The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

Australia and Oceania

November 17, 2016

Pro Bono Values Project

“[I]t is the right thing to do. Everyone should have access to justice. A lot of people do not have access to justice because they cannot afford it. It is my spiritual view on humanity and my personal belief.” (Graduate Lawyer, Medium Law Firm.)

tree-finalWe recently learned about an intriguing empirical study that examines the motivations of lawyers who participate in pro bono work. Over a four month period, the University of Queensland Pro Bono Centre at TC Beirne School of Law interviewed lawyers across Australia.  The lawyers came from firms of various sizes, practice areas, and seniority levels. The Centre hoped that the study would offer insight into lawyers’ personal reasons for doing pro bono work and their thoughts about pro bono practice and trends. In June 2016, the Centre published their findings, which shed light on lawyers’ values.  Highlights and key takeaways include:

  • Intrinsic motivators were ranked highly by lawyers. Many described a “moral calling” to do pro bono work as a motivating factor.
  • Workplace settings and policies greatly influence and impact the involvement of law firm lawyers in pro bono.
  • A majority of lawyers who provide pro bono services reported that they apply the same professional and ethical standards to their pro bono work as to their fee-earning, billable work.
  •  Lawyers expressed a greater concern and preference for directing their pro bono efforts towards satisfying domestic, unmet legal needs as opposed to engaging in international pro bono work.

Check out the study, What does pro bono public mean to lawyers? A report on the findings of the Pro Bono Values Project,” to learn more.


What motivates you to do pro bono work? Leave a comment below!

May 15, 2015

Slave Labor in Australia


According to the International Labour Organization’s 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour, there were an estimated 20.9 million people in forced labor around the world at any given point between 2002 and 2012. The majority of those individuals, 68 percent (14.2 million), were forced to work by private individuals or enterprise in activities such as agriculture, construction, domestic work, and manufacturing. In Australia, most investigations of forced labor have related to sexual exploitation. However, in March of this year, one victim of labor exploitation secured restitution, thanks to the help of pro bono counsel from Clayton Utz.

On March 27, the Australian Federal Circuit Court found that Mr. Dulo Ram, a 45-year-old Indian native, had been trafficked from rural India to an Indian restaurant in suburban Sydney by the restaurant’s owner. The owner lured Ram with the promise of a 457 visa, which is intended to create opportunities for temporary migrant workers in Australia. With no command of English nor contacts in Australia, Ram was forced to work as a cook for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. After working this pace for 16 months, with just one day off, Ram was paid just AUD$6,958.88. He also lived, ate, bathed, and slept in the restaurant kitchen. According to Ram, the owner threatened to harm his family and have him arrested if he returned to India.

Pro bono attorneys from Clayton Utz, working in partnership with Anti-Slavery Australia, a legal research and policy center focused on the abolition of slavery, trafficking, and labor exploitation, agreed to assist Ram in securing his missing wages. After three years of pro bono representation, the team secured a judgment awarding Ram AUD$186,000 in back-pay, entitlements, and interest.

David Hillard, partner, Clayton Utz, who led the team representing Ram, commented:

 “This is happening right now, in our community, under our noses. This case shows that there are avenues for obtaining justice for the victims of labour trafficking and slavery. Compensation will not erase the demeaning, degrading experience which our client has endured, but it does say plainly that what happened to him was wrong, and cannot be tolerated under Australian law.”

In Ram’s case, pro bono counsel played an indispensable role in overcoming logjams. Although the restaurant had been visited by the Department of Immigration, and Ram had complained to the Fair Work Ombudsman, in both cases the restaurant owner used lies and falsified wage records to undermine allegations of wrongdoing. Through pro bono representation, Ram was able to expose the documents provided by the restaurant owner as a sham.

The PBEye is happy to note that Ram has been granted a permanent witness protection (trafficking) visa to remain in Australia with his family. We applaud the work of dedicated pro bono attorneys, in Australia and around the world, who are fighting for justice for the survivors of human trafficking.

July 3, 2014

One New Zealand Law School’s New Hourly Requirement for Graduation

While mandating lawyers to participate in or report pro bono is a hotly debated topic these days, requiring law students to engage in pro bono has been more widely accepted in the U.S. A number of law schools require students to complete a certain number of hours of pro bono service before graduating. And as The PBEye previously reported, New York state recently implemented a rule which took effect on January 1, 2013, requiring prospective attorneys seeking admission to the bar to have first performed 50 hours of “law-related” pro bono service.

Jumping across the world to New Zealand, starting in 2015, the University of Canterbury Law School will implement a 100 hours of practical experience requirement for graduation, one which students can satisfy through either pro bono or paid work. As the law school’s dean, Dr. Chris Gallavin, has noted, the justice gap in New Zealand is “off the charts;” the pro bono dimension of this requirement will contribute to addressing this gap. In addition, The PBEye notes that pro bono work by students can develop them into higher quality recruits for employers, armed with practical experience such as schedule management and interacting with real world clients, a view Dr. Gallavin shares. Based on the “Harvard model,” graduation ceremonies at the University of Canterbury Law School will formally recognize students in two higher tiers: those who do more than 400 hours and those who do more than 750 hours of pro bono work. Such significant hourly targets set high expectations for students.

The PBEye is excited to follow this new development in pro bono work and its implications for increasing pro bono service in New Zealand.

