In-House Lawyer Pro Bono Insurance Scheme Launched
5 June 2012 at 10:31 am
A National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme has been launched in Victoria together with a new guide to in-house pro bono prepared by law firm DLA Piper.
Representatives from law firms and corporate and government in-house legal teams were on hand for the launch in Melbourne.
The Scheme’s terms and conditions were approved by the Victorian Legal Services Board on 14 May 2012 as an appropriate Professional Indemnity insurance policy for corporate legal practitioners under the new amendments to the Victorian Legal Profession Act.
In April 2012, the Victorian State Government passed legislation which allows 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. Until now, the practising certificates available to Victoria’s in-house lawyers limited them to providing legal advice to their employer only.
The launch event was addressed by Victorian Attorney-General the Hon. Robert Clark, John Corker, Executive Director for the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, Gregor Husper, Director of Referral Services, the Public Interest Law Clearing House in Victoria (PILCH (Vic)) and Michael Coleman, General Counsel for Telstra.
“Now is a very good time for in-house legal teams to develop pro bono legal programs. The practising certificate and PI insurance issues have been resolved. It’s time to develop the in-house legal pro bono culture,” John Corker said.
Corker paid tribute to the work of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association, DLA Piper, PILCH (VIC), and the Centre for lobbying for the changes to law and policy that have led to this result.
In the context of the rise of Corporate Social Responsibility, Corker said the time had come for the approximately 25 per cent of Australian lawyers who are working in-house to join their private firm colleagues and embrace the pro bono movement.
Key tips included:
- Support from the General Counsel and/or the CEO of the corporation is essential
- Partnering with a law firm with a strong pro bono practice, a strong pro bono clearing house and/or a community legal centre that has well managed project will provide invaluable support
- Programs needed to offer variety to ensure participation.
The Scheme provides free professional indemnity insurance cover for lawyers undertaking pro bono legal work on pro bono projects approved by the Centre and is underwritten by insurer LawCover. The Scheme was first launched in NSW in July 2009 and already provides insurance cover for lawyers working on pro bono projects in NSW and Queensland.
Under the scheme, 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.
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre has created a new dedicated web page with resources and links to assist in-house lawyers to create and develop pro bono programs.