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National Pro Bono News: Issue 62 (October 2010)


Welcome to the October 2010 edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (the Centre). We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas. In this edition, read about:
PUBLICATION:
Stories of Pro Bono Alleviating Poverty - Anti-Poverty Week 2010

Anti-Poverty Week 2010

On 17 October 2010 the National Pro Bono Resource Centre released a set of 12 stories demonstrating how pro bono legal services have helped alleviate poverty, to celebrate the launch of Anti-Poverty Week 2010. These stories come from law firms and pro bono clearing houses across Australia and illustrate how the legal profession can make a difference to the lives of the marginalised and disadvantaged.
 
The stories cover:
  • A disabled person and a mobile phone contract
  • A homeless woman defending assault police charges
  • A refugee negotiating a motor accident settlement
  • Exploited international students obtaining fair wages and legal education
  • A Somalia refugee facing eviction from public housing
  • An Aboriginal Corporation in remote WA being helped with business and governance issues
  • Impoverished retirees facing eviction from a retirement village
  • Legal education for the long-term unemployed
  • Assisting vulnerable tenants in a caravan park
  • Helping Aboriginal artists in remote communities create and protect their intellectual property
  • Helping victims of people trafficking in Vietnam
  • Assisting Canberra’s homeless
 
The stories can be downloaded here.
 
For further information please download the media release, or contact the Centre at info@nationalprobono.org.au or on (02) 9385 7381.
 
NEWS:
The ‘Surround Model’ Wins This Year’s NSW Pro Bono Partnership Award
The 2010 NSW Justice Awards again provided an inspiring evening of stories of those who work relentlessly to improve justice for others.
 
In 1999, to place pro bono legal and medical services in a day time refuge centre for women in Kings Cross was very new – the prevailing view was that it was much better to surround the women with services rather than make them seek those services. The partnership between Blake Dawson and Lou’s Place in Kings Cross, that did this for the first time 10 years ago, was recognised this year as the winner of the National Pro Bono Partnership Award.
 
The award has as one of its key criteria the degree of innovation in the partnership. This was demonstrated by its continuing success - the ‘surround model’ has gone on to underpin the Homeless Persons Legal Services throughout Australia (NSW HPLS was also nominated for the award) and is now recognised as an effective service delivery model in the US and the UK.
 
In responding to the award, Anne Cregan, pro bono partner at Blake Dawson said that rather than the smell of Dettol and disinfectant, Lou’s Place had the smell of home and warm food and it was only the affected women’s trust in Lou’s Place that allowed the lawyers from Blake’s to do their job.
 
Ern Phang, a practitioner from a small practice in Parramatta (Phang Legal), won the Law Society Presidents Award for always being willing to take on pro bono referrals from the NSW Law Society Pro Bono Scheme. In responding to the award he said he was proud of creating a legal practice that was open to and served the community rather than just a business that sold legal products.
 
A full list of the nominees and winners of this year’s Justice Awards can be found at www.lawfoundation.net.au/justice_awards/awards.
 
NEWS:
CLC Volunteers website audit
CLC Volunteers websiteIn 2005 the National Association of Community Legal Centres and the National Pro Bono Resource Centre collaborated to launch the CLC Volunteers website. This is a national database of Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILs) containing information about current volunteering opportunities.
 
Since launch the number of hits received has continued to grow. The number of unique page views has more than doubled since 2008, from a monthly average of 5,429 to 11,396so far in 2010. The Centre receives excellent feedback from students, graduates and lawyers who appreciate having a ‘one-stop shop’ where they can find out which Centres need volunteers and what sort of work this may entail.
 
This year improvements were made to the website and it was decided to carry out a thorough audit. At the end of September all 233 CLCs and ATSILs were contacted by mail and email, provided with a copy of their profile and asked to check if changes were required. So far 66 profiles have been changed.
 
For more information please visit the website or contact the Centre on info@nationalprobono.org.au or on (02) 9385 7381.
 
PROFILE:
The Unique AGS Pro Bono Practice
Bronwyn NeroniIn March 2009, the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) appointed Senior Lawyer, Bronwyn Neroni as its very first Pro Bono Manager. Based in the Brisbane office, Bronwyn develops and manages a growing program of pro bono work across AGS's national network of offices. Her appointment reflects AGS’s strong commitment to pro bono work as a firm after becoming a signatory to the National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s Aspirational Target (‘the Aspirational Target’) in November 2008.
 
