Outreach may take many forms, including clinics, workshops, community legal education, and secondments to remote locations, and increasingly involves the use of technology to deliver legal services to remote locations.1 Some of those consulted considered outreach to refer only to the delivery of services that are focused on a regional, rural or remote (RRR) area, while others considered outreach to include a service provided in any location (not necessarily RRR) that is away from the community legal service’s office and aimed at making the service more accessible to the target client group. For the purpose of this book, outreach is used in the latter, broader sense.
Outreach clinics present challenges not experienced by clinics conducted onsite (eg at a CLC or PBRO), especially if the outreach is in a RRR area rather than in or near a capital city, given that additional time and resources are needed to travel long distances and the fact that lawyers are far away from their usual support networks.
A variation on the outreach model that has gained prevalence in recent years is the collaborative service delivery (CSD) model, in which health or community workers collaborate with community legal services and their pro bono partners. The model is built on the understanding2 that legal problems are often interrelated with health and social problems, and that people experiencing disadvantage or marginalisation may consult their doctor or community worker about legal issues rather than seeking the advice of a lawyer. CSD is a model for identifying unmet legal need and providing new access to justice pathways.
Using the CSD model, health justice partnerships3 are collaborations between health workers and community legal services / pro bono providers. For example, in 2013, Loddon Campaspe CLC and Bendigo Community Health Services launched their Health Justice Partnership project at the health service’s Kangaroo Flat site. The embedded LCCLC practitioner works with medical staff at the health service to address the unmet legal needs of local families and children in various areas of law including housing, debt, child protection and family violence.
Another example of a health justice partnership is the Acting on Warning Signs project, run by Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL). As part of this program, IMCL has trained over 120 Royal Women’s Hospital health professionals to recognise the legal issues associated with domestic violence, and has organised pro bono practitioners to attend the hospital to advise patients in collaboration with the medical staff.
With funding from the Clayton Utz Foundation, in 2016 Justice Connect established Health Justice Australia which seeks to develop the model nationally.
The CSD model is also used in collaborative programs involving lawyers and the broader community services sector. The Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program is one example: see 21.3. Another example is the LegalPod program developed by the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH): see 21.5.3. The LegalPod program facilitates small teams consisting of a community worker and a pro bono provider to work with a young people transitioning from State care. It also makes use of a legal screening tool – the Legal Health Check – which enables a community worker to identify their client’s legal issues and initiate a LegalPod.
- 21.1 Outreach: at a glance
- 21.2 Outreach: benefits
- 21.3 Outreach: challenges/limitations
- 21.4 Features of effective outreach
- 21.5 Case studies
21.1 OUTREACH: AT A GLANCE
Features of effective outreach
For features of effective outreach using telephone advice, see also section on Telephone advice at 26.6.
For more information on risk management in pro bono, see Chapter 2.3 of the Australian Pro Bono Manual.
21.2 OUTREACH: BENEFITS
As outreach services are located in a place that is accessible, familiar and trusted, they reach clients who might otherwise have very limited or no access to legal assistance, who have not sought assistance before from mainstream legal services providers, or who would not otherwise have received legal assistance. Clients may be comfortable discussing their legal problems with a pro bono practitioner in this type of environment.
Alternatively, clients’ conversations with their health care workers or community workers may reveal legal issues of which the client was unaware, which can then be referred to a pro bono lawyer for further discussion (using a CSD model). Tackling legal and non-legal issues together proactively can pre-empt legal problems from arising.
The broader benefits for the host organisation and the community are similar to those discussed in the section on Clinics (Chapter 20), namely the positive impact on the target group through advocacy and reform and the positive impact on the host agency through increase in resources and transfer of skills.
Although lawyers who provide legal assistance as part of an outreach model may have to travel a long distance to see clients for a short period of time, this can often force them to work very efficiently, especially where the service or project is dealing with a discrete area of law. For example, Ashurst’s Wills project involves lawyers providing legal assistance in regional or remote locations where three lawyers could see up to 30 clients in one session and most of these matters can be resolved or finalised over two days. The firm partners with community organisations, community legal centres and Aboriginal Legal Services to run workshops drafting Wills, powers of attorney and appointments of enduring guardian for parents of people with cognitive impairment and Aboriginal people, particularly people living in regional and remote communities. Pro bono lawyers are accompanied by a lawyer and/or a worker from the organisation which is familiar with the community and their needs. The day usually starts with a short legal education session, and then the lawyers meet with clients to obtain instructions. The lawyers draft documents overnight and take them back to be finalised, explained and executed (so far as possible) the next day. It minimises the potential problem of having difficulty finding clients and completing work. The results are easy to record with a tangible ‘product’ being produced as an outcome for clients; for example, a Will can be drafted during the clinic session.
