students’ confidence in knowing how to deal with a legal problem rose from 4% to 90%, and students’ understanding of when to seek legal help rose from 58% to 93%.
The structure of the program encourages a high level of interaction, with one lawyer being allocated to a group of no more than five or six students. The program commences in term 2, with two sessions per term for the remainder of the year. The final session is conducted at the offices of KWM.
Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education with Michaela Byers Solicitors
After recent government funding cuts to the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme, asylum seekers rely on this partnership for pro bono assistance with their matters. To date, the partnership has assisted more than 50 asylum seekers. MBS also provided pro bono legal advice and representation to approximately 770 detainees whose personal details were published on the internet by the Immigration Department.
Hunter Community Legal Centre with McCullough Robertson
Each week, one or two McCullough Robertson employment law specialists travel to Hunter Community Legal Centre to provide telephone advice to clients. To date, the partnership has assisted 92 clients and succeeded in claiming over $100,000 in unpaid entitlements from employers.
Redfern Legal Centre with Clayton Utz
The partnership differs from other models in that it does not operate as a ‘referral’ system but rather on a ‘secondee’ basis, where Clayton Utz solicitors attend to the casework and provide client representation as part of RLC. This model allows RLC and Clayton Utz to work closely together to ensure continuity of service provision. The benefits of the partnership have meant RLC has been able to expand its employment law services, while Clayton Utz solicitors have gained experience outside their usual area of practice.
Redfern Legal Centre with Fragomen
The sessions provide a ‘one stop shop’ covering tenancy and employment law, credit and debt issues, discrimination and domestic violence. With the support of Fragomen, international students also receive advice on how these legal issues may affect their student visa.
The partnership is notable for adopting a holistic approach to delivering legal services to meet the needs of international students. It combines the generalist legal expertise of RLC with Fragomen’s specialist knowledge of migration law. International students can also seek advice via telephone or webcam interviews if they are unable to visit in person.
Youth Off the Streets with Baker & McKenzie
Baker & McKenzie provides legal assistance for young people who have accumulated fine debts due to extreme personal and domestic circumstances. The sanctions from non-payment of fines, such as disqualification from applying for a driver’s licence, prevent many young people from engaging in further education and employment.
A cooperative service delivery model ensures that YOTS’ workers and teachers provide support to the young people, while Baker & McKenzie assist with the legal issues. To date, Baker & McKenzie has assisted more than 60 young people, including making submissions to the State Debt Recovery Office for write-offs of fine debts, or facilitating young people’s participation in the WDO scheme and making time-to pay arrangements to pay off remaining debt. The partnership not only produces positive legal outcomes, but also improves perceptions of the legal system among young people.
Further Examples and Contact Information
Law firms, in-house teams or community legal centres wanting to develop partnerships can also talk to the pro bono clearing house in their State or Territory and or to their State Association of Community Legal Centres. The Federation of Community Legal Centres in Victoria has a dedicated staff member to help firms and Centres form partnerships.
This month the Centre caught up with Norman Lee, Senior Legal Counsel at AMP Capital, about his work as a Director of International Justice Mission (IJM) Australia.
IJM is a global organisation that aims to protect people experiencing poverty throughout the developing world from violence. The largest non-profit organisation of its kind, IJM combats slavery, sex trafficking, property grabbing, police abuse of power and sexual violence. It partners with local authorities, working in nearly 20 communities throughout South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America, to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.
IJM Australia launched in May this year with seed funding from its partner office in the United States, and pro bono legal assistance from Australian firms, including HWL Ebsworth to establish its operation in Australia.
Having previously worked at Blake Dawson Waldron (now Ashurst), Norman recognises the challenges for firms considering providing pro bono assistance to a relatively new not-for-profit organisation. “Assessing the means and merits of the legal needs of an unknown organisation can be time consuming and risky. However limited pro bono resources shouldn’t just be going to the large established charity organisations, especially when they have the resources to pay for legal advice. IJM Australia is unique in that it is in the early stages of establishing itself as an organisation, but has the benefit of having many staff and supporters with significant legal experience that can identify and articulate the organisation’s legal needs and work effectively with pro bono partners”, said Lee.
