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National Pro Bono News: Issue 68 (August 2011)


Welcome to the August 2011 edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas - please email info@nationalprobono.org.au. In this edition, read about:
NEWS:
Centre’s report calls for increased role of legal community in disaster planning
A research report prepared by the Centre has called on Australia’s state and territory legal communities to adopt disaster response plans to deal with emergencies such as those which decimated parts of Queensland and Victoria earlier this year.
 
The research report Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Planning for the Legal Profession in Australia is endorsed by the Law Council of Australia, and includes a step by step guide on how to create a disaster response plan.
 
The research report includes extensive input from the experiences of people who organised and delivered legal assistance responses to the Victorian bushfires of 2009, the flood and cyclone emergencies in Queensland, and the Western Australian bushfires.
 
Some key findings in the report include:
 
  • many of those affected did not recognise insurance as being a legal issue in Australia
  • having a strongly branded and coordinated legal response to the disaster is important to ensure that there is minimal duplication in effort. This results in a more robust and efficient response to victims with specific legal needs; 
  • the immediate and the longer term legal assistance required are different and the response needs to vary accordingly;
  • managing the large number of lawyers who volunteered to help with relief efforts presented a challenge for those coordinating the response; and
  • members of the Australian legal profession have undertaken thousands of hours of legal work to support victims of these disasters much of it without charge to the client.
 
“The Insurance Council of Australia figures show between 7500-10,000 people had their insurance claims rejected in the past twelve months, but less than 1000 of these have sought a review by the Financial Ombudsman Service. “There are probably a lot more people out there who just don’t know they have a right of review or how to pursue it,” Mr Corker said. 
 
Law Council of Australia President Alexander Ward added the legal profession was an essential part of the emergency response process to any disaster.
 
A copy of the full report or just the step by step guide are available for download.
A copy of the media release can be found here.
 
NEWS:
UK Attorney-General visits the Centre
 
The Attorney-General for England and Wales, the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC sought out the Centre at UNSW for a visit whilst in Australia for the Commonwealth Law Ministers and the Quintet of Attorney’s-General meetings. 
 
The Attorney enjoyed a presentation that compared the development of pro bono in Australia as against that in England and Wales with some references to key dates in the US pro bono development. Some of the key differences observed were:
 
Australia
  • A law firm led movement
  • Pro Bono Clearing Houses in each State and Territory are a feature of development.
  • The National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s governance model and independence has been useful for development.
  • National Pro Bono Aspirational Target has provided a benchmark for firms.
 
England and Wales
  • A-G, Envoy and clearing house led movement
  • Strong support from the Bar Pro Bono Unit has been important to development
  • UK has had a more comprehensive legal aid system than Australia
  • International pro bono has been a more significant factor in the UK
  • US based firms in London have been a catalyst for development of pro bono culture in the UK.
  • Strong cooperation between clearing houses has been important to development.
 
It was noted that in Australia the 2010 national survey of 25 largest law firms showed an average of 29 hours/FTE lawyer pro bono legal work per annum and a 59% participation rate of lawyers whilst informal figures from England and Wales (Legal Business Oct 2010 -15 firms) showed an average of 13.7 hours/FTE lawyer.
 
Whilst at the UNSW Law Faculty, the Attorney was also able to discuss prison policy with a number of leading academics in criminology and criminal law.
UK AG visit
Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC, Attorney-General of the United Kingdom,
with Brendan Edgeworth, Head of School of Law at the University of NSW
and John Corker, Leanne Ho and Peter Stapleton from the Centre
BEST PRACTICE:
What are the key characteristics of a leading pro bono firm in Australia?
Over the past 15 years, pro bono practice has become an important part of many Australian law firms. Recently we were asked what are the key characteristics of the leading pro bono firms. With the help of some leading firms we have produced 14 defining characteristics:
 
