Victorian Attorney General Robert Clark MP said the legislation wold cut red tape and open up opportunities for in-house lawyers to do pro bono work.
The Legal Profession and Public Notaries Amendment Bill 2012 will amend the Legal Profession Act 2004 to remove restrictions that currently prevent corporate legal practitioners from volunteering their services for pro bono legal work other than with community legal centres.
The Attorney said the current laws have been a long frustration for in-house lawyers “who are willing and able to provide such assistance”.
“[It] has been a lost opportunity for the community as a whole,” Clark said.
The new laws will open the way for about 2700 additional lawyers to do pro bono work.
The move comes after the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) raised concerns about the legislative barrier. It argued this was the main obstacle to in-house lawyers doing pro bono work in Victoria.
Victoria joins Queensland and New South Wales in lifting this restriction on in-house lawyers. ACLA said it hopes to work with the South Australian Attorney General’s Department on similar reform.
“We have long held belief that Victorian in-house lawyers should be allowed to undertake pro bono work. If passed, thousands of in-house lawyers, previously prevented from using their professional expertise outside their workplace, will be able to give back to the community,” said ACLA CEO Trish Hyde.