Australia: Appendix 1 Sample Pro Bono Policy

Last Updated: 5 June 2012
Article by Tony Holland

Note: The following policy document has been produced as a guide for in-house lawyers wishing to develop a pro bono practice within a corporate legal team. The document is generic in its nature. We recommend that you modify this document to reflect the specific needs and intentions of your organisation. Further examples of pro bono policies adopted by in-house legal teams are available at www. corporateprobono.org

1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 [Company] has an institutional commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

1.2 As part of this commitment, and recognising the substantial unmet legal needs in our community, the legal division will encourage and facilitate the participation of corporate lawyers in pro bono work.

1.3 This policy has been endorsed by the General Counsel and provides the framework under which pro bono legal work will be undertaken.

2 STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES

2.1 [Company] regards pro bono as an important aspect of a lawyer's professional responsibility and professional development. Lawyers enjoy special privileges by which they participate in, and are a part of the legal system. They have and always should work to improve that system, and the community's access to it.

2.2 Undertaking pro bono work is also an ethical duty that all lawyers must accept. Many in our community are unable to afford legal services. By providing pro bono legal assistance, [Company] lawyers will assist in improving access to justice.

2.3 [Company] acknowledges that it owes a social responsibility to the community in which it operates.

[Company] accepts that, as a business which benefits from our community, we must also contribute to our community.

Through the provision of pro bono services, [Company] lawyers will increase community awareness of legal and human rights.

2.4 We will seek to provide pro bono services in a manner which emphasises education and empowerment and result in long-term change in our community.

2.5 The decision whether to participate in pro bono initiatives will be up to each individual.

3 DEFINITION

3.1 [Company] has adopted the National Pro Bono Professional indemnity Scheme definition of pro bono.

3.2 The National Pro Bono Professional indemnity Scheme defines pro bono as:

  1. a lawyer of paralegal who, without fee or expectation of a fee, advises and/or represents a client in cases where:
    1. the client has no other access to the courts and the legal system; and/or
    2. the client's case raises a wider issue of public interest; or
  1. a lawyer or paralegal involved in free community legal education and/or law reform; or
  2. a lawyer or paralegal involved in the giving of free legal advice and/or representation to charitable and community organisations;

4 ASPIRATIONAL TARGET

4.1 We encourage [Company] lawyers to become signatures to the National Pro Bono Professional Aspirational Target and its Statment of Principals.

5 COORDINATION

5.1 The General Counsel will appoint a pro bono coordinator from within the legal team.

5.2 The pro bono coordinator will have the day to day responsibility for managing the pro bono projects undertaken by the legal team. Specific responsibilities include:

5.2.1 Ensuring that all members of the legal team who participate in pro bono activities have been added to the National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy held by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.

5.2.2 Coordinating pro bono projects established by the legal team.

5.2.3 Acting as the first point of contact for [identify referrers of work or specific charities for whom the legal team undertakes pro bono legal work, eg The Homeless Persons Legal Clinic, Public Interest Law Clearing House, the Red Cross, the pro bono coordinator at DLA Piper Australia].

5.2.4 Arranging for the legal team to receive training in areas of law relevant to pro bono practise.

5.2.5 Promoting a pro bono culture within the legal team.

5.2.6 Working with the CSR Director to identify opportunities for the legal team to integrate pro bono assistance into the broader community program of the organisation.

5.2.7 Collating pro bono data for input to the company's annual CSR report.

6 PRO BONO WORK COMPETENCY, SERVICE AND OBLIGATION

6.1 Pro bono work is to be carried out in the same way, according to the same procedures, with the same diligence and timeliness, subject to the same supervision and review, and with the same recognition for time spent, as all other legal work undertaken by the legal team.

7 INTERNAL PRO BONO WORK

Note: This section is only relevant for in-house teams proposing to undertake internal matter-based pro bono work that involves opening files for individuals or charities.

DELETE IF NOT APPLICABLE.

7.1 Pro bono matters will come to the legal team by way of referrals. The sources of referrals include:

7.1.1 [Select or insert relevant referrers].

