Are you a corporate or government lawyer that wants to undertake pro bono legal work or perhaps develop a structured pro bono program within your legal team? This page contains resources and contacts to help you.
As an individual in-house lawyer you can volunteer in your own time at a Community Legal Centre or an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Legal Service. Search www.clcvolunteers.net.au for opportunities, or for more information on volunteering please refer to the 'Ready to Volunteer' section of the Social Justice Opportunities website.
If you are in a corporation and want to develop a pro bono program for your legal team the following models of ‘in-house pro bono’ provide a useful starting framework:
- Corporate Team Projects
- Working with Law Firm Pro Bono Programs
- Working with Pro Bono Clearing Houses
- Working with Community Legal Centres
For more details on these models see article, "Models of in-house corporate pro bono" in the September 2011 edition of The Australian Corporate Lawyer.
Here are some tips for developing in-house team projects based on experience:
- The support of the CEO and General Counsel are important if not essential
- Partnering with a law firm, a pro bono clearing house, or a community legal centre provides invaluable support. Discussions with a law firm with a developed pro bono program, staff from this centre or a pro bono clearing house is a very good place to start an investigation of your options. Call John Corker at this Centre on 02 9385 7381 if you would like to discuss.
For examples of Australian corporations who have recently developed pro bono programs for their in-house counsel see the article, "In-house pro bono grows with more to come" in the March 2012 edition of the NSW Law Society Journal, or the article from the July 2011 edition of National Pro Bono News, titled "In-house lawyers increase their involvement in pro bono."
An excellent up to date resource to assist corporate lawyers is The Australian In-House Legal Counsel Pro Bono Guide, prepared by DLA Piper and updated in August 2013.
If you are a government lawyer you can volunteer at a community legal centre or undertake legal work on behalf of a community organisation if you have a practising certificate. But you can also work within your agency to help it develop a policy that is supportive of its lawyers undertaking pro bono legal work. The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) has developed such a policy; Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department Guidance Note - AGD Lawyers and Pro Bono Legal Work. This is important because it authorises lawyers that wish to undertake pro bono legal work to make limited use of government resources for this purpose, and to access their flexitime and leave to do pro bono work.
As pro bono is a part of the culture of the legal profession, and fulfils an important professional responsibility for lawyers, agencies should see the issue of pro bono as an essential part of a lawyer’s professional development. It should be addressed in an agency’s employment policy.
Legal agencies such as AGD, the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS), Crown Law Queensland and the Victorian Government Solicitors Office are the ones leading government lawyers in developing this culture. Details of their programs and a broader view of government’s and government lawyer’s role in pro bono can be found in “Government Lawyers and Pro Bono Legal Work”, a paper given by John Corker, Director, National Pro Bono Resource Centre, at the Public Sector In-House Counsel Conference, 30 July 2012, Hotel Realm, Canberra, ACT. A copy of the AGS Legal Practice Policy - AGS and Pro Bono Work approved 24 September 2012 can be found here.
Regulatory/PI Insurance Issues
As of September 2013, all practising certificates in all States and Territories will authorise the holder to undertake pro bono legal services with a no fee "volunteer only" practising certificate being available in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. In Victoria this certificate restricts the holder to volunteering at a Community Legal Centre. In Queensland, the holder may undertake legal work on a pro bono project approved by the Centre. In WA, it is a matter for the Legal Practice Board of WA who imposes a'volunteer only' condition on a practising certificate on application.
Cover for professional indemnity insurance for pro bono legal work is available without charge through the National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme in all States and Territories (except WA) if required. NOTE: PI insurance may already be available for pro bono legal work if an individual or in-house team is working with a law firm, a Community Legal Centre or a pro bono clearing house as these entities will be already carrying PI insurance that covers the work. For further information please contact John Corker at the Centre or the regulatory authority in your jurisdiction.
For pro bono projects approved under the National Pro Bono PI Insurance Scheme see the Register of Approved Projects.
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