21.3 OUTREACH: CHALLENGES/LIMITATIONS
It can be challenging for pro bono providers to identify the greatest unmet legal needs and understand the best way to address those needs, especially when the issues facing clients are outside their personal experience. Pro bono providers rely on community organisations who are directly involved on a day-to-day basis with the target client group and the issues they face, and need to involve relevant stakeholders (host agency, client target group) to ensure the outreach service actually addresses the barriers to accessibility. For example, the evaluation of the Family Law Affidavit Pilot project4 (a service developed with the aim of addressing a perceived need for affidavit drafting in family law matters for Aboriginal women in the Walgett region of NSW) found that one of the major factors contributing to the low uptake of the service was insufficient involvement of Aboriginal workers and elders in designing and planning the service.
The inconvenience of having to travel long distances to provide outreach services may mean that the service is provided at irregular intervals and for short periods of time. This is not conducive to building relationships of trust with the community and clients, and may force clients and lawyers to make decisions more hastily than is ideal.
It takes time to build trust and rapport with clients, so having an outsider rushing in and rushing off again is not ideal, but it is difficult for a firm to commit resources to giving any more time to the clinic (eg there was a hit and run feeling about the work done for the Aboriginal Credit and Debt Clinic (ACDC) in regional areas with four or five other firms involved) (Mid-sized law firm pro bono coordinator)
Having short term outreach workshops forces clients to make decisions quickly, which can be problematic where the issue is complex, eg the Wills project – the decision on who the beneficiaries are can be made quickly, but trustee issues may need longer. It may also be difficult to locate/contact a client once they have left the clinic. (Large law firm pro bono coordinator)
Most of those consulted identified the primary challenge of outreach as being the difficulty of finding pro bono providers who are willing to devote resources to outreach, especially where long-distance travel is involved. (See also 6.2 Distance from major cities.) The impact of travel on the lawyers involved goes beyond the time it takes to travel, as they are often working in stressful circumstances a long distance from their usual support networks. One CLC principal solicitor explained that even a drive of 40 minutes could represent a significant enough inconvenience to deter lawyers from participating in outreach.
It is difficult to find resources for regional area work (VCAT tenancy lists, credit and debt clinic – usually only Clayton Utz and Allens do that work). (Large law firm pro bono coordinator)
Lawyers doing outreach work at a hostel in Sydney deal with a similar disadvantaged client group but feel less drained as they don’t have to be out of the office as much as lawyers who do outreach clinics on the Central Coast. (Mid-sized law firm pro bono coordinator)
Running outreach in an urban location is much easier that in RRR areas given lawyers do not have to travel far to the clinic and have support/resources/supervision close by. (Large law firm pro bono coordinator)
The reality is that CLCs that are well positioned (that is, near the city, and better resourced with personnel and the capacity to promote themselves well) are often better placed to develop relationships with firms and are more likely to be successful in requesting resources from firms, but this means that CLCs with the greatest needs are missing out. (Pro bono referral organisation manager)
Given that the distances between those involved in the delivery of outreach legal assistance services can be great, gaining momentum for the coordination of these regional partners can be difficult. For example, the Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program (CLSD) is a regionally based approach to legal service delivery in NSW which aims to improve outcomes for economically and socially disadvantaged people by building cooperative and strategic networks of key services and community organisations. CLSD is based on the theory that better coordination and cooperation in the planning and delivery of legal services will improve access to justice for disadvantaged people. The 2012 evaluation of the CLSD program found that ‘networking, information sharing and referral pathways between services have increased as a result of CLSD activity in all regions, indicating an improvement in the ability and capacity of participating agencies to assist disadvantaged clients in their legal needs.’ However, the extent to which service delivery planning and delivery within regional partnerships was being approached in a more cooperative and collaborative manner as a result of CLSD was reported as being less certain.5
Regional partners need to drive and own the CLSD project, as a way of delivering increased legal services through collaboration. With a few notable exceptions like Ashurst’s work in Lightning Ridge, CLSD has not been very successful. (Large firm pro bono coordinator)
21.4 FEATURES OF EFFECTIVE OUTREACH
Given the difficulty of obtaining pro bono resources for outreach, it is essential to form relationships that will be strong enough to overcome the barriers of distance and encourage the provision of assistance in situations where it may not be so convenient. For example, the Coordinator at Shoalcoast CLC, Kerry Wright, said that in her experience, obtaining pro bono assistance in regional areas relies on being able to form and rely on personal relationships between lawyers. ‘Shoalcoast is a CLSD partner agency with a contract for Shoalhaven and South Coast. Initially we were partnered with PILCH [now Justice Connect] but our experience from other CLSD regions is that it is better to be partnered with a law firm’s pro bono coordinator directly, for example, Ashurst which have a strong commitment to assisting access to justice in RRR areas.’
