Proctor : September 2019
40 PROCTOR | September 2019 Breaking down the barriers Embrace the privilege of pro bono service CONTRIBUTED BY THE QLS ACCESS TO JUSTICE PRO BONO COMMITTEE Last year Queensland Law Society’s Access to Justice Scorecard revealed that more than 70% of respondents believed affordability of legal representation, and inadequate funding of legal assistance, were the most significant barriers to Queenslanders accessing justice and legal services. While the efforts of lawyers should never been seen to relieve the government of its obligation to provide for its citizens, the reality is that legal aid in Australia is in a funding crisis. The result is that thousands of Australians are being deprived of access to justice and legal service each year. Pro bono lawyering meets part of this gap. Lawyers have the privilege and fortune of being members of an esteemed profession and officers of the court. With such privilege and fortune comes a responsibility. It’s a moral and professional responsibility to not only promote access to justice and uphold the rule of law, but to also take steps to ensure those less fortunate in society have access to justice and legal services. Many QLS members are volunteers at community legal centres around the state, where individual lawyers give of their time to provide advice and assistance. LawRight also plays an integral role in helping practitioners do pro bono work. At the recent QLS Open Day, the QLS Access to Justice Pro Bono Committee (the committee) facilitated a session dedicated to the importance of pro bono work. The panel discussion (pictured) highlighted how easy it is for practitioners, from all parts of the profession and of all ages, to undertake pro bono work. Importantly, the discussion focused on pro bono work as the provision of legal services on a free or significantly reduced fee basis, without the expectation of a commercial return. This work also includes the provision of limited scope, or discrete task legal services, on a free, or reduced fee, basis.1 The Deputy Chair of the committee, Steve Herd, chaired a panel discussing the ease with which members of the profession can work with community and other legal services to provide pro bono assistance. The panel members were: • Rose Mackay, a senior lawyer and the Supervisor of LawRight’s Pro Bono Connect and Legal Clinic Service • Charlotte Yellowlees, a senior associate with Salvos Legal • Matilda Alexander, a solicitor with Legal Aid Queensland and President of the LGBTI Legal Service • Brandon Hoffley, a lawyer with Moray and Agnew • Luke Furness, a lawyer with Clayon Utz • Alexandra Moles, a partner with HopgoodGanim. During the discussion, Rose explained how LawRight connects practitioners with those in need of pro bono legal help. LawRight’s core service is the Pro Bono Connect Referral Service, which is made up of the Public Interest Referral Service, the Queensland Law Society Referral Service and the Bar Association of Queensland (BAQ) Referral Service. Through this service, LawRight coordinates pro bono referrals in civil matters for disadvantaged and vulnerable people who cannot afford private legal services or obtain Legal Aid. Referrals can be matched with firms appropriately located and with the expertise and capacity to assist.