Amber Hawkes, IJM Australia’s Chief Executive, also worked previously as a solicitor at a commercial firm, Clayton Utz, as well as with the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and as Special Counsel in one of IJM’s South Asia offices.
IJM Australia has attracted significant support from the legal profession in Australia in a short space of time, with firms like King & Wood Mallesons, Clayton Utz, Norton Rose Fulbright, and Baker & McKenzie hosting boardroom lunches to raise the profile of IJM Australia over the past few months. During these events, over 60 individual partners, barristers, special counsel, senior associates, in-house counsel and policy advisors have joined together in support of IJM’s vision to “rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible”.
However IJM Australia continues to seek pro bono assistance with its ongoing operations both in Australia and overseas. “The need for pro bono assistance doesn’t end now that we’ve launched. For example, there are ongoing regulatory compliance issues that corporate lawyers and other professionals can help us with. We also offer opportunities for individual lawyers and barristers to undertake pro bono work in our field offices, where they can contribute their skills and experience by providing on-the-ground technical assistance and training to strengthen the rule of law and local legal systems”, said Lee.
The impact that Australian lawyers and their colleagues in developing countries are already making as part of IJM’s team, which includes local investigators, lawyers, social workers and other professionals, can be seen in the Philippines. IJM’s partnership with local authorities led to a 79% reduction in the prevalence of minors involved in the commercial sex trade in Cebu in just 4 years. The strengthening of the local justice system by Australian lawyers giving their time and expertise has contributed to this achievement.
Last month IJM Australia also launched its Time for Justice campaign, rallying Australian legal practitioners to support IJM’s continued efforts to combat sex-trafficking in Cebu by donating the equivalent of their hourly charge-out rate to sponsor local IJM lawyers and social workers on the ground. All funds raised from the Time For Justice campaign will support the extension of this landmark project which has dramatically reduced the rate of children being sold for sex in one of the world’s worst sexual exploitation hotspots.
To find out more about IJM’s work to build a movement of Australians seeking justice, please go to www.ijm.org.au or contact Amber Hawkes, Chief Executive, International Justice Misssion Australia via email@example.com or on 02 9219 8019.
Norman Lee, Senior Legal Counsel at AMP Capital
and Director of International Justice Mission (IJM) Australia
The Centre’s Director, John Corker, participated in the Third Asia Pro Bono Conference which was held last month in Singapore as an organiser and presenter. Pro bono was truly celebrated at this event – and not just as the provision of free legal services by lawyers for the public good. Pro bono is seen as a concept that is driving the positive evolution of legal systems to improve access to justice for indigent, socially disadvantaged and marginalized people across a diverse range of countries in the Asian region.
The conference theme of “Public Private People Partnerships” resonated with the more than 350 delegates from over 25 countries. Live interpretation of conference proceedings from English into the languages of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, and vice versa, facilitated the active participation of all delegates.
Pro bono was recognised and embraced as a concept that strengthens the rule of law, strengthens bar associations, accelerates the development of legal aid systems, and helps law students to learn about the law and go into their communities to teach others about the law.
Of the many inspiring moments, two particularly stood out. The first was an address by Singapore’s Pro Bono Ambassador, Josephus Tan, as part of the welcome to the conference. He told the audience that as a volunteer with the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences and the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, he was lucky to sleep four hours a night due to his workload defending dozens of people who would otherwise be without representation, but that he was happy doing this because it changed people’s lives. Josephus also showed the audience a remarkable video simply telling the stories of people he had helped. This excellent video, titled “Something To Believe In: The CJC Story,” can be found on YouTube.
The second was the handing over of the “Viva Pro Bono” banner from Lok Vi Ming, SC, the President of the Law Society of Singapore to U Hla Ko, a member of the Myanmar Bar Association, who assured the audience that he would be continuing to “drink the pro bono tonic to ensure a long life”.
The conference’s plenary sessions addressed issues such as the role of the bar associations in supporting pro bono, pro bono developments and opportunities in Asia, and the challenges of in-house pro bono. A joint commitment to improve pro bono legal services in Singapore was demonstrated in presentations from the Senior Minister of the State Ministry of Law and Education, Singapore, a Judicial Commissioner from the State Courts of Singapore, and the President of the Law Society of Singapore. The Minister announced a new initiative of mandatory pro bono reporting for Singapore-based law firms from mid-2015.
