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LIV President's Blog 2012

LIV President's Blog 2013

Reynah Tang, LIV President 2013 on the latest issues and topics. Read and comment.

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Lawyers supporting the community

Lawyers supporting the community

Recent bushfires in Victoria and Tasmania, and floods in Queensland and New South Wales, have challenged our communities along the eastern seaboard. As with the Black Saturday bush fires, Victorian lawyers stand ready to do what we can to provide legal assistance to those in need.

The Law Institute of Victoria is a proud member of Disaster Legal Help Victoria, which provides free information about legal issues and options for ongoing assistance. Through the Victorian Legal Assistance Forum, the profession has been in touch with local communities to offer face-to-face advice sessions and trained volunteer lawyers to attend community meetings.  Disaster Legal Help is a model of what can be achieved through collaboration, involving the LIV, Victoria Legal Aid, Federation of Community Legal Centres, Victoria Law Foundation, Victorian Bar and Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH).

Assistance is available to those who need it via disasterlegalhelp.org.au and the dedicated phone line on 1800 113 432.

Pro bono work of profession continues to go unrecognised and underappreciated

However, this is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the work that lawyers do supporting the community. I believe that the extent of pro bono work and community service of lawyers is neither fully known nor appreciated.

This year, for the first time, the question was asked on practising certificate renewal forms whether lawyers consented “ to the Legal Services Board forwarding [their] nominated email address to the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) for the purposes of receiving information from PILCH regarding pro bono opportunities”.

PILCH administers the Law Institute of Victoria Legal Assistance Scheme (LIVLAS) to facilitate requests for legal assistance for individuals who cannot afford a solicitor and do not qualify for Legal Aid.  Unfortunately, this is an ever increasing number of people.

Both individual practitioners and firms can register for LIVLAS.

We know that many lawyers already do pro bono work on an ad hoc basis. The benefit of registering for LIVLAS is that it allows PILCH and the LIV to record and acknowledge your contribution. LIVLAS does the hard work assessing and filtering requests for assistance. Eligible clients, with a confined legal issue, are then connected to participating practitioners with appropriate expertise.

Referrals from LIVLAS address social inclusion, improve access to justice and operate to protect human rights.

Overwhelming response to call for interest

I am pleased to report that in the first year of seeking expressions of interest via the PC renewal form, there was a strong response from practitioners.   Of the 16,627 practitioners who renewed their PCs at 30 June 2012, nearly 50% (over 8000, including 7290 solicitors) sought more information from PILCH.

Later in February these practitioners will be receiving more information from PILCH about how to get involved in the LIVLAS program.

This will go some way to assist us in measuring the extent of pro bono work.  However, as I have said, I do not believe that this reflects the full contribution of lawyers to the community.  Among the many examples of the broader contribution are the hours that lawyers contribute serving as voluntary solicitors for community organisations, on the boards of community legal centres and the work that lawyers do for legal aid clients that is unfunded.

This is something that we need to examine as part of our reputation management project, with a view to compiling reliable data and recognising the extent of the contribution we make as a profession.

 

What do you do to support the community? Why?

 
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