National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme
The Centre has introduced a Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme to encourage lawyers that work in corporations and government to undertake pro bono legal work. Cover is available at no charge to the applicant.
The Scheme, together with the first edition of The Australian In-House Legal Counsel Pro Bono Guide, prepared by DLA Phillips Fox (now DLA Piper), was launched by the Attorney-General of NSW, The Hon John Hatzistergos on 3 June 2009. The second edition of the The Australian In-House Legal Counsel Pro Bono Guide was produced in 2012 and updated in August 2013.
The Scheme removes one of the key constraints to pro bono - the need for in-house lawyers to have professional indemnity (“PI”) insurance to cover them for any civil claims arising from their pro bono legal work. In-house lawyers do not often hold PI insurance that covers their pro bono work.
The Policy is underwritten by LawCover and is held and administered by the Centre. The Policy insures lawyers and paralegals who do pro bono legal work on projects approved by the Centre.
A project is defined broadly, for example, can be legal work associated with an existing relationship that a corporation has with a charity, a multi-partner project involving a law firm pro bono program or just a single legal case. While it must conform with the definition of "pro bono legal work" based on the Law Council of Australia's definition, it will also be assessed using the definition which applies to signatories of the Centre’s Aspirational Target which is consistent with the Law Council of Australia’s definition but is more specific about certain activities that have been considered "grey areas" in some definitional debates.
Lawyers may seek cover under the policy by completing the Application Form and submitting it to the Centre for approval. Once approved, the Policy will provide insurance cover, subject to terms and conditions, for all lawyers and paralegals that work on that project.
The Policy is a “safety net” policy so cover will only extend to circumstances where no other PI insurance covers an approved project.
There is no application fee or charge to be paid by the applicant. The Centre has paid the policy premium and will cover the excess payable on any claim.
The Register of approved pro bono projects can be viewed here.
The responsibility for coordination of each project will rest with a supervising lawyer. This lawyer could be in a pro bono clearing house, a law firm or in-house but must be the person who completes the Application Form. Responsibility for providing legal advice and holding appropriate practising certificates will rest with the particular lawyers providing the advice.
The Centre provides "National Pro Bono Project" letterhead for use in all correspondence relating to the project that makes clear that the legal work is provided by the individual lawyers, not their corporate or government employer.
Amendments to the Legal Profession Act 2004 in Victoria which commenced operation on 2 May 2012 removed restrictions that prevented holders of corporate practicing certificates from engaging in pro bono legal practice. Changes were made to the practising certificate regime in NSW and Queensland in 2009 to facilitate provision of pro bono legal work across all classes of practising certificate. Pro bono legal services provided through the project must still be supervised by a legal practitioner holding an unrestricted principal practising certificate.
In other States and Territories practising certificates do not restrict the holder from providing pro bono legal services.
For further information or to make an application, download the files below.
In-House Legal Counsel Pro Bono Guide >
PI Policy Application Form >
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