1.    The pro bono practice addresses unmet legal need, in matters where Legal Aid is unavailable.
2.    Decisions to accept pro bono matters are made in accordance with a coherent pro bono policy.
3.    The firm has a dedicated professional leading its pro bono practice.
4.    Pro bono work looks and feels like other areas of practice. It is integrated into the firm's other practice procedures, including engagement letters, time recording, risk management, precedents, continuing legal education and induction.
5.    Pro bono work has a meaningful role in lawyers' performance and assessment. It is treated as or equivalent to billable work, is recognised as part of the assessment process, is a criteria for consideration in promotion or for calculation of incentive payments.
6.    More than two-thirds of lawyers in the firm participate in pro bono work as part of their legal practice each year.
7.    All parts of the legal practice - departments, practice groups and offices, with lawyers at every level - are involved in pro bono work at roughly equal levels.
8.    The firm is a signatory to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target and/or performs pro bono work at least at a level of 35 hours per lawyer per year. 
9.    There is real knowledge of the issues involved in the areas which are the focus of the pro bono practice.
10.There is a willingness to conduct matters outside of the firm's usual areas of practice, and the firm provides or organises training to build capacity for partners and lawyers to enable them to provided pro bono representation in legal areas and for clients outside of the firm's usual legal practice.
11.There are deep relationships with a range of pro bono clients, and a broad range of legal services are provided on a pro bono basis, including:
·         Legal advice and representation for both individuals and non-profit organisations
·         Legal research
·         Training and legal education
·         Submission writing and law reform
12.There are strong project and referral relationships with pro bono clearing houses, community legal organisations, Legal Aid and ATSILS, which may include secondment arrangements.
13.The firm is recognised externally for expertise in areas in which it is involved through pro bono practice. 
14.The firm promotes pro bono throughout the profession, and is involved in policy discussions regarding the development, structure and focus of pro bono work.
 
We would welcome your comments. Please contact us via email at info@nationalprobono.org.au.
 
NEW RESOURCE:
Social Justice Opportunities Career Guide launched
 
Social Justice OpportunitiesGeoffrey Robertson QC and Weller ZhengSocial Justice Opportunities - A Guide for Law Students and New Lawyers and the accompanying new SJ Opps website at www.sjopps.net.au were launched at the recent National Australian Law Students Association (ALSA) conference held at UNSW and by Weller Zheng from ALSA and Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. at his address on ‘The International Justice Game’. The address formed part of the Law, Governance and Social Justice public discussion series initiated by the Law Faculty of the University of New South Wales and co-sponsored by the law faculties of the University of Sydney and University of Technology, Sydney.
 
The Centre and ALSA’s initiative is to provide information to law students and young lawyers about the opportunities to be involved in furthering social justice right
throughout their legal career, from being a law student to employment, and
to promote the pro bono ethos.Geoffrey Robertson QC
 
It is proposed that 10,000 copies of the Guide will be distributed through law career fairs and law student associations for the next three years and the information on the SJ Opps website be kept up to date on an ongoing basis. We welcome your suggestions for additional content or links on the website.
 
Also we encourage you to put a link on your website to the SJ Opps website and provide this logo to assist.
SJO logo
 
For copies of the guide and for further information please contact Daniel at the Centre on 02 93857381 or info@nationalprobono.org.au.
 
Launch of the Social Justice Opportunities Guide
Geoffrey Robertson QC, Weller Zheng from ALSA, staff from the Centre and other contributors to the Guide
 
PROFILE:
A new way to encourage social justice in students - the UTS Brennan Justice and Leadership Award
 
University of Technology, Sydney
The Centre had its first volunteer from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) this semester - Alex Jackson. We met with Lachlan Ball, the Equity Officer of the UTS Law Students’ Society, earlier this year to discuss UTS’s Brennan Justice and Leadership Program and the Law Students’ Society’s database of opportunities for volunteering in the social justice sphere (still a work in progress). Alex is a participant in the Program and volunteers to assist in the database’s construction, along with volunteering at the Centre. She provides more information on the Program below.
 
The University of Technology, Sydney’s Faculty of Law is encouraging student activism through service to the community and reflection on justice and society, both in a legal and non-legal context. This is being realised through a new award for UTS law students, the Brennan Justice and Leadership Award (see Faculty or Law Students’ Society websites). Students will receive the award at the end of their degree where they have completed two components – a leadership through service component and a reflections on justice component.
 
