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Editorial note: Firms singing RAP's praises

Editorial note: Firms singing RAP's praises

Who can claim the mighty title of being the first firm to fight for Aboriginal rights?

Much back-and-forth around which firm was the first to implement a Reconciliation Action Plan... 


NEWS that Allens Arthur Robinson was the first law firm to implement a formal framework to strengthen the ties between business and Indigenous Australians has riled other top firms. 

Gilbert + Tobin, for one, says it launched its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in October last year. At the time, pro bono partner Michelle Hannon said that acting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has long been a part of the firm's pro bono practice. 

"At Gilbert + Tobin, we pioneered a pro bono legal practice that has been dedicated to assisting marginalised and disadvantaged people," Hannon said.

Reconciliation Australia director, Sam Mostyn, a former Gilbert + Tobin employee, said the launch in October brought the total number of RAPs to 95, with participation from large corporates like Qantas, ANZ and BHP Billiton, government agencies, sporting codes like the NRL and ARL, hospitals and schools. 

Allens Arthur Robinson said in a press release that it could claim a position as the first major Australian firm to implement a RAP. But while indeed Allens was the first "major" firm to do so, Gilbert + Tobin has since told The New Lawyer that, in fact, it implemented a RAP in October last year.  

So while Allens claims to be "the first major Australian law firm" to sign up, Gilbert + Tobin just took the "first Sydney-based law firm" to do it. Size, in this story, apparently does matter.

Gilbert + Tobin acknowledged in October, however, that it was only the second firm in Australia to develop a RAP.

If the counting is correct then, neither firm was the first Australian firm to implement a RAP. Another has modestly beat them both to it.

But, the point of course should be that they've done it at all, and the numbers of those who haven't are still drastically high. 

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