Careful pre-planning and needs assessment is needed to ensure that the service will actually address the need. Consulting with relevant stakeholders such as local community organisations, legal aid and CLCs will assist in making decisions about finding an accessible location for the service and designing culturally appropriate services. A partnership with a local community organisation is essential to assist in coordinating clients and provide a safe and trusted place where people in need may be able to access legal services together with other services that are important and relevant to the client (like medical or counselling services).
Having a local partner who understands and can provide information about the needs of the community is essential for outreach in RRR areas, eg junior lawyers from our firm accompany legal aid lawyers in WA on a one week circuit in WA. (Large law firm pro bono coordinator)
Outreach only works where there is a partner organisation that has a good relationship with the community which gives them access to clients and an understanding of their needs. (Our firm has a fairly good idea of the reputation of the organisations they consider partnering with from working in the sector). (Large law firm pro bono coordinator)
Ashurst has seen how outreach that delivers quality services to address people’s needs has a strong reputation in the communities and attracts clients from the target groups. For example, clients learn of the existence of Ashurst’s Wills Clinic and how it works through word of mouth, and plan to attend the next clinic (even if the clinic is not due to return to the regional or remote area in the immediate future).
Communication and coordination between partners is also made more difficult by distance, so it is important to make arrangements for regular catch-ups between partners to ensure that everyone involved is aware of what is going on.
The person running the outreach service might spend a lot of time in outreach locations and therefore there needs to be particular effort made to maintain communication between that person, and the CLC and firms involved in the service. (CLC principal solicitor)
Given that close supervision of pro bono work might be more difficult when it is being done in a temporary outreach location, it is important to ensure that senior staff of the host organisation and pro bono provider allocate sufficient time to effectively supervise the work of the outreach service, and also to maintain the relationships with the partner organisation, volunteers and firms involved. For example, the principal solicitor at Eastern Community Legal Centre, Belinda Lo, said that she makes time to review files straight after every outreach session.
One large law firm pro bono coordinator suggested that containing the area of law that lawyers can become familiar with and the preparation of good precedents can be particularly helpful for lawyers working in outreach locations because they may be far away from their usual administrative, research, supervisory and other support mechanisms.
The Family Law Affidavit Project6 was problematic for many reasons, but one reason was that the lawyers were working in an area of law they were unfamiliar with. Even if they were meant to be doing a discrete task, it was not possible for them to do it without understanding the legal context. Family law is particularly difficult because the relationships which are at the core of the legal issues are changing and therefore the lawyers don’t have a fixed set of facts to work with like they do in other matters. (Large law firm pro bono coordinator)
As discussed earlier in Chapter 20 Clinics, having well-organised file management and other administrative systems is particularly important given that information/documents may move between several locations (for example, the host organisation’s premises, an outreach location, or the offices of a law firm). The pro bono partner at Clayton Utz, David Hillard, explained that one way that the firm assisted in making administration more efficient was by linking their local partner with the firm’s word processing system. ‘The firm provided access to its word processing system to a lawyer in the Kimberley who was able to quickly complete 120 applications to the Redress scheme (for people who were abused or neglected as children in state care) by dropping recordings made on a digital recording device into the system.’
21.5 CASE STUDIES
- 21.5.1 Case study: Homeless Persons Legal Service clinics (Public Interest Advocacy Centre)
- 21.5.2 Case study: Housing Legal Clinic, Homeless Persons’ Pro Bono Legal Service (Welfare Rights Centre South Australia)
- 21.5.3 Case study: LegalPod (Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House)
21.5.1 Case study: Homeless Persons Legal Service clinics (Public Interest Advocacy Centre)
The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS)7 in NSW is a key project operated by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC). It addresses the legal needs of homeless people in NSW through a human rights framework, by providing free legal advice and ongoing representation to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
HPLS currently operates 14 free legal clinics on a roster basis, partnering with welfare agencies in the greater Sydney metropolitan and Hunter regions that provide direct services, such as food and accommodation, to people in housing crisis. The clinics are hosted by the following agencies:8
Edward Eagar Lodge
The Gender Centre
Jenny’s Place, Newcastle
Matthew Talbot Centre, Newcastle
Matthew Talbot Hostel,
Mission Australia Centre, Surry Hills
Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
Norman Andrews House
Ozanam Learning Centre
Salvation Army Streetlevel Mission
Women and Girls’ Emergency Centre
The Shed, Mt Druitt
The clinics are coordinated by HPLS and staffed by lawyers from Allens, Burke & Mead, Carroll & O’Dea, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Gilbert + Tobin, Henry Davis York, Hicksons, HWL Ebsworth, Legal Aid NSW, Macquarie Bank, Maddocks, Minter Ellison, Moray & Agnew, Norton Rose Fulbright and Thomson Geer.