The service component requires students to complete 200 hours of volunteer work with a community service focus over the course of their degree. In the reflections component students gain credits towards the program by attending speaker events and discussion groups with other participants to encourage active reflection on the talks and also on their experiences through the volunteer component of the program. Recent speakers have included Tanya Segelov from Turner Freeman’s on “Mass Tort Litigation: Seeking justice for asbestos victims” and Professor Julian Disney AO speaking about “Global Governance and Social Justice.”
 
The program has so far been a success, with over 400 students currently signed up and feedback on the lectures overwhelmingly positive. The Brennan Program is designed to leave UTS law students with a strong awareness about social and cultural issues in Australian society and add meaning to their future studies and work. Dean of Law Jill McKeough said that “the Brennan Program will allow the development of the values and attitudes which will stand our students in good stead into the future”. Looking ahead, the program intends to become an important part of studying law at UTS and could provide a model for other Australian universities looking to promote student activism and social responsibility.
 
More information can be found on the UTS LSS website, including the handbook and study guide.
INTERNATIONAL:
Canadian Governor-General calls for 10% of law firm hours to be pro bono by 2017
 
In a speech entitled “The Legal Profession in a Smart and Caring Nation: A Vision for2017”, his Excellency the Right Hon. David Johnson, Governor-General of Canada, asks how do Canadians craft a new definition of the lawyer as a professional. This challenge is put forward in the context of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation which occurs in 2017. He says part of the answer lies with moving the industry standard of pro bono work from 3% to 10% of firm’s hours and building these “honourable hours” rigorously into the firm’s revenue.
 
Governor-General Johnson warns that society will change the social contract with lawyers and redefine professionalism unless the challenge of lawyers staying just –and continuously striving for the good is met. In the relationship between the lawyer and social need he suggests that lawyers must regain their focus on serving the public by:
 
  • Simplifying legal procedures and making them more cost effective
  • Avoiding the tort law morass of U. S. Law
  • Examine the scope of practice to unbundle activities which do not require legal professionals, and work with paralegal associations to enhance their competencies
  • Move the industry standard of pro bono work, including cases, teaching and law reform, from the current rate of less than 3% to 10%, and build these “honourable hours” rigorously into the firm’s revenue.
 
The full speech addresses the relationship between the lawyer and justice, trust, education, social need, the firm and public service and calls for a renewed model of professionalism for a smart and caring nation to be the gift of the legal profession to Canada on the occasion of its 150th birthday. The full speech is recommended reading and can be found here.
EVALUATION:
Centre conducting review of the Pro Bono Practices Guide
In July 2009, the Centre launched the Pro Bono Practices Guide – A national guide to the pro bono practices of 30 Australian law firms, a joint publication of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre and NSW Young Lawyers. The Guide was the second edition to the Practices Guide NSW – published in 2007.
 
The Guide provides comprehensive information about the pro bono practices of 30 law firms across Australia and illustrates the unique and interesting nature of each firm’s program and its pro bono philosophy and culture. The Guide was published for a student audience, but has proven to be useful for a broader audience, including the community legal sector, law firms, pro bono clearing houses and government.
 
With a view to ascertaining the usefulness of a third edition of the Guide, the Centre is conducting an evaluation of the Guide. For this purpose, the Centre will be contacting its stakeholders shortly seeking feedback on the Guide.
 
If you would like to take part in the evaluation or provide comment, please contact the Centre’s Policy and Research Officer Maria Twomey on (02) 9385 7775 or maria[at]nationalprobono.org.au. Your input will be greatly appreciated.
JOB:
PILCH in Victoria seeks a Lawyer for the PilchConnect service
PilchConnect
The Public Interest Law Clearing House in Melbourne seeks a full time Lawyer for PilchConnect, which is PILCH’s specialist legal service for not-for-profit community organisations. The service provides assistance to community groups via a legal information web portal, training programs, telephone advice and legal referrals. PilchConnect also undertakes law reform and policy work aimed at improving the legal framework for the not-for-profit sector.
 
