Thank you to everyone who attended our first session of the 2021 Pro Bono Video Catch-Up Series on 18 February 2021. We had a great turnout of more than 40 participants. You will find a summary of the session, key points of action and links to resources below.
Updates from the legal assistance sector
Updates were provided from a range of legal assistance sector organisations including:
key data from the Australian Pro Bono Centre’s Reporton the 7th National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, including work for First Nations clients (Gabi Christian-Hare)
the new mapping of Aboriginal justice initiatives by CLCNSW(Zac Armytage).
Discussion on First Nations-led work facilitated by the Centre (Jess Hatherall)
Trent Wallace, First Nations Advisor and Lawyer at Ashurst, spoke about the firm’s First Nations response. Trent stressed the importance of having First Nations expertise within teams, where they must be appropriately titled and remunerated to reflect the lived experience and cultural knowledge that can be applied to highly complex legal work in the First Nations space.
Trent introduced us to Jake Fing, a graduate of Ashurst’s First Nations Pro Bono and Social Impact Cadet program. Jake shared his empowering experience during this paid cadetship. Trent, Jake and Ashurst’s Global Head of Pro Bono and Social Impact and Partner, Sarah Morton-Ramwell, stressed the importance of cadetship programs. These programs increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment opportunities for law graduates, and ensure an organisation’s pro bono response is led by lawyers with lived experience.
Trent and Jake candidly shared their struggles with imposter syndrome and both praised their positive experience of feeling valued and respected in the culturally safe environment at Ashurst. It was moving to hear about the impact of Ashurst’s employment of Trent and Jake for both the firm and these individuals.
Key points of action
Firms should hire paid First Nations advisors and lawyers. The pro bono sector’s response needs to be First Nations-led.
In order to create a pipeline of First Nations advisors, firms can create First Nations cadetships.
Lawyers at firms should undergo cultural training, such as unconscious bias and cultural due diligence in order to create culturally safe spaces.
Law firms should consider providing mentorships within or outside their firms to junior First Nations lawyers which will benefit both the mentor and mentee.
The pro bono sector needs to continue to provide communications platforms for more First Nations voices on First Nations justice issues. For example, Trent Wallace sends out a monthly message to Ashurst lawyers. The Centre has committed to including a First Nations led article in all future editions of Pro Bono Voco.
Pro bono lawyers and social impact teams can act as disruptors and leaders by hiring First Nations lawyers to advise on First Nations work, both pro bono and commercial, and systemic change.
As indicated by the Centre’s most recent Survey Reportresults, there is significant opportunity for growth in pro bono matters for First Nations clients.
Links to resources
If you would like to partner with organisations that assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, please consult the Centre’s Justice Project: Pro Bono Tool – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples which can be found here.
The team at Relativity has launched a program called Justice for Change. They created the program to leverage the unique capabilities of Relativity and their ecosystem to positively impact racial and social justice in our communities. Organisations doing legal work on behalf of racial justice can apply to use the RelativityOne software for free to help them organise and search documents. For more information, please visit the Relativity website here. If you would like to register for the information session on 11 March 2021, please visit here.
Next Pro Bono Video Catch-up Series session
The second session of the 2021 Pro Bono Video Catch-Up Series will be held at 2.00-3.30pm on Thursday 13 May 2021. The subject area focus will be ‘Promotion and the Evolving Role of the Pro Bono Lawyer’. An email will be circulated ahead of the video call with dial-in details.