The uniqueness of the AGS pro bono practice stems from the fact that it is a government-owned legal services business and a statutory authority established under Part VIIIB of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth) for the purpose of serving the interests of the Commonwealth[1]. As a result AGS does not undertake pro bono work in any matter against a Commonwealth department, agency or officer, or where there is an unacceptable potential for conflict of interest between the matter and AGS's work for government  Bronwyn Negroni                               clients. AGS's power to undertake pro bono work is also limited to matters that AGS is permitted to undertake under its enabling legislation, the Judiciary Act 1903.
 
Despite these restrictions, AGS manages to offer pro bono services that harmonise with its role and that utilise the specialised skills and knowledge of its specialist government lawyers[2]. The AGS pro bono practice, while different from the pro bono programs run by the private law firms, has its own pro bono policy and procedures in place for the approval of projects[3]. Pro bono coordinators in each office across Australia provide input into the national program and the program provides opportunities for a broad range of people to be involved in pro bono work.
 
AGS is a government-owned legal practice offering services to the Australian Government, statutory authorities and agencies in competition with private law firms. AGS has been providing legal services to government for over 100 years and was converted to a government business enterprise in 1999. AGS’s main office is in Canberra and other offices are located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin. Over 340 AGS lawyers work across the 8 offices.
 
While AGS's lawyers have had a long history of supporting pro bono work in their personal capacity, they now undertake pro bono legal activities as a firm[4]. On top of sponsored projects, individual lawyers are still encouraged by AGS to individually volunteer out of work hours.
 
AGS Pro Bono Activities
 
A key focus for AGS’s pro bono program is to enhance access to justice for the disadvantaged and marginalised members of the community by supporting existing community sector initiatives. AGS lawyers have worked on secondment at legal clearing houses and community legal centres across Australia, including the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) Victoria, PILCH NSW, QPILCH, the Arts Law Centre of Australia, JusticeNet SA, the Employment Law Centre of WA and the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House. Since May 2010, AGS's Canberra graduate program has provided for graduate lawyers to work on secondment with Street Law, an outreach service in the ACT for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless (a project of the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre ACT).
 
AGS has assisted the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) in establishing LawHelp, a referral service that aims to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 access to pro bono legal assistance. AGS is the founding legal services provider under this new service, and other lawyers and firms (Clayton Utz, Minter Ellison Lawyers and Peter Tree SC from Derwent and Tamar Chambers, Tasmania) have agreed to accept referrals since its commencement. Likely areas of practice include legal interpretations, employment issues, tax issues, corporation management issues, consumer protection and trade practices issues, intellectual property arrangements, property matters and other areas of law subject to the approval of LawHelp’s Assessment Panel.[5] To complement this work, AGS's national employment law team has collaborated with ORIC to develop a series of templates and guides aimed at assisting Indigenous corporations to better manage their obligations as employers. These are expected to be launched in November.
 
Launch of Street LawAGS undertakes a range of other projects which draw on AGS's specialist expertise to enhance access to justice. In September 2010 its national trade practices team developed and delivered training to staff of community legal centres in NSW and WA in relation to changes in consumer law, working in conjunction with the ACCC, ASIC and the state Offices of Fair Trading. In addition AGS is taking an active role in developing Australia's international pro bono work, particularly in support of government lawyers in Asia-Pacific countries. In April 2010 AGS developed and presented a series of legal training sessions to Papua New Guinea government lawyers, and planning is underway for a further series of advanced legal training in Port Moresby in November 2010. AGS has hosted a study tour by a delegation from the Papua New Guinea Solicitor General's office to assist in its development as an efficient and effective government legal practice. AGS also assisted in the production of a Benchbook for the Samoan District Court in late 2009.
 AGS Lawyer Sally Davis in PNG
AGS Chief Operating Officer Louise Vardanega, Manager and
 Principal Solicitor of Street Law Amy Kilpatrick, ACT Attorney-
General Simon Corbell, Commonwealth Attorney-General Robert
McClelland and Federal Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh.

In addition to secondments and projects, AGS undertakes a limited range of legal matters for not-for-profit organisations in areas of law that do not bring it into conflict with its work for government clients. AGS has advised organisations including the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation ACT and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia.

AGS lawyer Sally Davis conducting training for PNG government employees 
AGS Leading Government Lawyers in Pro Bono     
 
AGS is currently leading the way in the provision of committed pro bono services by government lawyers. With the goal of meeting or exceeding the Aspirational Target, AGS is dedicated to investing in pro bono work in spite of the limits on the pro bono work that is able to be performed by government lawyers. AGS's remarkable engagement in providing pro bono services demonstrates a model for participation of other government lawyers across the nation.