More information can be found at www.pilch.org.au/jobs. Applications close Monday 12 September 2011.
PRO BONO IN THE NEWS: JULY - AUGUST 2011
 
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from July - August 2011. Click through to read any news article in full.
 
23 August 2011 - The New Lawyer
Clayton Utz has disclosed the statistics around its pro bono work in the past year. It opened 567 new pro bono files, and 774 lawyers provided pro bono advice and representation. A total of 1064 pro bono files were conducted. In an incredible number breakdown, the firm reveals that 349,405 hours of pro bono work were performed since the firm's pro bono practice was started in July 1997.

22 August 2011 - The Guardian
A fresh wave of law centre closures and redundancies is feared as the government introduces plans this week for an additional 10% cut in legal aid fees. The proposal is being laid before parliament by the Ministry of Justice to cut costs in what it alleges is the "most expensive legal aid system in the world". The move comes as another legal advice charity, Law for All, went into liquidation.

19 August 2011 - The Australian
The peak organisation representing Victoria's community legal centres has called for continued government funding for the legal centre behind the High Court challenge to the federal government's Malaysia Solution. According to the state's Federation of CLCs, it is entirely appropriate and crucial for democracy that funding should be given to Melbourne's Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre.

18 August 2011 - Lawyers Weekly
PILCH NSW has launched a project designed to assist individuals in immigration detention throughout Australia. The Offshore Asylum Seeker Project will aim to meet the rapidly expanding demand for legal services following a High Court decision late last year which established that individuals in immigration detention may be entitled to judicial review when refused a protection visa.
 
4 August 2011- American Bar Association Journal
Skype can be used to talk to your spouse, catch up with a friend, or talk over a business matter. The Minnesota Justice Foundation has found another use for the technology - linking low-income people in need of legal help with lawyers who have the expertise to counsel them.

2 August 2011- The West Australian
Housing Minister Troy Buswell has rejected claims that his "big stick approach" to social housing tenants is racially discriminatory. The Equal Opportunity Commission has been flooded with complaints from indigenous tenants of State-owned housing who have been evicted under the "three strikes and you're out" policy.

1 August 2011 - The National Law Journal
Judge David Tatel and lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department and major law firms are among the members of a new task force dedicated to expanding pro bono work. The task force is a project of the Legal Services Corp, the federally funded nonprofit that is the largest source of funding for civil legal aid. Republicans in Congress have warned the organization that it faces potentially deep budget cuts.

28 July 2011 - 7:30 (ABC)
Last year 7.30 revealed the Salvation Army's plans to open a commercial law firm in Sydney's CBD. Now we can report that the new firm is up and running and already taking business away from some of its big corporate cousins. Salvos Legal charges market rates for its specialty legal services, with profits channelled straight back into the Salvos' free legal program for society's most needy.

11 July 2011 - Law Council of Australia
The Law Council has welcomed the announcement by the Attorney General regarding funding for the establishment and administration of a clearinghouse at the Council's Secretariat to support the Australian legal profession's pro bono work in the Asia-Pacific. The LCA said the requests are expected to come from a range of government and NGOs, courts and legal professional associations.

8 July 2011 - Commonwealth Attorney-General
Attorney-General Robert McClelland today announced $475,000 in Australian Government assistance to help develop the legal profession in countries across the Pacific and strengthen expertise in the rule of law. Mr McClelland said the announcement coincides with next week's Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM) in Sydney, which will have a strong focus on the Pacific legal profession.

6 July 2011 - Lawyers Weekly
The Sydney-based head of DLA Piper pro bono - International, Nicolas Patrick, will fly to London later this month to attend a conference bringing together all of the firm's dedicated pro bono partners. Patrick was appointed to the role, in which he oversees DLA Piper's pro bono programs across Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific, in May.
 
11 May 2011 - The Guardian
Lord Goldsmith is an enthusiastic advocate of an ingenious scheme that shows the potential for pro-bono work to redouble its impact in helping those deserving of legal support. The Access to Justice Foundation, of which he was a founding member and is now chair, has so far raised 130,000 from court orders in which the losing side has been required to pay pro-bono lawyers' notional costs.

 

 

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