PROVING THAT inexperience is no impediment to providing quality pro bono advice, a clerk from Clayton Utz was awarded a medal by the Victorian Law Foundation.
In an acknowledgement of a strong academic performance and commitment to the community, Daniel Matta was presented with the Victoria Law Foundation Chief Justice’s Medal for Excellence and Community Service.
Throughout his time at Victoria University, Matta volunteered for numerous legal services, such as the Family Law Assistance program, Springvale Monash Legal Service, St Kilda Legal Service and Southport Legal Service.
“I started off volunteering at some local community legal centres (CLCs), but that just basically involved taking client details, taking down notes in an interview, and inputting data into the CLC database,” Matta said.
“Then I discovered a place called the Family Law Assistance Program. That was the only place where I was able to run my own files,” he said. “So I actually interviewed clients one on one. It was brilliant … such a fantastic opportunity.”
Now working as an articled clerk in the corporate division of Clayton Utz’s Melbourne office, Matta said there is still plenty of time in his working week to continue providing a significant amount of pro bono work.
“I have only been here for two-and-a-half months and I have accumulated just over 100 hours of pro bono work,” he said. “We have a 35-hour minimum amount that every lawyer must do each year, but every lawyer that I have met has exceeded that.”
Matta received $1,000 as part of the award, to be donated to charity of his choice. He chose the Public Interest Law Clearing House, which connects individuals seeking legal assistance to lawyers in private practice.
The 35-hour minimum required by Clayton Utz lawyers accords with its commitment to the National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s national pro bono aspirational target, which was launched this year.
The firm also has a secondment with the Taylor Street CLC in Hervey Bay, and funds a full-time solicitor, known as the Clayton Utz Foundation Fellow, at Loddon Campaspe CLC in Bendigo.
According to the firm’s first pro bono partner, David Hillard, these projects “are a response to the significant problems which Australians outside of our capital cities have in obtaining access to community legal representation”.