Until recently it has not been possible for most lawyers working
in-house to provide pro bono services to the community.
Recent changes to professional indemnity insurance and
practising certificates now allow most lawyers to perform pro bono
NATIONAL PRO BONO PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY INSURANCE POLICY
Prior to undertaking any pro bono work, lawyers working in-house
should ensure they have appropriate professional indemnity cover in
Lawyers working in-house or in government roles can now obtain
professional indemnity insurance for pro bono work free of charge
through our insurance scheme with the National Pro Bono Resource
Centre (NPBRC). The National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity
Insurance Policy is underwritten by LawCover and is held by the
The policy is only applicable for in-house and government
lawyers seeking to undertake pro bono work.
If you are volunteering at a Community Legal Centre, your work
will be generally supervised by the principal solicitor and is
covered by the professional indemnity insurance held by the Centre.
Generally speaking, such legal work is performed by volunteer
lawyers working on-site at the Centre, and will not be able to be
performed off-site in your own office.
Some in-house lawyers already have professional indemnity
insurance obtained for them and paid for by their employer.
Some products, such as the policy promoted by the Australian
Corporate Lawyers Association and Marsh, cover lawyers for work
undertaken on a pro bono basis.
In-house lawyers who hold this policy are already covered for
pro bono work, and don't need to register under the free
National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy.
How do I apply?
To obtain access to the National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity
Insurance Policy, lawyers need to undertake the following
Complete the short application form available at www.nationalprobono.org.au
specifying the name(s) of the lawyer seeking cover and the nature
of the pro bono work proposed.
Note: The insurance scheme only covers pro bono matters which
meet the definition of the National Pro Bono Professional indemnity
Scheme, and is not available where other professional indemnity
insurance is in place. The National Pro Bono Professional indemnity
Scheme defines pro bono work as where a lawyer or paralegal
'without fee or without expectation of a fee, advises and/or
represents a client in cases where a client has no other access to
the courts and the legal system or where the client's case
raises a wider issue of public interest'. It also defines pro
bono as activities where the lawyer is involved in 'free
community legal education and/or law reform; or in the giving of
free legal advice and/ or representation to charitable and
Fax the application form to NPBRC for approval.
Await written confirmation that the applicant lawyers have been
added to the policy schedule. Once confirmation is received,
lawyers are able to commence pro bono work.
The NPBRC has developed a standard letterhead for use by
in-house lawyers providing pro bono advice under the free insurance
scheme. The use of the 'National Pro Bono Project'
letterhead for all correspondence is important because it will
assist to limit the risk of exposure for the corporation, and it
will prevent corporations from holding themselves out as 'law
practices' in contravention of some states'
IMPORTANT CHANGES TO PRACTISING CERTIFICATES
As with all legal work performed, lawyers holding a restricted
practising certificate will be required to be supervised by a
lawyer holding an unrestricted practising certificate.
In many Australian jurisdictions it has not been possible for
lawyers holding corporate or government practising certificates to
participate in pro bono work, due to a lack of professional
indemnity insurance and resultant restrictions placed on those
classes of practising certificates.
Now that professional indemnity insurance is available free of
charge for in-house and government lawyers participating in pro
bono, changes to practising certificates are being made by the law
societies, but the position still varies from State to State.
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
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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