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 work.
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 place.
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 NPBRC.
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 steps:
- 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 community organisations'.
- 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' regulations.
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.
- What is Pro Bono?
- How Do I Establish a Pro Bono Program?
- Partnering Opportunities with DLA Piper
- Appendix 1 Sample Pro Bono Policy
- Appendix 2 Sample Pro Bono Costs Agreement
- Pro Bono Standard Conditions
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