[1] Ss.55I to 55ZE of Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth)
[2] See National Pro Bono News: Issue 49 at http://www.nationalprobono.org.au/page.asp?from=1&id=232 by Leanne Bowen, National Practice Manager with AGS's Government Practice.
[3] See National Pro Bono News: Issue 49 at http://www.nationalprobono.org.au/page.asp?from=1&id=232 by Leanne Bowen, National Practice Manager with AGS's Government Practice.
STAFFING:
New Senior Policy Advisor/Project Manager
Leanne Ho will take up the position of Senior Policy Advisor/Project Manager at the NPBRC at the end of November 2010.
 
Leanne is a graduate of Sydney University in law/arts and political science from the mid 1990’s. 
 
She has worked extensively as an international legal officer and manager with United Nations Missions in Kosovo and most recently in Liberia.
 
Previously she worked as a caseworker and community legal education officer at the Welfare Rights Centre in Sydney and as a legal development manager and legal editor/team leader with legal publishers Butterworths and Lexis Nexis in Sydney.
PRO BONO IN THE NEWS: September - October 2010

  

Articles of interest to the pro bono community from September - October 2010. Click through to read any news article in full.

 

Pro bono helps alleviate poverty

17 October 2010 - Lawyers Weekly
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre has released a report detailing instances where pro bono legal work has in some cases stopped clients from being homeless. The Stories of Pro Bono Lawyers Alleviating Poverty report was launched by the director of the Resource Centre, John Corker, to coincide with Anti Poverty Week 2010 from 17 to 23 October.

Disabled woman sues bus company

15 October 2010 - Sydney Morning Herald
A wheelchair-bound woman suing a bus company for discrimination says her action is a fight for justice. Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) lawyer Chris Ronalds SC, representing Ms Haraksin pro bono, said her client was not seeking any compensation in the case. "She is pursuing the matter entirely as a public interest matter," Ms Ronalds told the court.

UK: First National Pro Bono Centre to launch

13 October 2010 - Family Law News
The first ever National Pro Bono Centre (NPBC) is set to open formally on Tuesday 19 October at its new premises at 48 Chancery Lane, in the heart of the legal community. The centre draws together the main legal profession's charities, the Bar Pro Bono Unit, LawWorks and the ILEX Pro Bono Forum.


Run-down legal centre inaccessible to those most in need

13 October 2010 - Northcote Leader
Darebin Community Legal Centre is desperately searching for funds to move from its unsafe headquarters in Preston, but pleas to all levels of government have attracted little support. Centre administrator Maria Georgiou said it urgently needed to move to another Preston site because its High St premises were unsafe, overcrowded and “thoroughly inadequate” for clients, volunteers and staff.


UK: Clifford Chance places value on pro bono efforts of £17m a year

13 October 2010 - Legal Week
Clifford Chance (CC) has estimated the value of its pro bono activities last year at £17m - breaking convention among City firms by defining the value of its non-profit efforts. The figure is contained in CC's 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, which estimates the value based on 57,071 hours invested by its lawyers and 2,274 invested by its non-legal staff in community and pro bono efforts.

Justice sought in Bowraville murders

6 October 2010 - The Coffs Coast Advocate
A FORMER Bowraville resident may become the first person to be re-charged under changes to double jeopardy law which came into force in 2006. The new legal push by the three victims' families is being assisted by The Public Interest Law Clearing House, a senior counsel and international law firm Allens Arthur Robinson, working on a pro bono basis.


Many don't know rights says Footscray legal centre

2 October 2010 - Maribyrnong Leader
REFUGEES, unaware of their rights and assistance services, are increasingly bearing the burden of debt and poor housing conditions, Footscray Community Legal Centre has said. The centre last week established two new free services to help asylum seekers and refugees living or working in the West with general issues such as fines, debt, insurance, divorce, family violence, Centrelink and housing.

 

UK: Legal Aid scheme ruled unlawful

30 September 2010 - BBC News
The tendering process for the Legal Aid scheme for family law cases is unlawful and must be changed, the High Court has ruled. The Legal Services Commission, which runs the 2.2bn scheme in England and Wales, has cut the number of firms able to offer legal aid from 2,400 to 1,300. The Law Society argued the scheme used was so flawed it threatened to create "legal aid deserts" around the country.