In addition, the HPLS Solicitor Advocate (Jeremy Rea) provides clients access to legal representation in minor criminal matters.
PIAC provides induction training for all the lawyers working in the clinics. Each firm generally sends both a junior and senior solicitor to the clinic, so the senior solicitor can provide support to the junior solicitor, but it is PIAC’s practice and PIAC bears the responsibility for matters undertaken at the clinic. The lawyers attending the clinics fill in contact/advice sheets for each client, which are checked by the supervising solicitor at PIAC and used by PIAC to open a file on the matter. Most of the work is undertaken by lawyers from firms acting pro bono under PIAC’s supervision, although a small amount of the work is referred to and undertaken by the pro bono providers directly.
- The volume of resources available to PIAC to run the clinics is greatly increased by the contributions of the pro bono providers.
- Pro bono providers are provided with training for their lawyers that improves their skills and broadens their experience.
- It is a rewarding and fulfilling way for pro bono providers to achieve their pro bono targets.
- The pro bono lawyers do not always have expertise in the type of matters that arise at the clinics, and may be unfamiliar with both the legal issues and dealing with disadvantaged clients.
Features that make it effective
- PIAC has invested significant resources into training and supervision. Prior to attending the clinics each lawyer must attend induction training, which covers areas of law that clients seek advice on, from fines, debt, and tenancy, through to discrimination, criminal law and victim’s compensation, referral options, and dealing with challenging clients (eg with drug and alcohol issues or a mental illness). During the training they are given the opportunity to role play typical clinic scenarios.
21.5.2 Case study: Housing Legal Clinic, Homeless Persons’ Pro Bono Legal Service (Welfare Rights Centre South Australia)
The SA Housing Legal Clinics (HLC) are run by the Welfare Rights Centre (WRC) South Australia and modelled on the Homeless Persons Legal Service (HPLS) clinics in Sydney (see 21.5.1). State government funding for the establishment of the HLC was secured in 2006.
There are seven HLC clinics run by firms that are each partnered with a different welfare agency. Each firm provides at least two lawyers to attend the clinics each week. A staff member of the HLC attends every clinic to assist with the coordination and management of the clinics.
- Highly vulnerable clients, who are unlikely to seek assistance by attending a legal aid office or another CLC, are able to access legal assistance.
- Lawyers working at the clinics feel good about helping people who are very needy.
- Relationships are developed between the firms and the welfare agencies (as well as between WRC and the firms) which increases the firms’ commitment to the clinic. Firms share in fundraising activities for the welfare agency and allocate non-legal staff to assist in other ways.
- Not all lawyers have knowledge of community services and referral pathways but they can build this knowledge on the job.
- Demands on the clinic’s staff to be involved in forums and policy work can put a strain on its limited resources.
Features that make it effective
- HLC staff provide coordination and management support to the law firms and welfare agencies, taking a hands-on approach to linking clients with welfare services and lawyers
- Each law firm has a team leader who organises the rostering of staff for the clinic, and the allocation of an appropriate lawyer for matters requiring particular expertise.
- The firms that contribute lawyers to the clinics are very committed to the work.
- The lawyers who volunteer to attend the clinics are highly respectful, professional and committed.
- WRC prepares lawyers for their work at the clinic by explaining how the service operates and how their role fits into it.
- WRC filters the clients before the pro bono lawyers see them, and advises lawyers to sit between the client and the door so if there are concerns with a difficult client they can move out quickly.
21.5.3 Case study: LegalPod (Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House)
LegalPod is a collaborative service delivery program developed by the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) in 2014. The program responds to the legal needs of young people transitioning from the Queensland Child Protection system into independence — a period during which they are prone to homelessness and legal difficulties. A small team comprising pro bono lawyers and the client’s community worker (the Pod) arranges an initial meeting with the client at a suitable location. They use a legal screening tool also developed by QPILCH — the Legal Health Check (discussed below) — to identify existing or emerging legal needs. Common issues include unpaid fines for offences such as fare evasion and public nuisance, and housing issues. The Pod maintains a relationship with the client for up to four years to head off or resolve any legal issues, and involves no more than two or three different lawyers over that time. QPILCH has provided training to nine firms that participate in the program, and has assisted 30 clients.
