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Global pro bono organisation seeks support

Global pro bono organisation seeks support

An international access-to-justice organisation is seeking more involvement from Australian law firms and non-government organisations for its pro bono work in Southeast Asia.

Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia Community Legal Education initiative (BABSEA CLE) co-founder and director Bruce Lasky (pictured) – who is in Sydney this week to secure collaborations with the heads of pro bono at a number of Australia’s leading law firms – has told Lawyers Weekly that global pro bono work is “catching fire” at the moment.

“Australian firms have done some great things in relation to international pro bono work, but one thing they can learn is that global pro bono is actually just local pro bono around the world,” said Lasky.

“Lawyers learn that, while they can’t necessarily go into a courtroom, they can still be doing what is considered pro bono locally, but on a global stage.”

BABSEA CLE is an international access-to-justice, legal education organisation focused on ethically-oriented legal capacity development and community empowerment.

Since 2003, BABSEA CLE has been working collaboratively with universities, law students, law faculty, lawyers and members of the legal community to develop education initiatives and legal clinic programs throughout Southeast Asia.

BABSEA will host the first Southeast Asia Pro Bono Conference/Workshop in Laos in September this year, where executive of the Freehills Foundation, Annette Bain, will speak about legal best practice. In November, Freehills litigation lawyers Michael Mills and Michelle Fox will visit legal clinics in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Vientiane in Laos.  

Lasky said these programs and clinics “assist communities, provide legal aid services and simultaneously help build the next generation of social justice, pro bono-minded champions”.

Mutual benefit

BABSEA CLE already has strong ties with the Freehills Foundation, with a number of the firm’s lawyers visiting Southeast Asia to do pro bono work. Lasky is keen to widen the net and secure similar collaborations with other firms.

“One of the challenges is finding good partners and initiatives to work with,” he said.

“So far, Ashurst has offered some support and we met with DLA Piper in Melbourne. We’re meeting with several firms this week to show them ways we can be collaborating.”

Lasky believes that giving a commitment to be part of BABSEA CLE can be of huge benefit to both firms and lawyers.

“From both a personal and professional point of view it’s a brilliant opportunity. It’s a great way to travel and meet like-minded people, while at the same time staying focused on your professional career,” he said. 

“We’ve had lawyers arriving back to Australia after doing work for us saying they have improved as a lawyer from the experience, by sampling new cultures and by analysing the systems of law in other countries. They can then bring that back and apply it here in Australia, which can only benefit their firms.”

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