There were also plenty of practical workshops that covered topics from the DNA of successful pro bono partnerships to what makes an effective pro bono clearing-house system. The third day of the conference was devoted to Pro Bono and Legal Education, including the development of student pro bono initiatives.
Law firms either attending and/or involved in the conference included international firms (Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Dentons, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells Lee and Lee, K & L Gates, Latham and Watkins, Reed Smith, White and Case), regional/local law firms (including Allen & Gledhill, Beacon Law Corporation, Drew and Napier, Harry Elias Partnership, King & Spalding, Maddocks, Rajah & Tann, TSMP Law Corporation, Wong Partnership), and clearing houses and networks (including iProbono, PILnet, Justice Connect, BABSEA CLE and Avocats Sans Frontieres).
The cumulative effect of this annual conference, together with the pro bono conferences held in Laos (2012) and Vietnam (2013), has been to support a group of highly motivated justice advocates to develop a stronger pro bono culture in their respective countries. However they need continuing support and are eagerly seeking constructive partnerships.
The 4th Annual Asia Pro Bono Conference and Legal Ethics Forum will be held in Mandalay, Myanmar, from 4-7 September 2015. Further information is available at www.probonoconference.org.
Ashurst is looking for a senior associate or lawyer to join the Pro Bono team in Sydney as the Sydney Pro Bono Coordinator for a 12 month period. The role is exciting and varied. Senior associates or lawyers with a minimum of four years post admission experience and keen interest and experience in working with people who are disadvantaged and marginalised are encouraged to apply.
In the past financial year, Ashurst’s pro bono program in Australia assisted over 750 people and organisations in-house and over 1,000 people through our program of external clinics and secondments.
To view the position description or to make an application please click here. If you would like more information about this role, please contact Georgina Perry (02 9258 6352) who will happily have a confidential discussion about the role. Applications close at 5pm on Monday, 1 December.
Check out Social Justice Opportunities (www.sjopps.net.au) 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 employment and volunteering opportunities around the country.
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!
Here’s what’s going on in the Twitter feed right now:
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from October to November 2014. Click through to read any news article in full.
12 November 2014 – The New Daily
A showdown is looming between the Abbott government and members of the legal profession over the findings of a new report on community access to justice. A peak law body has called on Attorney-General George Brandis to release the findings of a Productivity Commission inquiry which recommends the government reverse funding cuts to community legal centres. The commission’s report was completed in September but may not be released until next year, despite intense interest in its
4 November 2014 – The Examiner
3 November 2014 – Lawyers Weekly
31 October 2014 – The Australian
28 October 2014 – Lawyers Weekly
26 October 2014 – The Age
25 October 2014 – The Border Mail
16 October 2014 – PS News Online
12 November – The Lawyer
A group of 20 UK and US firms with a presence in London have launched a collective pro bono commitment, with an estimated 10,000 UK fee-earners signed up to a 25-hour annual target. The group launched its plan during last week’s annual pro bono season, with the group comprising Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Allen & Overy, Arnold & Porter, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Dechert, Dentons, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, Morgan Lewis, Olswang, Reed Smith, Shearman & Sterling, Simmons & Simmons, Weil Gotshal & Manges and White & Case.
6 November 2014 – The Times
5 November 2014 – Family Law
4 November 2014 – Family Law
28 October 2014 – Who’s Who Legal
28 October 2014 – Who’s Who Legal
24 October 2014 – The Law Society Gazette
15 October 2014 – The Guardian
12 November 2014 – The Pioneer Log
Closure attributed to budget constraints due to declining attendance. The downtown Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic, a source of pro bono legal services for low-income Portlanders since 1971, will close on Jan. 1, 2015. The Clinic was run by legal clinicians and law students enrolled in externships through the law school. It created a mutually beneficial relationship between LC and the community: students received practical law experience; low-income Portlanders received help with legal issues including child support modifications, domestic violence cases and tax controversies.
4 November 2014 – The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel
29 October 2014 – The American Lawyer
27 October 2014 – Pro Bono Institute
27 October 2014 – Pro Bono Institute
24 October 2014 – The Huffington Post