Meet your National Pro-bono Special Interest Group members!
Jon Downes – Chair
Why sign up to the National Pro Bono Target?
As in-house lawyers, we are in the privileged position of being able to do legal work – not just for our clients but for those less fortunate than us who cannot afford legal services. The National Pro Bono Target is a voluntary and aspirational target of at least 20 hours of pro bono legal services per year per lawyer. Just think, with almost 4,000 in-house lawyers being members of the ACC, that would be almost 80,000 pro bono hours per year – and what a difference that would make!
What do you want to achieve through the National Pro Bono Special Interest Group?
I would love to help to grow the community of in-house lawyers who are passionate about pro bono work and giving back to the community. I look forward to collaborating with the team so that we can really help remove barriers for in-house lawyers wanting to do pro bono work and also find opportunities for us to connect with each other through working on pro bono opportunities and doing something truly meaningful together. I think with the huge ACC member base we can really make a significant contribution to pro bono legal services in Australia, so I am excited and committed to helping facilitate that. I also believe that pro bono work can really help to serve to re-energise lawyers and stay mentally healthy, and that is particularly important for our legal community in the current times.
Why is pro bono important to you?
In his 1963, Washington address, Dr Martin Luther King, referred to “the riches of freedom and the security of justice”. By supporting pro bono initiatives, inhouse lawyers can have a direct impact on access to justice, and in doing so play an important part in safeguarding freedom and security. While this sounds like a lofty goal, I do believe that collectively we can make an important difference, not only to individual’s lives but broader society. I am particularly excited about the promise of technology (automation, decision support tools and even AI) in improving outcomes.
What is the time commitment to doing pro-bono work?
Undertaking pro bono work doesn’t necessarily mean that you MUST commit to a fixed number of hours. There are many pro bono opportunities out there that provides flexibility for lawyers and allocates pieces of work based on the number of hours a volunteer estimates that they might be able to commit. Even if you are only able to volunteer a few hours a week, organisations such as pro bono clearing houses will be able to identify work that would fit into that time commitment.
Why is it important to help in-house lawyers to be able to provide pro-bono services?
Being involved in volunteer and charity work is part of the fabric of who I am. When I was in a large law firm, it was easy to access pro-bono opportunities. However, when I moved in-house, it was much harder to determine how to go about helping those in need. If we can make that path easier and similar minded in-house lawyers can pool their resources, then think of what we can achieve!
Why should you do pro-bono work?
Your community needs you! You have legal and other skills that are in short supply and the quality legal services are beyond the reach of many. You can make a real difference to your community. Pro bono work will also help you develop as a lawyer and a person. It may present you with opportunities to develop your technical legal skills and give you invaluable insights of the social and cultural challenges faced by your community. This will certainly help you in your career and in life generally.
The purpose of the National Pro-bono Special Interest Group (SIG) is to show leadership in the area of pro-bono services and to promote the uptake of pro-bono work across the ACC community. The overall aim of the SIG is to help foster a more equitable and sustainable society through tapping into the important contribution that can be made by inhouse lawyers to the broader community.
We will do this by creating networks, providing information, training and support to members and acting as a bridge between our members and those in need of pro-bono services. The SIG will also promote close co-operation with other leading organisations with similar aims, such as the Australian Pro Bono Centre.
Specifically, the SIG will:
- Create a community of engaged inhouse counsel with a passion for collaboration, community service and empowering and helping others through the use of their legal skills and knowledge
- Develop strong and mutually beneficial working relationship with other like-minded organisations, including the Australian Pro Bono Centre
- Explore and showcase existing pro-bono activities to ACC members to:
- increase awareness of the need for (and the impact of) pro-bono work in the community; and
- illustrate the relative ease of providing such services via an existing pro-bono service
- Encourage increased participation and adoption of the Australian Pro Bono Centre National Pro-bono Target
- Support ACC members in the practice of pro-bono by providing timely information, including information on access to insurance, practical tools, resources and contacts - with a view to encouraging participation in pro bono activities
- Support ACC Advocacy initiatives for reform and policy development on issues that affect inhouse counsels’ ability to provide pro-bono services as well as on broader issues, including access to justice and support for community-based initiatives
- Promote best practice through active engagement with stakeholders and similar initiatives globally
The National Pro-bono SIG will seek to collaborate with organisations, educators and relevant organisations which promote and support pro-bono activity; develop resources and conferencing content; identify, and raise awareness of the important contribution which inhouse lawyers can make to broader social issues.
If you would like to join the National Pro-bono SIG, please email Tiffany Henderson at email@example.com