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  • Case dismissed for mandatory pro bono
    11 April 2014 read more >
    The head of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre has maintained that pro bono should remain voluntary in light of a Productivity Commission report released this week. John Corker, director of the NPBRC, told Lawyers Weekly that he supports the Productivity Commission's recent finding that compulsion is not an appropriate way to bolster pro bono legal services. He claimed mandatory pro bono is "a complete misunderstanding of what pro bono is about".
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  • Proposal for government loans to fund court cases
    8 April 2014 read more >
    Litigants unable to afford lawyers should be able to accrue HECS-style debts under a government-backed loan scheme floated by a respected economic adviser to the federal government. In a draft report on access to justice to be released on Tuesday, the Productivity Commission seeks feedback on the idea of a legal expenses loan scheme that would offer income-contingent interest-free loans to people who do not qualify for public legal assistance. The person would repay the loan through contributions of a proportion of their income, or from any award of damages. In other recommendations, the commission said court fees should rise and community legal services and legal aid commissions should compete against other legal service providers to provide public legal assistance services, to extract maximum value from limited taxpayer dollars.
    2 of 20
  • PC queries access to law for indigenous [paywall]
    8 April 2014 read more >
    The Productivity Commission has called for changes to how lawyers bill their clients and an expansion in the work done by those outside the profession to help resolve disputes more quickly and cost-effectively... The report highlights the particular difficulties Aboriginal people face in accessing the justice system, especially to resolve child protection, housing and social security disputes.
    3 of 20
  • CANADA: Giving back
    7 April 2014 read more >
    More than half of lawyers believe the profession has a duty to provide pro bono services, according to a survey of readers across the country conducted by Canadian Lawyer. But a strong majority of respondents oppose making pro bono work mandatory, and 60 per cent feel lawyers offering free legal services could discourage governments from providing sufficient legal aid funding.
    4 of 20
  • CANADA: Law firm pro bono survey
    7 April 2014 read more >
    Across the country lawyers find the time to participate in interesting and important pro bono projects that give back to their communities and aid in providing access to justice for those who might not otherwise be able to afford legal counsel. This year, we asked law firms across the country - large, regional, boutique, small, and local firms - to participate in Canadian Lawyer's first-ever national pro bono survey.
    5 of 20
  • CANADA: Making a case for pro bono
    7 April 2014 read more >
    Ask Paul Belanger if there's a business case to be made for law firms creating a formal pro bono program and the Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP litigator is quick to respond."Absolutely," says Belanger, who co-chairs Blakes' pro bono committee. "We're in a war for talent. Young people want to be able to do something that is meaningful to them. You need to offer a robust pro bono program."
    6 of 20
  • CANADA: Pursuing pro bono in-house
    7 April 2014 read more >
    When lawyers leave private practice and go in-house many may feel they are no longer easily able to pursue pro bono work, but the reality is corporate and public sector lawyers have skills that are in demand. There also appears to be growing interest from the in-house bar in pursuing pro bono activities.
    7 of 20
  • CANADA: In athletes' defence
    7 April 2014 read more >
    The recent Sochi Olympics might have put on display the fierce competition, personalities, and glamour of the Winter Games, but what the television-viewing public didn't see was the behind-the-scenes struggles of athletes to make it to the top ranks. Until recently, sports organizations policed themselves. Athletes who didn't make the team or were punished for rule violations could only appeal within those sports bodies, or the impractical and seldom used redress to the courts.
    8 of 20
  • High Court rejects outdated notions of gender [media release]
    2 April 2014 read more >
    The High Court has delivered a landmark judgment that recognises sex other than male or female, representing a victory for growing numbers of gender diverse people across Australia... A Gender Agenda was assisted on a pro bono basis by Kris Walker and Liz Bennett of Counsel, the Human Rights Law Centre and law firm Allens. Norrie was represented on a pro bono basis by DLA Piper in the High Court appeal as well as the earlier stages of the litigation.
    9 of 20
  • Neither man nor woman: Norrie wins gender appeal
    2 April 2014 read more >
    The androgynous person at the centre of a high court decision recognising those who do not identify as either male or female has described being "overjoyed" at the ruling and expressed the hope that it will encourage Australians to be more accepting. ''I jumped up and down a lot ... I was getting ready for my shower and I saw it come up and I said, "hooray!" ... I squealed," Norrie said of the decision at a press conference hosted by the law firm DLA Piper, which took on the case pro bono.
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  • Abbott government scraps taxpayer-funded legal advice for asylum seekers
    31 March 2014 read more >
    Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat or plane without visas will no longer have access to free immigration services... Mr Morrison said on Monday that services would still be available, but the government would no longer be paying for them. "If there are others out there who wish to provide pro bono advice for these sorts of things, we'll facilitate that and we're happy to do that but the taxpayer won't be funding it anymore," he said.
    11 of 20
  • End of taxpayer funded immigration advice to illegal boat arrivals saves $100 million [media release]
    31 March 2014 read more >
    The withdrawal of taxpayer funded immigration advice and assistance does not prevent those who arrived illegally having access to legal assistance... those who wish to provide immigration advice and application assistance pro bono are free to do so. Access to any private and/or pro bono immigration advice by illegal boat or air arrivals will be facilitated by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, with all costs to be met by the providers of these services.
    12 of 20
  • US: A Dangerous Precedent for Pro Bono
    27 March 2014 read more >
    Earlier this month... the U.S. Senate rejected President Barack Obama's nomination of Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. All Republicans and seven Democrats voted against the nomination ostensibly because, while working for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Adegbile contributed to a series of briefs on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a death-row inmate convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer.
    13 of 20
  • Start-up helps bridge the legal aid gap
    25 March 2014 read more >
    A Melbourne lawyer has launched an online law firm catering to individuals who no longer qualify for legal aid and can't afford firm rates. Laura Vickers started Nest Legal late last year from her kitchen table in Northcote. She told Lawyers Weekly that her clients have been priced out of traditional legal services "in the new climate of legal aid cuts".
    14 of 20
  • US: Creative Ways to Provide Access to Justice
    25 March 2014 read more >
    The United Nations recently held a magnifying glass to the U.S. civil justice system. Twenty years after the U.S. signed an international human rights treaty to ensure access to justice for all, the U.N. found that our nation is losing ground compared to the rest of the world when it comes to civil legal aid. In a two-day hearing on fairness in the courts, observers from around the world heard that millions of Americans cannot get legal help when facing major life challenges, like the loss of their homes, workplace discrimination or accessing veterans' benefits.
    15 of 20
  • SINGAPORE: Lawyers may have to report time spent on pro bono work
    25 March 2014 read more >
    Lawyers may soon have to report the number of hours of pro bono work they clock each year, although it will not matter if they did none - there will be no sanctions or adverse consequences. The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) is asking the public for feedback about this proposed change to the Legal Profession Act, which it intends to implement next year.
    16 of 20
  • SINGAPORE: Mandatory reporting of pro bono hours proposed for S'pore lawyers
    24 March 2014 read more >
    The Committee to Study Community Legal Services Initiatives (CLSI Committee) has recommended the mandatory reporting of pro bono hours by practising Singapore lawyers. The committee, headed by Justice of Appeal V K Rajah and including members of the Bar, made the recommendation to the Law Ministry and the Law Society of Singapore. Under the recommendation, every advocate and solicitor applying for a practising certificate will be required to report the time on pro bono work in the preceding year.
    17 of 20
  • US: Mandatory Pro Bono Weighed as Disclosure Rule Is Criticized
    24 March 2014 read more >
    [NY] Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has defended requiring lawyers to disclose voluntary efforts to help the poor - a rule that is so unpopular among lawyers that the New York State Bar Association has decided to hire an attorney to look into challenging it. In the wake of that challenge, Lippman may have upped the ante in his disagreement with the state bar, suggesting earlier this month that a mandatory "public service" requirement has potential and should be considered.
    18 of 20
  • Family Court Chief Justice laments system failures
    17 March 2014 read more >
    The Chief Justice of the Australian Family Court has made rare public comments about the state of the system. Chief Justice Diana Bryant says cuts to legal aid, and changes in processes, has led to an explosion in people representing themselves. This then places more pressure on independent children's lawyers to ensure they're adequately protected.
    19 of 20
  • US: Pro Bono: United Airlines Inc.
    17 March 2014 read more >
    When United Airlines Inc. general counsel Brett Hart launched the company's Pro Bono/Community Service Program in July 2012, the goal was simple - and enormous: to help the underserved solve a wide variety of legal problems. Unlike some in-house programs, Hart wanted United's to include attorneys and staff working together, so he combined legal and community service efforts under the same umbrella. "Whether your pro bono effort helps one person in need or many, whether it is a large complex and lengthy case, a transaction, or a simple appearance, all pro bono efforts can improve lives and communities," Hart said.
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Productivity Commission does not support compulsory pro bono

