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Pro bono: Law of the land

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Cite as: July 2014 88 (07) LIJ, p.74

Hall & Wilcox’s partnership with the Conservation Ecology Centre demonstrates how pro bono support can help an environmental organisation fulfil its mission.

Law firms and not-for-profit organisations have much to benefit from establishing strategic partnerships. Law firms can lend their expertise and resources to help their community partners to work towards their objectives and respond to the legal challenges they sometimes face. Equally, lawyers are stimulated and challenged by being exposed to diverse and interesting legal issues encountered in circumstances unlike those experienced in their day-to-day work, and they often report deriving personal satisfaction from contributing to the community partner’s mission.

Hall & Wilcox has worked to establish strategic partnerships with various not-for-profit organisations which focus on a range of different areas.

Since 2012 Hall & Wilcox has partnered with the Conservation Ecology Centre (CEC), a not-for-profit dedicated to the conservation of wildlife species and ecosystems. Based at Cape Otway in Victoria, the CEC’s vision is an Otways once more vibrant with native wildlife. The CEC’s work includes direct conservation activities, research and volunteer engagement – ranging from researching land management techniques, such as ecological burning, to training volunteers and their dogs as endangered species detection teams. The CEC’s founders also operate an ecolodge at Cape Otway as a social enterprise, the profits of which are used to help fund conservation programs. The ecolodge was named by National Geographic as one of the best 25 ecolodges in the world in 2013.

Since the relationship with the CEC began, Hall & Wilcox has worked on a number of projects where pro bono legal assistance has added value to the CEC’s environmental objectives. Partners and lawyers with experience in areas as varied as employment law, governance, real property, tax, contract review and negotiation and risk management have all played a part.

Examples of some of the innovative projects Hall & Wilcox has been involved with include:

  • the establishment of an agreement with a local brewing company under which a branded beer is produced and profits returned to the CEC;
  • the acquisition of a parcel of farming land at Cape Otway using a significant grant from The RE Ross Trust and funds raised through a public fundraising campaign. The land is currently being rehabilitated and will ultimately be developed into a themed nature walk for children; and
  • assisting with the engagement of a toy manufacturer to produce and supply a tiger quoll toy named Dottie which is being sold to raise funds for the environmental projects.

Hall & Wilcox’s relationship with the CEC has also added considerably to the depth of the firm’s pro bono practice and the firm more broadly. Working with the CEC has helped the firm’s staff to learn about issues such as species decline and to better understand the importance of conservation programs.

For Hall & Wilcox lawyers, the opportunity to be involved with a vibrant and energetic organisation such as the CEC has been eye opening and a joy for the lawyers involved. In addition to the sense of personal satisfaction gained from being involved with the important work being carried out by the CEC, the opportunity provides welcome respite from the demands of day-to-day commercial legal practice. The relationship has also helped to build a deeper sense of collegiality across the wider firm, as staff who are not directly involved in the work are kept up-to-date about the work and are able to share in the client’s successes.

MATT BRIDGES is special counsel at Hall & Wilcox and SARAH GRIFFIN is a lawyer and pro bono coordinator at Hall & Wilcox. This column is coordinated by Justice Connect.


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