Law Reform Hub – Pro Bono Legal Help for NFPs
10 May 2016 at 9:56 am
Several Sydney law firms have joined together to establish a Law Reform Hub (LRHub) to provide pro bono support for Not for Profit organisations with their policy and law reform advocacy work.
It has been launched by pro bono lawyer Jillian Mitford-Burgess at law firm Henry Davis York.
“The LRHub was conceived in response to the need for pro bono assistance with law reform submissions, particularly in light of the reduced capacity in the NFP and Community Legal Centre (CLC) sector for this important work,” Mitford-Burgess said.
“The collaborative pro bono project is harnessing both NFPs’ first-hand knowledge about their clients from their work at the coalface and the skills of lawyers to articulate the broad impact of the law on people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.”
Mitford-Burgess said one of the Law Reform Hub’s most recent successes was submission work which helped to bring about the removal of the time limit for civil claims made by survivors of child sexual abuse against their abusers.
“LRHub assisted WhiteLion, a Not for Profit organisation which supports youth at risk, by giving a voice to their expertise and knowledge on the impact of the law on their clients,” she said.
“Lawyers from LRHub wrote submissions that WhiteLion could provide in response to a NSW Justice Department discussion paper on the subject.
“The amendments to the NSW Limitation Act 1969, which commenced on 17 March 2016 with the assent of the Limitation Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2016, remove the limitation periods from an action for damages that relates to death or personal injury resulting from child abuse.
“The Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements identified law reform activities to be a ‘necessary means to stretch the value of finite funds to maximise benefits to the community’.”
However, Mitford-Burgess said capacity in the sector to do this work had been negatively impacted by funding and other constraints.
“For example the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, which was concluded with states and territories and came into effect on 1 July 2014, banned the use of federal funds by CLCs for ‘campaigning’ and ‘lobbying’,” she said.
“The new policy removed conditions in service agreements that previously granted CLCs the right to enter into public debate or criticism of the Commonwealth without having to obtain advance approval.”
She said law firm Henry Davis York had been working collaboratively with other firms to provide this law reform work support, including Colin Biggers & Paisley and Lander & Rogers.
“We’ve been helping organisations to advocate on behalf of people in relation to a wide range of issues: elder abuse, cognitive impairment, discrimination to name a few recent pieces of law reform work. These organisations are uniquely placed as the grass-root advocates who best understand the needs of vulnerable people because they represent them every day,” Mitford-Burgess said.
Those interested in providing or obtaining assistance with law reform and advocacy work can contact Jillian Mitford-Burgess at Jillian.Mitford-Burgess@hdy.com.au.