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Pro bono: 2020 vision for pro bono

Every Issue

Cite as: (2007) 81(12) LIJ, p. 91

The state government has been challenged to implement a range of pro bono improvements.

“Pro bono 2020: fit for the future” was the title of the third biennial Pro Bono Workshop coordinated by the Victoria Law Foundation.

About 50 people, members of the legal profession and others involved in the provision of pro bono services in Victoria, gathered for two days in October to review the pro bono landscape and look forward to the year 2020.

A number of recommendations were made, but specifically participants discussed a range of ideas to raise awareness of pro bono and to encourage practitioners to participate in areas other than case work, including policy and education.

Workshop participants commended the Attorney-General Rob Hulls for the work of the Victorian government in the support of such initiatives as the Community Law Partnership program; providing ongoing funding to the Human Rights Law Resource Centre and for supporting financially the establishment of a specialist “older persons legal service”. The following recommendations were also made to the Victorian government:

  • that the Victorian government, including the Department of Justice, supports and resources the establishment of a specialist legal service for “not for profit” community organisations;
  • that the Victorian government, including the Department of Justice, supports and resources a prisoners’ legal service, and consults with the pro bono and community sectors about further resources for other areas of specific unmet need (for example, appearances before the Mental Health Review Board);
  • that the Victorian government increases funding to Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) to enable effective funding of civil matters;
  • that the Victorian Attorney-General works with the pro bono and community sectors to explore opportunities to remove financial barriers to pro bono casework, including court fees, access to interpreters, access to expert witnesses and adverse cost orders; and
  • that the Victorian government implements similar access to justice provisions in its procurement contracts with non-legal service providers to those in the Legal Services Panel.

Workshop participants agreed that changes to the pro bono and public interest landscape over the past 10 years have been significant, with a wide range of advances contributing to better access to justice.

Much of the change has been driven by the reduction in legal aid funding over the past decade, which has encouraged the legal sector to diversify and become more flexible and responsive in its approach to pro bono.

Victoria’s pro bono environment has changed significantly over this period.

The Legal Services Panel, which was established for the selection of legal firms for state government work, now mandates the provision of pro bono work and prescribes the amount of that work. The scheme has been significant in the development of a programmatic approach to the provision and measurement of pro bono.

Among other workshop recommendations was the suggestion that the continuing professional development (CPD) rules be changed to mandate that one CPD unit per year be allocated to access to justice issues.

The Pro Bono Secretariat will continue to work with the pro bono and community sectors to develop an in-depth knowledge-sharing resource through the National Pro Bono Resource Centre.

The biennial Workshop is a forum for key stakeholders across the community, government and commercial legal sectors to discuss all aspects of pro bono.

Attendees comprised pro bono coordinators from the larger law firms, members of the community legal sector and members of the Public Interest Law Clearing House.

Among the speakers were National Pro Bono Resource Centre director John Corker, Freehills Foundation executive director and Freehills pro bono counsel Annette Bain, VLA’s regional offices division manager Michael Wighton and Federation of Community Legal Centres executive officer Hugh de Kretser.

Former Federal Court Justice Ron Merkel QC gave the after dinner address, emphasising the important and strategic nature of pro bono.

This column is coordinated by the VICTORIA LAW FOUNDATION. For further information, contact the Pro Bono Secretariat via the VLF website

Looking to help?

To facilitate lawyers and firms becoming involved in pro bono work other than legal services, the LIJ will profile a community group and its needs each month.

Name of group Centre for Sustainability Leadership

Contact person Larissa Brown

Address PO Box 316, Torquay 3228


Brief description of work of group

The Centre for Sustainability Leadership aims to empower thousands of transformational sustainability leaders across society. It is doing this by training and developing current and emerging leaders, creating and consolidating networks, and building sustainability leadership capital throughout the broader community.

Current needs of group

The Centre is looking for a range of volunteers, in particular people with legal, human resources, accounting and video production skills.

For more information about volunteering, visit


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