- 9.1 About Pro Bono Referral Schemes and Organisations
- 9.2 Benefits of working with Pro Bono Referral Schemes and Organisations
- 9.3 List of Pro Bono Referral Schemes and Organisations
9.1 ABOUT PRO BONO REFERRAL SCHEMES AND ORGANISATIONS
Pro bono referral schemes and organisations (collectived PBROs) facilitate the efficient provision of pro bono legal advice by acting as an intermediary between people or organisations needing legal assistance and lawyers prepared and able to assist.
By acting as a hub for the skills and expertise of the legal world, a pro bono [referral organisation] provides NGOs, governments and/or individuals with an identifiable mechanism through which they can find legal support.1
Pro bono referral schemes and organisations are a strong feature of pro bono in Australia in every State and Territory. They are markedly different in scale and size and they operate in different ways.
With the exception of Law Access Ltd, a pro bono referral organisation is generally a membership based organisation (for example Justice Connect, JusticeNet SA and QPILCH). These organisations are also referred to as pro bono clearing houses, a term which remains in use in other jurisdictions (for example, PILnet’s Global Pro Bono Clearinghouse).
PBROs such as Justice Connect and the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) were originally established by their law firm members and now have a broader membership, including universities, CLCs, corporate and government legal departments. Their members pay an annual membership fee. For law firms, this fee is based on the number of partners in the firm. Justice Connect has operated since 1 July 2013, the result of a merger between PILCH NSW and PILCH Victoria. A membership-based pro bono referral organisation also exists in South Australia (JusticeNet SA).
A pro bono referral scheme is not membership based and within Australia these are generally operated by the Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction or another organisation (for example, the Cancer Council).2
In Western Australia, Law Access Ltd operates as a wholly owned subsidiary or the Law Society of WA.
9.2 BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH PRO BONO REFERRAL SCHEMES AND ORGANISATIONS
For law firms, being a member of a pro bono referral organisation or developing a relationship with a referral scheme offers the opportunity to accept case referrals. Where the organisations or schemes provide direct legal services or run clinics, they also offer the opportunity to be involved in this type of service delivery.
The clinics with which a firm’s lawyers can become involved in New South Wales Queensland and Victoria include the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service Clinics (see case study at 21.5.1), the Refugee Civil Law Clinic (Queensland), the Self Representation Service (in QCAT and Queensland State Courts) (see case study at 20.5.1), and the Seniors Rights Legal Clinic (Victoria). Ad hoc issue-based clinics are also established from time to time in response to particular legal needs which arise. For example, Justice Connect has used clinics to provide outreach to rural and regional areas.
Membership of a PBRO offers additional opportunities, including involvement in research, policy and law reform work, specific pro bono projects and the ability to place secondees at the PBRO.
In NSW and Victoria, membership of Justice Connect also offers the benefit of involvement with Not-for-profit Law, a specialist service that provides free and low-cost legal assistance to not-for-profit community organisations and advocates on their behalf (see case study on Not-for-profit Law at 28.5.1). In Queensland, QPILCH assesses and refers not-for-profits through its Pro Bono Referral Service. Further details of projects and benefits of membership can be found on each referral organisation’s website and in the list of pro bono referral schemes and organisations (below).
In relation to PBROs that do not operate on a membership model, including the Law Society referral scheme managed by QPILCH and Law Access in WA, firms may agree on a list of firms which are willing to be contacted to consider taking on a matter on a pro bono basis or may be able to contribute to the process of assessing requests for assistance. These referral schemes have been particularly helpful for small firms undertaking pro bono legal work. LawHelp is a national service run by the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations that assists entities seeking to register or transfer their incorporation to the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) and not-for-profit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations already registered under that Act.
Pro bono referral schemes and organisations also provide an important ‘triaging’ service for the many requests made for pro bono legal assistance. They only seek to place requests for assistance with their members, or with the firms and barristers that consider referrals from them, after they have assessed that the case meets their pro bono guidelines.
9.3 LIST OF PRO BONO REFERRAL SCHEMES AND ORGANISATIONS
LawHelp (run by the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations)
The Centre for Asia-Pacific Pro Bono (based at the Law Council of Australia)
The ACT Pro Bono Clearing House (based at the Law Society of the ACT)
New South Wales
Law Society of NSW Pro Bono Scheme
NSW Bar Association Legal Assistance Referral Scheme
Cancer Council Pro Bono Program
Homeless Persons Legal Service (run by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre)
Legal Aid NSW Duty Lawyer Schemes
The Northern Territory Pro Bono Clearing House (based at the Law Society of the Northern Territory)
The Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House Incorporated (QPILCH) (manages both the Queensland Bar and Queensland Law Society schemes, along with its Public Interest Scheme)
The Law Society of South Australia (LSSA)
Adelaide Legal Outreach Service (ALOS) (run by the University of Adelaide Law School)
The Law Society of Tasmania Pro Bono Clearing House (based at the Law Society of the Tasmania)
Victorian Bar Duty Barrister Scheme
Law Access Ltd
The Western Australian Bar Association (Inc)
Contact details for each scheme (and links to their websites) can be found on the Australian Pro Bono Centre’s website at https://probonocentre.org.au/legal-help/pro-bono-referral-schemes-and-organisations/.
1 PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law and A4ID, Pro Bono Clearinghouse Manual, Budapest, 2011, p 19, http://www.pilnet.org/component/docman/doc_download/52-pro-bono-clearinghouse-manual-resources-for-developing-pro.html.
2 Contact details for each pro bono referral scheme and clearing house, and links to their websites, can be found on the Australian Pro Bono Centre’s website at https://probonocentre.org.au/provide-pro-bono/law-firm/pro-bono-referral-schemes-organisations/.