The Legal Health Check is a resource designed to equip non-legal professionals to ask the right questions and identify legal needs — potentially in multiple areas of law — in their own client consultations. Rather than merely setting out legal information, it provides the community worker with a diagnostic process, and enables the community worker to refer the client to one or more appropriate legal services for assistance. After the legal health check has been used to interview the client, the completed legal health check document can also be used to brief the pro bono lawyer or community lawyer who receives the referral. Thus the Legal Health Check helps the lawyer to get up to speed on the case quickly, particularly if it involves areas of law outside of their regular practice.
The Legal Health Check is a response to research findings that disadvantaged or vulnerable clients are likely to consult their community or health workers, rather than legal service providers, about socio-legal issues, that they are likely to have multiple legal issues, and that their legal, health and social issues are interrelated.9 In June 2015, QPILCH released its Legal Health Check website, providing national training resources for community workers to use the Legal Health Check. Similar legal screening tools are being developed for use in health justice partnerships.
- The LegalPod builds on the community worker’s existing relationship with the client, which in turn helps to create trust and openness with the pro bono lawyer. As a result, a greater number of legal issues are identified and resolved.
- Using the Legal Health Check helps the pro bono lawyer and community worker to adopt the same approach to assisting clients. At the same time, each can bring their own area of expertise to the table. It allows lawyers to be lawyers and social workers to be social workers.
- The lawyers are able to develop a relationship with the client and work proactively over time to prevent issues from arising. Lawyers report high levels of satisfaction in being able to remove barriers that would otherwise hamper their clients participating fully in society as young adults.
- This model is well within the capability of small firms — especially those in non-city locations. The model has allowed QPILCH to provide suburban or RRR outreach services where the lawyer attends in person once or twice a year, and otherwise attends by phone.
- There is a risk that the community workers feel that collaborating, and using the Legal Health Check, adds to their workload. Targeted training is required to ensure all the professionals involved feel confident using the approach efficiently.
Features that make it effective
- The videos and information on the Legal Health Check website are the result of extensive consultation with both lawyers and community workers. They have been reviewed by independent evaluators and are regularly updated to incorporate feedback and ensure they reflect the current law.
- The community workers engage with the training materials before forming a Pod to ensure they are confident collaborating with the lawyers and using the Legal Health Check. They receive ongoing support from QPILCH to ensure each case is running successfully.
2 See for example E Tobin Tyler et al (eds) Poverty, Health and Law, Readings and Cases for Medical-Legal Partnership (Carolina Academic Press, 2011), 74.
3 Also known as advocacy-health alliances and medical legal partnerships.
4 The Family Law Affidavit Project was developed through a partnership between Women’s Legal Service NSW (WLS) and the Law Society of NSW with a grant from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW (LJF). Volunteer solicitors based in Sydney were trained to draft affidavits for family law matters, with instructions taken over the telephone. See Law and Justice Foundation, Family Law Affidavit Project Evaluation Report (2009), at http://www.lawfoundation.net.au/ljf/app/&id=96A5E275C9519729CA257544000FFA9C.
5 Legal Aid New South Wales, Evaluation of the Cooperative Legal Services Delivery Program (2012), http://www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/15176/Evaluation-CLSD-Final-Report-August-2012.pdf.
6 See Law and Justice Foundation, Family Law Affidavit Project Evaluation Report above n 4. http://www.lawfoundation.net.au/ljf/app/&id=96A5E275C9519729CA257544000FFA9C
8 In addition to the HPLS clinics PIAC is also involved in delivering legal services at ‘hubs’ which bring together various services to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, for example the Woolloomooloo Integrated Services Hub (http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/community-support/homelessness/woolloomooloo-integrated-services-hub).
9 See for example: C Coumarelos et al, ‘Legal Australia-wide survey: legal need in Australia’ (Access to justice and legal needs, vol 7, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, August 2012); H M McDonald and Z Wei, ‘Concentrating Disadvantage: a working paper on heightened vulnerability to multiple legal problems (Updating Justice No 24, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, May 2013); P Pleasance et al, ‘Reshaping legal assistance services: building on the evidence base’ (Discussion paper, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, April 2014).