3 December 2014: Clayton Utz Pro Bono National Practice Group
David Hillard welcomes the Productivity Commission's
recommendations with respect to Pro Bono services and to reforming
Legal Assistance Services, made in the Commission's final
report into Access
to Justice Arrangements.
The Productivity Commission has recognised that civil law
matters "are the poor cousin in the legal assistance
family" in Australia. Present funding arrangements for the
Legal Assistance Sector are unsustainable, and additional funding
of $200 million per year is required to address the most pressing
civil law needs of Australia's most disadvantaged people.
"The Commission has shone the spotlight on just how
difficult it is for low-income and disadvantaged people to access
our legal system," Mr Hillard said. "Most Australians
will be unable to use the law to resolve their problems or enforce
their rights. The Commission estimates that only around 11 per cent
of households are eligible to receive a grant of Legal Aid. In
turn, the relatively small size of Community Legal Centres (CLCs),
their lack of funding certainty, and their location based often on
history rather than demographic evidence of economic and legal
need, means that the CLC sector is less effective than it could
be," he said.
Mr Hillard commended the Commission's recommendations that
the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services
develop more consistent eligibility principles for Legal Aid and
CLCs and prioritise ensuring that the most disadvantaged have
access to legal assistance.
"I am also pleased that the Productivity Commission has
recognised that pro bono work is not a viable solution to
addressing the level of unmet legal need in Australia. However, the
Commission has identified practical steps which governments can
take in order to facilitate how pro bono services can impact on
access to civil justice and the resolution of civil disputes,"
said Mr Hillard.
Mr Hillard congratulated the Commission for its recommendations
that governments across the country:
utilise the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target in their
legal panel arrangements;
adopt the Victorian model of a pro bono co-ordinator to assist
private firms in navigating potential conflicts of interest with
government clients; and
replicate the Commonwealth's explicit panel arrangements
that no firm undertaking pro bono work against government will be
discriminated against when government allocates panel legal
"Many of the legal issues faced by low-income and
disadvantaged people involve their interaction with a government
department or agency," said Mr Hillard. "Governments can
do a lot as purchasers of legal services to encourage their
external lawyers to focus their pro bono efforts on access to
justice for Australia's most disadvantaged people."
1 Pro Bono at Clayton Utz: Clayton Utz is a
foundation signatory to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target.
In 2013 Clayton Utz was recognised by Who's Who Legal as one of
the "World's Ten Leading Law Firms for Pro Bono". In
2015, Clayton Utz will reach the milestone of 500,000 hours of pro
bono work since our Pro Bono practice was established in 1997, the
most pro bono hours conducted by any firm in Australia and any
outside of the United States.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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