In this day and age the cost of hiring a lawyer to dispute your matter can often be seen as a burden to your finances. Whilst many high income earners will be able to easily afford the fees of a lawyer and many low income earners can easily qualify for Legal Aid, there are a certain amount of people who earn a considerable salary and are not capable of acquiring legal representation. Consequently, this raises the question whether lawyers are morally and ethically obliged to provide pro bono services for the disadvantaged proportion of society. The Hon. Justice Michael Kirby once stated in a speech delivered to an auditorium of law students that the legal profession is “noble calling dedicated to the attainment of justice”. However is this long held view still applicable to the present profession? Are lawyers doing more than enough to ensure that the justice gap doesn’t further widen? Is Pro Bono really worth it?
What is the Pro Bono Scheme?
The Law Society of NSW is in charge of The Pro Bono Scheme which allows you to be put in contact with law firms willing to provide their legal services for free or for reduced fees. This form of assistance can include legal advice, help with preparing documentation and representation in court. Additionally, the scheme also provides legal assistance on an ‘in-house’ basis for eligible applicants.
Who is eligible?
To be eligible for assistance under the Scheme, applicants must:
- have applied for and been refused Legal Aid assistance for their legal matter (proof of this is required);
- satisfy the means assessment applied by the Scheme;
- have a matter that has merit and/or reasonable prospects of success;
- have a type of matter covered by the Scheme.
Change in attitudes
The National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey stated that large firms did, on average, almost 18 hours more pro bono work per lawyer per year (38 hours) than mid-tier firms (20.4 hours). However a number of mid tiers have now signed up to the NPBRC’s Aspirational Pro Bono Target of 35 hours of pro bono work per lawyer per year. It is with privilege that comes responsivities for lawyers not just in Australia but on a global basis. Almost anyone can do volunteer work (tutoring, coaching soccer, etc.), but lawyers have a unique set of skills and knowledge that can be used to expand access to justice for whose might not be able to freely obtain it. Through more lawyers taking the initiative to involve themselves within Pro Bono work society will eventually regain their trust for the legal profession which has been often put into question over the years.
Our Firm’s Pro Bono Achievement
Our firm’s legacy and former Senior Partner, Mr Harry Freedman, of Freedman & Gopalan solicitors, was awarded the Law Society Pro Bono Solicitor of the Year Award in 2014. The award acknowledged him for his countless efforts in assisting those in need and obtaining a positive result a majority of the time. He firmly believed that “the reputation of solicitors is often harmed by the greedy actions of a few members, as the vast majority of solicitors always act in the best interests of their clients”.
If you require assistance with your family law matters then contact our firm on 02 8917 8700 or alternatively fill out the email contact box on the right.