7.1.2 Charities with whom [company name] has an existing relationship.

7.1.3 Community legal centres.

7.1.4 The Public Interest Law Clearing House.

7.1.5 The Law Society/Institute and Bar Association referral services.

7.1.6 Courts and tribunals.

7.2 Some matters will come from within the organisation or from other sources. These are to be assessed and approved in the same way and according to the same criteria. They should not receive preferential treatment.

Allocation and supervision

7.3 Matters are allocated to solicitors by the Pro Bono Coordinator in consultation with the solicitor's relevant supervisor, and on the basis of interest, availability and expertise.

7.4 All pro bono matters should be registered and their progress monitored by the Pro Bono Coordinator. Supervisory responsibility remains within [each team/the General Counsel/the relevant supervising lawyer holding an unrestricted practising certificate].

7.5 Participation in pro bono work is encouraged but is not mandatory. This is subject to the normal expectation that a solicitor, except in unusual circumstances, will undertake work that is assigned to him or her by a supervisor who considers that a matter is appropriate for them to handle.

First interviews and terms of engagement

7.6 Given the lack of sophistication of many potential clients and their inexperience with the law, special care may be needed in communicating expectations and the way a matter is likely to proceed. The Pro Bono Coordinator should sit in on the first interview with pro bono clients in most cases and should ensure that the terms of engagement are clearly articulated and understood.

7.7 The Pro Bono Coordinator should provide assistance to the solicitor handling a pro bono matter to ensure that an appropriate retainer is in place in compliance with the relevant Legal Profession Act.

7.8 Time should be recorded on all pro bono matters, especially where the matter involves a potential costs recovery.

Disbursements

7.9 The legal team's budget will include an allocation for disbursements in pro bono matters, such as medical or other expert reports, court filing fees and the like. Internal costs such as photocopying, faxing etc will not be charged to the client. Where a barrister is needed, the Pro Bono Coordinator will assist in finding appropriate pro bono assistance.

7.10 Local Pro Bono Coordinators should be aware of, and make use of the various mechanisms for obtaining funding for disbursements. For instance, the Law Society of NSW administers a Pro Bono Disbursement Fund. Legal Aid is sometimes granted for the payment of disbursements if the matter is taken on a pro bono basis. All courts have special provisions for seeking relief from the payment of court fees. The Pro Bono Coordinator will assist with such applications.

Recovery of costs

7.11 Matters where costs are likely to be recovered and a solicitor is likely to take the matter on a 'no win – no fee' basis would generally not be taken under the pro bono program as there are other sources of assistance available.

7.12 All costs recovered on a pro bono matter will be donated to charity.

Charging for pro bono work

7.13 The legal team will not charge individual pro bono clients except where costs are recoverable from another party.

Recoverable costs will be pursued on the most favourable basis. Contingency fees are not charged.

Adverse costs orders

7.14 Adverse costs orders are rarely anticipated by pro bono clients and must be properly explained, where applicable, at the outset of a matter.

8 Guidelines for external pro bono work

Note: The following section will be relevant for legal teams proposing to undertake external pro bono work, such as advice clinics, legal secondments, court rosters etc.

Delete if not applicable.

Agencies

8.1 Eligible agencies should be non profit organisations working for [insert eg disadvantaged or marginalised people].

Attendance at legal clinics

8.2 [Company] has established a free weekly legal clinic [for the homeless at [location]].

8.3 Lawyers who volunteer for the clinic must ensure their attendance on their rostered dates. It is the responsibility of rostered lawyers to find a replacement if they are unable to attend.

8.4 Lawyers are entitled to be reimbursed for their costs of travel between the office and the clinic.

Volunteer lawyers

8.5 When and where lawyers volunteer their time is a matter for the individual. However it is in keeping with the spirit and culture of the organisation to encourage and support such initiatives. This support means being prepared to allow lawyers to leave work in sufficient time for them to perform their volunteer duties and to permit them to make phone calls and to perform other minor work on community agency matters in firm time.

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This publication is intended as a general overview and discussion of the subjects dealt with. It is not intended to be, and should not used as, a substitute for taking legal advice in any specific situation. DLA Piper Australia will accept no responsibility for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this publication.


DLA Piper Australia is part of DLA Piper, a global law firm, operating through various separate and distinct legal entities. For further information, please refer to www.dlapiper.com

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