January 24, 2014

In-House Pro Bono in Australia

This week The PBEye takes a look at pro bono down under where Telstra, one of the largest in-house legal departments in Australia, has expanded the company’s responsibility to be a good corporate citizen to include legal pro bono work.  Working with Justice Connect, the new name for the merged Public Interest Law Clearing Houses of the states of New South Wales and Victoria, Telstra’s legal department has provided hundreds of hours of pro bono assistance to underserved communities throughout Australia.

The push to engage in direct legal services came from the legal team at Telstra.  A department of about 180 lawyers, the legal staff desired to take a hands-on approach to pro bono.  As Telstra’s General Counsel Carmel Mulhern describes it, “We are a really large, if not the largest, in-house legal team for a corporate [entity], and we feel we have a role and a responsibility to give something back to those less fortunate and to give something back to the community.”  Mulhern says the legal department is just like other parts of the company when it comes to having “good corporate citizen” responsibilities.

Pro bono matters referred by Justice Connect to Telstra are typically undertaken in the offices of community legal centers or Salvos Legal, the Salvation Army law firm, and selected based on the expertise and interests of the lawyers involved.  Telstra’s legal department has also provided pro bono legal advice for Aboriginal artists in the Northern Territory and Western Australia on trips organized by the Arts Law Centre.

Not surprisingly, the dividends of this effort have not only benefited Telstra’s pro bono clients but have brought great value to volunteers as well.  As Mulhern notes, “For Telstra, the benefit is that I have a team that feels really good about working here.  They can still do mergers and acquisitions or a huge contract . . . but this makes them feel really good about being lawyers.”

June 5, 2012

Congrats to Victorian In-House Attorneys

Times have changed!  Until last month, “corporate practising certificates” applicable to in-house lawyers in Victoria, Australia, limited them to providing legal advice only to their employers.  This restriction prevented these lawyers from volunteering their services for pro bono work in the same manner as their law firm counterparts and in-house lawyers in other Australian states.

Thankfully, the Legal Profession and Public Notaries Amendment Bill 2012 was passed by the Victorian Parliament on March 27, given Royal Assent on April 3, and became effective on May 2.  The bill amended the Legal Profession Act 2004 by lifting restrictions on in-house lawyers and allowing them to provide important pro bono services outside their workplace.  Now, Victoria’s 2,700 in-house lawyers who work for businesses, governments, and community organizations have the opportunity to provide free legal services to marginalized and disadvantaged Victorians. This meaningful change is yet another demonstration of Australia’s strong commitment to pro bono.

The decision to overturn the limitation was the result of several years of work by the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) and the Public Interest Law Clearing House.  These groups first proposed the reform in August 2009 to the then Attorney General Robert Hulls, who supported increased pro bono,  yet took a different approach.  The current Attorney General Robert Clark, has been supportive of the new amendment from its inception, calling the reform “common sense.”

Under the amended act, an attorney must be covered by professional indemnity insurance on terms and conditions approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB).  Currently, LSB has approved a policy taken out by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (NPBRC), and has stated their willingness to approve similar policies.  Under NPBRC’s insurance arrangement, coverage is provided to volunteers, who are not required to pay a premium or other fees, including any excess in the event of a claim.

Now that Victoria has joined Queensland and New South Wales as the third state in three years to lift their restrictions on in-house lawyers, ACLA has set its sights on South Australia.  Let’s hope that other jurisdictions in Australia, and around the world, follow in Victoria’s footstep and lift unnecessary restrictions on in-house pro bono.

For more information regarding the rule change in Australia, click here.

*hat tip to PBI intern Sherri Golkow for her help on this post

February 18, 2011

Pro Bono Kudos Down Under

As pro bono increasingly becomes a global enterprise, The PBEye was excited (but not surprised) to see this article come across our desk.  It seems that, in a recent meeting, Australia’s International Pro Bono Advisory Group made the decision to begin working in the Asia Pacific region to promote human rights and the rule of law.  In addition, the program will support the development of young lawyers in countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, and East Timor.  Established by Attorney-General Robert McClelland in 2009, the International Pro Bono Advisory Group “promotes international pro bono work by the Australian legal progression which complement the Australian Government’s international aid program.” 

“The Group is proving to be an excellent forum for encouraging and promoting opportunities for Australian lawyers to be involved in international pro bono legal work,” Mr McClelland said.

“The Government has supported the Group through a $100,000 grant last year that kick started a number of pro bono initiatives in the region.

“These projects in East Timor, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea demonstrate the difference pro bono legal work can make by strengthening the rule of law and promoting robust legal frameworks, which go hand in hand with economic opportunity and safeguarding human rights.”

Since 1992 when the first formal pro bono referral scheme was established, Australia has quickly become one of the leaders in providing pro bono legal services throughout the world as determined in, “A Survey of Pro bono Practices and Opportunities in Selected Jurisdictions,” prepared by Latham & Walkins LLP* for the Pro Bono Institute.  It is exciting and inspiring to see the Australian government continue to recognize the importance of pro bono work.  Australia’s swift and successful rise to one of the prominent leaders in pro bono advocacy by continually working to expand pro bono in their region should serve as an example for the leaders of other developed nations. 

Does your firm have a global presence?  Are you looking to get involved overseas?  You can learn more about global pro bono at the 2011 Annual Seminar and Forum on In-House Pro Bono next month. 

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge