Policy Guidelines on Pro Bono Legal Services
Wednesday, 2nd April 2003 at 1:04 pm
The Victorian Attorney General has released the long awaited policy guidelines for the delivery of Pro Bono Legal Services to government.
The guidelines come as part of a commitment through a ground breaking contractual arrangement with 33 legal firms under a panel contract for the provision of legal services to government.
Under the ‘panel contract’, legal firms have committed themselves to provide legal services on a pro bono basis to ‘approved causes’ equivalent in value to a nominated percentage of the fees it generates under the panel arrangements.
For the purposes of the Government Legal Services contract “an approved cause” is the provision of any services by lawyers or other staff based in Victoria which will enhance access to justice for disadvantaged persons or organisations and/or promote the public interest including circumstances where a Panel Firm:
1. without fee or without expectation of a fee or at a reduced fee, advises and/or represents a client in cases where:
a) a client has no other access to the courts and the legal system; and/or
b) the client’s case raises a wider issue of public interest;
2. is involved in free community legal education and/or law reform;
3. is involved in the giving of free legal advice and/or representation to charitable and community organisations;
4. provides staff (legal or other) on secondment to a community organisation; or
5. provides financial or in kind assistance (e.g. equipment, sponsorship etc) to a community organisation.
The initiative aims to encompass pro bono work currently being performed as well as an increase in future services.
Professor Kathy Laster, the Executive Director of the Victoria Law Foundation has responded to the policy guidelines saying the preferred course is to wait until people have a chance to work out the implications of the scheme for their own legal firms before making comment.
To this end, the Pro Bono Policy Group is convening an open forum in June to highlight the innovative ways in which some law firms are working with the guidelines.
Professor Laster says the forum will also consider the criteria and methods that might be used to evaluate the diverse program which this pro bono scheme is likely to encourage.
The Victorian Law Foundation is inviting comments about the guidelines as well as readers thoughts on the timing, strategy and agenda for the June Forum. Call 03 9602 2877.
For a copy of the new guidelines in WORD format just send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.