Victorian in-house lawyers now allowed to undertake pro bono work
5 April 2012
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre welcomes the passing of legislation in Victoria which will allow in-house lawyers to undertake pro bono legal work in the same way as their private practice counterparts and in-house lawyers in other parts of the Australia.
The Legal Profession and Public Notaries Amendment Bill 2012 was passed by the Victorian Parliament on 27 March, and given Royal Assent on 3 April. It amends the Legal Profession Act 2004 to remove restrictions that prevented holders of corporate practicing certificates from engaging in pro bono legal practice.
Until now, the practising certificates available to Victoria’s in-house lawyers limited them to providing legal advice to their employer only. Now, Victoria’s 2,700 in-house lawyers who work for businesses, governments or community organisations will be able to use their professional expertise to assist in addressing unmet legal need by doing pro bono legal work outside their workplace.
The legislation followed lobbying by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, the Public Interest Law Clearing House VIC (PILCH) ,the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) and DLA Piper that raised concerns about legislative barriers being the principal obstacle to in-house lawyers undertaking pro bono work in Victoria. Queensland and New South Wales have already lifted similar restrictions on corporate practising certificates and there are efforts underway to work towards similar reforms in other jurisdictions.
John Corker, Director of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre said, “The increased pro bono capacity that results from these reforms is great news for the many disadvantaged and marginalised Victorians who cannot afford legal assistance”.
“Now that this barrier is being removed in Victoria, it is a good time for national corporations to develop their pro bono practices and take advantage of this new opportunity to give back to the community”.
The Act must now be proclaimed in order to come into operation. Orders are being prepared to fix 1 May 2012 as the date of commencement for the Act.
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