10 April 2014

The Centre welcomes comments made by the Productivity Commission earlier this week in its draft report on Access to Justice Arrangements indicating that it does not consider compulsion an appropriate means of bolstering pro bono legal services, and recognises that pro bono plays only a small but important role in assisting disadvantaged Australians to obtain legal services.

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Pro bono work under PI insurance scheme doubles

17 March 2014

The hours of pro bono work performed in the latest reporting period by in-house lawyers covered under the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme almost doubled, from 545.6 hours in the six month period from 1 January to 30 June 2013 to 1086.2 hours in the six months to 31 December 2013.

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Nearly 10,000 lawyers now covered by Aspirational Target as King & Wood Mallesons and Gadens Sydney sign up

13 February 2014

The Centre welcomes both King & Wood Mallesons and Gadens Sydney, which joined the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target as signatories this month.  This brings the number of Australian lawyers covered by the Target to almost 10,000 lawyers.  The Scheme started in April 2007 and in its first reporting year covered about 3,000 lawyers.

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Centre develops new strategic plan for 2013-2017

28 November 2013

At its annual planning day the Centre developed a new strategic plan for the next four years. At the heart of the plan is the NPBRC as an independent centre of expertise whose principal objective is to grow the capacity of the Australian legal profession to provide pro bono legal services that are focused on increasing access to justice for socially disadvantaged and/or marginalised persons, and furthering the public interest. The full plan can be seen here (PDF).

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Sixth Annual National Pro Bono Aspirational Target Report released

9 October 2013

According to the Sixth Annual National Pro Bono Aspirational Target Performance Report, an average of 33.7 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer was done in the last financial year by signatories to the Target compared to the 34.2 hours per lawyer reported in 2011/2012. Collectively, the reporting signatories provided 294,329 hours of pro bono legal work in 2012/2013 which is over 70,000 more hours than it was two years ago.

 

The Report found that the pro bono performance of signatories improved the longer they had been signatories. Law firms that had been signatories for at least three years averaged 42.7 pro bono hours per lawyer, compared with those firms that had been signatories for at least one year that averaged 35.9 hours per lawyer and the average of all reporting signatory firms (33.6 hours per lawyer).

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Specialist family law practitioners play a vital role in providing free and low cost services

4 October 2013

The Centre has today launched its report Pro Bono Legal Services in Family Law and Family Violence - Understanding the limitations and opportunities. The research found that specialist family law practitioners in private practice are doing a considerable amount of free and discounted work, and further that this work is ‘embedded’ into their regular casework, meaning they have little capacity to take on more pro bono legal work.

 

The research sought to find out why obtaining pro bono legal assistance is family law matters is so difficult. In looking to the large and mid-sized law firms with structured pro bono practices it found that they face significant constraints. They do not have the expertise to take on family law work, there is a lack of discrete tasks, and many view family law as government’s responsibility and therefore outside the scope of their pro bono policy.

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Volunteer Practising Certificates should be available in all states and territories

4 September 2013

The number of Volunteer Practising Certificates issued in the three States where they are available has been increasing steadily since their introduction. Volunteer practising certificates have been available in Victoria since 2005, in Queensland since 2007 and in Western Australia since 2012. In Victoria, 245 certificates were issued in 2011/12, up from 147 in 2008/09, in Queensland, 52 certificates were issued in the 2011/12 year, up from 17 in 2007/08 and in WA, 12 certificates were issued in the first year of the operation of a new system with most of these being issued in the last six months.

 

The Queensland system seems to be the one that best facilitates its lawyers to undertake pro bono legal work and is the most administratively straightforward. The Centre will be advocating to other States and Territories that they consider introducing a similar system. For more information see this month's issue of National Pro Bono News.

 

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New Guidelines for calculating pro bono hours

9 July 2013

After consultation with signatories to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target, the Centre today released new Guidelines for calculating pro bono hours for firms, incorporated law practices, solicitors and barristers. These guidelines are intended to clarify issues and answer common questions received by the Centre over the years, and have been released in time for signatories to report on their performance against the Target for the 2012-2013 financial year. The Statements of Principles and definition of 'pro bono legal services' have not changed.

Signatories to the Target should have received their invitation to report today - please
contact the Centre if you did not receive an email. The Guidelines can be found here. Information on the Target on our website, including an introduction, Statements of Principles, FAQs, definition of 'pro bono legal services', list of signatories and history have also been revised and updated.

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New practical guide to 'What Works' in pro bono launched

30 May 2013

Pro Bono Partnerships and Models: A Practical Guide to What Works is a resource launched today that provides practical information on what works well in collaborative pro bono projects. It provides tips on how to attract pro bono partners and maintain effective partnerships, and explores the full range of models of pro bono legal service delivery.

 

What Works indicates that the key factors affecting the success of any pro bono partnership or project are the strength of the relationships between project partners, and the strength of the pro bono culture within the organisations that provide the pro bono assistance. What Works provides practical tips on how to encourage both.

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Majority of law firm pro bono done for organisations

25 January 2013

Over 60 percent of the pro bono work undertaken by large law firms is for organisations rather than individuals, according to the Final Report on the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey 2012. Four of the five areas of law and practice where most pro bono services were provided are only relevant to the legal needs of organisations: governance, DGR applications, commercial agreements and incorporations.

 

Partner and management support was nominated as the most crucial factor in the success of a pro bono program. Other factors identified as crucial included effective coordination of the program within the firm, strong commitment of individual lawyers to the pro bono ethos, and the capacity of the firm to undertake the work.

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National Pro Bono News: Issue 86 (March 2014)
Pro Bono Legal Services in Family Law and Family Violence: Understanding the Limitations and Opportunities
Pro Bono Partnerships and Models: A Practical Guide to What Works
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Pro Bono Manual
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