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Pro bono : A Fulbright idea

Every Issue

Cite as: (2003) 77(9) LIJ, p.86

The challenges of pro bono in legal practice will be on the agenda of a visiting US public benefit advocate.

President of the highly regarded US Pro Bono Institute Esther Lardent will be in town from 13-19 October to discuss the challenges and pleasures of pro bono work for the legal community.

Visiting Australia under the Fulbright senior specialist scheme, Professor Lardent has been president of this national non-profit organisation since 1996. The Institute, based at Georgetown University, Washington, identifies and supports innovative approaches to expanding access to justice for low-income and disadvantaged individuals and communities. Broad-ranging in its activities, the Institute provides training, technical assistance and consultancy services and undertakes research and analysis, surveys and publishing activities. It also offers policy and institutional reform advice to the largest law firms and the legal departments of Fortune 500 companies. For over a decade the Institute has been a national and international leader in the field of pro bono activity.

Before taking up her current appointment, Professor Lardent was director of the Ford Foundation-funded Law Firm Pro Bono Project which developed national and regional training programs for law firm managing partners and pro bono partners. This project established a national clearinghouse of information on law firm pro bono practice.

A dynamic speaker and pro bono advocate, Esther Lardent often appears in the general media, and is a key adviser to foundations, governments and other bodies interested in access to justice issues.

The Victoria Law Foundation (VLF) is coordinating Professor Lardent’s visit which will feature a series of talks, workshops and informal opportunities meetings with local practitioners and policy makers most likely to benefit from Professor Lardent’s expertise. While here, she will meet and address senior members of the Department of Justice, Victoria Legal Aid and the Victorian Law Reform Commission and hold discussions with the pro bono partners and coordinators of major law firms. Young lawyers will also benefit from her knowledge and experience through an opportunity to participate in a new intensive LLM subject, “Applied Public Benefit Law” being coordinated through the VLF in conjunction with a number of universities.

Some of the topics that Professor Lardent will deal with lie at the heart of contemporary debates about the role of pro bono services in legal practice. She has observed from her reading of the Australian literature that “the US and Australia are grappling with very similar challenges including the relationship between pro bono services and legal aid, the relationship between the business of law and provision of pro bono services by firms and positional conflict of interest in pro bono work”. She said she looked forward to learning about innovative pro bono programs in Australia.

From Melbourne, Professor Lardent heads to Sydney to deliver the keynote address at the 2nd National Pro Bono Law Conference to be held on 20-21 October. Details of the conference, organised by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, can be found on the Centre’s website For information about Professor Lardent’s program in Melbourne, please check the VLF website or email

Good pro bono works
Tell us about other cases – send an email to

Pro bono win for childcare workers
In May 2002, Maurice Blackburn Cashman’s Women’s Law Section, supported by barristers Kristine Hanscombe, Melanie Young and Judith Bornstein, began a pay equity claim for local government childcare workers on behalf of the Australian Services Union. All the work performed by the legal team was done pro bono.

After 12 months’ preparatory work, the parties arrived at a consent position which was approved by the Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). It will achieve pay increases of $46 to $154 a week for the 1400 childcare workers employed by local government in Victoria.

Simone Bingham from Maurice Blackburn Cashman said the AIRC’s conciliation role was critical in bringing the parties to agreement.

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 Alternative Technology Association
Contact person Stuart Murphy
Title Project Manager
Tel 03 9388 9311
Address 8 Lee St Brunswick East 3057

Brief description of work of group With more than 3000 members, the ATA is Australia’s leading environmental organisation promoting sustainable technology and representing community issues. ATA advocates in government and industry forums for policies, which provide equitable access to energy resources and reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
ATA also offers advice on conserving energy, building with natural materials, reducing the use of and recycling natural resources and working with appropriate technology to create a sustainable future.
Current needs of group We need to find a new location for many headquarter functions within the next three months.
We need:
• Space suitable for an office
• Free or discounted rent (can swap rent for energy saving services in commercial buildings).
• Available for at least 1 year
• 150 square metres at least
• CBD preferred, but up to 5 km from CBD also okay
• Natural light (opening windows would also be great, but not essential).
Also when the office moves we will have a need for office fixtures and fittings as we will be maintaining our old premises.
For more information about volunteering visit:

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


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