On 15 October, the Salvos Legal team and representatives from its major clients gathered in Sydney for the launch of its In-house Pro Bono Desk.
The Desk, which will be staffed by lawyers across both the corporate and government sectors, was established to meet the high demand among in-house lawyers who wish to undertake pro bono work but who find opportunities hard to come by.
Salvos Legal, a unique not-for-profit law firm established in 2010 and launched in July last year, funds a pro bono firm called Salvos Legal Humanitarian. The unique business model allows the Salvation Army to offer free legal advice and representation to those in need.
At the event, the firm confirmed it has been able to develop and grow the work of Salvos Legal Humanitarian such that it now assists in more than 260 cases each fortnight, and to date has advised or represented in more than 5500 cases.
“We thought we should lead the way in developing brand new opportunities for in-house lawyers at companies and within government to be able to make their own mark in providing access to justice - and so has been created the Salvos Legal In-house Pro Bono Desk,” said Luke Geary (pictured), founder and managing partner of Salvos Legal, and winner of the Burgess Paluch Pro Bono Award at the 2012 Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards.
Interested in-house lawyers can either volunteer in their own time or, with the permission of their employer, undertake the pro bono work as part of their official employment. Lawyers will not be required to work a continuous week and may spread their time (a day at a time) through the year.
“We recognise the challenges faced by in-house lawyers who wish to do the work but can’t find the opportunities or the supervision,” said Mark Khoo, a former property lawyer at Minter Ellison who joined Salvos Legal as a partner in January.
“This was one of the reasons why we were so excited to launch this project,” he added.
At the launch, representatives from the firm’s clients spoke glowingly about their association with Salvos Legal.
Kathryn Greiner AO, who was MC for the event, counted herself as a “Salvos groupie”, while host James Patterson, senior managing director at CBRE, said that Salvos Legal had a “fantastic business model”.
Helen Vickers, general counsel at Transport for NSW remarked that the firm “won its place on our panel on merit and was evaluated on the same criteria as the other law firms”.
Peter Juchau, head of property, retail facilities management and operations at Commonwealth Bank, said that for the “quality of service and the people involved” Salvos Legal is “absolutely on par if not better than other organisations”.
“On the humanitarian side, everybody who I talk to at the bank is absolutely astounded by what Salvos gives to the community,” he added.