Funding cuts to legal aid services have put an increased demand on pro bono work, but partnerships between CLCs and law firms are helping to fill the void, according to a Wotton + Kearney partner.
Heidi Nash-Smith, a partner at Wotton + Kearney and former Women in Law Pro Bono award winner, said: “We are seeing some really innovative partnerships between CLCs and law firms to address unmet legal need.”
She continued: “With widespread funding cuts affecting CLCs, there is an increasing need for the pro bono space to think ‘outside the box’ and make limited funds go a lot further.”
Ms Nash-Smith told Lawyers Weekly she is extremely impressed by how some CLCs have responded to these funding challenges.
“By way of example, the Refugee Advice & Casework Service [RACS] is now delivering many of its services in local outreach clinics, with volunteers from law firms working alongside RACS staff.”
She added: “By partnering with law firms, RACS is able to assist more vulnerable clients where they live and provide more services than it otherwise would be able to.”
When asked what she would like to see in the pro bono space, Ms Nash-Smith instantly responded: “Increased participation!”
“There is still so much unmet legal need in our community. Lawyers today have a strong sense of social justice and want to contribute to pro bono. We need to provide the opportunity, encourage our lawyers to participate and then support them in doing so,” she said.
Submissions for the 2015 Women in Law Awards close on Friday 30 October.