 

Wauchope solicitor in line for top gong

30 September 2010 - Wauchope Gazette
Local solicitor David Lakin, from J.M. Glass and Son, has been nominated for a Pro Bono Partnership Award as part of this year's 2010 Justice Awards. In July 2003 Mr Lakin saw a need for pro bono legal advice in Wauchope, and approached the Wauchope Information and Neighbourhood Centre. He has been delivering free legal advice through the WINC office every fortnight for the past seven years.

 

UK: CC litigation partner made chairman at pro bono organisation A4ID

29 September 2010 - Legal Week
Clifford Chance (CC) litigation partner Roger Leese has been named chairman of pro bono organisation Advocates for International Development (A4ID). A4ID acts as a broker between law firms and developing countries that require legal assistance, to aid their international development, trade programmes and debt situation.

 

Legal Aid client base grows in Brimbank

28 September 2010 - Keilor, Taylors Lakes & Sydenham Star
More than 4000 Brimbank residents are flocking to Legal Aid each year, the highest rate in metropolitan Melbourne. Between 2009-2010, Legal Aid lawyers in Brimbank reported a 7.3 per cent surge in Civil Law clients seeking advice, while 2.5 per cent less people approached lawyers on criminal matters.


I was framed for murder, says Mallard

27 September 2010 - ABC News
The man wrongfully convicted of murdering WA woman Pamela Lawrence says he still suffers abuse from members of the public who think he is "some sort of psycho". In 1995, Andrew Mallard was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail. He served 12 years in prison until the combined efforts of a journalist, politician and a team of high-profile, pro bono lawyers finally saw him exonerated.

 

Animal law out of the cage

24 September 2010 - The New Lawyer
It's official. After many years floundering in the back of the classroom and the hallways of numerous top tier law firms across Australia, animal law has arrived. Several years ago, Professor David Weisbrot AM, then-President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, foreshadowed this event by announcing that "animal protection may potentially be the next great social justice movement."

 

USA: Forced Pro Bono: But is it Legal?

21 September 2010 - The Wall Street Journal
The Mississippi Supreme Court is considering a proposed rule to require lawyers to provide at least 20 hours of pro bono work. The rule has been proposed to try to help the thousands of low-income residents who can not afford a lawyer in civil matters. If Mississippi does adopt mandatory pro bono, could it be legally challenged? We checked in with a few wise legal elders who see no problem.

 

USA: Mississippi lawyers may have to provide free aid to poor

19 September 2010 - The Clarion-Ledger
The Mississippi Supreme Court is reviewing a proposal that would require lawyers to provide at least 20 hours of free service each year. The suggestion has raised the ire of some lawyers. Jackson County Bar Association President Jessica Dupont said members do what they can to help the poor and resolve to do more. "However, a mandatory pro bono rule would be unfair and demeaning to the legal profession."

 

Free legal service for women victims in the Hunter

16 September 2010 - Lakes Mail
The NSW Attorney General was in Toronto court to announce that women in Toronto and districts will have access to free legal advice and legal representation to obtain Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders. Newcastle, Belmont, Maitland and Cessnock have similarly been added to the 17 courts in NSW now offering the service under the NSW Government's Stop The Violence End The Silence initiative.

 

Council wants legal centre in Canterbury

14 September 2010 - Canterbury-Bankstown Express
Canterbury Council is aiming to start a partnership with Sydney law schools in a bid to secure a legal centre for residents after it elected to suspend talks with Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC). Canterbury needs provision of free legal services as much as Marrickville, Cr Furolo, Mayor of Canterbury said. We should be working with agents such as law schools to establish a legal centre.

Mick Young Scholarship trust torn apart by factions

14 September 2010 - Sydney Morning Herald
Factional fighting among trustees has raised questions about the Trust's viability. At the heart of the row are legal expenses for proposed changes to its constitution, believed to total over $30,000 already. This has angered some trustees due to the size of the bill and the decision to use commercial lawyers, who are charging several hundred dollars an hour for work that could potentially be available pro bono.
 

Canada: Cycling lawyers to pedal free advice

9 September 2010 - The Province
About 50 lawyers recently cycled from the Vancouver Courthouse to Victory Square, where they offered a day's worth of pro-bono legal advice to the needy. The ride was in memory of Dugald Christie, the founder of the Western Canada Society to Access Justice, who was struck and killed by a minivan in 2006 while on a cross-country bike ride to raise awareness about cuts to legal-aid funding.


 

 

 

 

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