Legislation Passed to Allow Free Legal Services to Victorian Community
5 April 2012 at 4:25 pm
The Victorian State Government has passed legislation which will allow in-house lawyers to undertake pro bono legal work in the same way as their private practice counterparts and in-house lawyers in other parts of Australia.
The Legal Profession and Public Notaries Amendment Bill 2012 was passed by the Victorian Parliament on March 27.
It amends the Legal Profession Act 2004 to remove restrictions that prevented holders of corporate practicing certificates from engaging in pro bono legal practice.
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre has welcomed the passing of the legislation.
Director of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, John Corker, said that the increased pro bono capacity that results from the reforms is “great news” for the many disadvantaged and marginalised Victorians who cannot afford legal assistance.
Until now, the practising certificates available to Victoria’s in-house lawyers limited them to providing legal advice to their employer only.
However, with the legislation now passed, Victoria’s 2,700 in-house lawyers who work for businesses, governments or community organisations will be able to use their professional expertise to assist in addressing unmet legal need by doing pro bono legal work outside their workplace.
Last month, Pro Bono Australia News reported the Victorian Government’s intention to introduce the legislation following lobbying by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, the Public Interest Law Clearing House VIC (PILCH),the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) and DLA Piper.
Queensland and New South Wales have already lifted similar restrictions on corporate practising certificates and there are said to be efforts underway to work towards similar reforms in other jurisdictions.
“Now that this barrier is being removed in Victoria, it is a good time for national corporations to develop their pro bono practices and take advantage of this new opportunity to give back to the community,” Corker said.