find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Smaller firms can punch above their weight in pro bono

Smaller firms can punch above their weight in pro bono

Heidi-Nash-Smith

Size should not hold firms back from building a strong pro bono practice, according to the CSR and pro bono coordinator at Wotton + Kearney.

Partner Heidi Nash-Smith told Lawyers Weekly that boutiques can “absolutely” direct a lot of attention towards pro bono, even if they lack the resources to run entire programs on their own.

Smaller firms can access support from the pro bono legal community, including from other firms and the Australian Pro Bono Centre.

“There is a lot of support out there […] to help you develop your program,” she said. “Even if you are a smaller firm, you are not on your own.”

Boutiques can also collaborate with referral agencies such as Justice Connect, she continued. These agencies can provide assistance with training and supervision that cannot always be resourced in-house.

“I think we've got a professional responsibility as lawyers to use our legal skills to help those less fortunate,” said Ms Nash-Smith.

However, pro bono can also provide real benefits to the business through increased staff morale and retention.

“[Social justice] is one of the things that drives you to get into law in the first place,” she said.

“[Law graduates] look at what firms have pro bono programs and what sorts of opportunities there are to get involved. And so I think it's important from a firm perspective that you have those programs to attract and retain staff.”

Pro bono also offers opportunities for lawyers to grow their skills base, she continued.

“Look at your communication skills – it is one thing to communicate with a commercial client. It can take quite different skills to communicate with a pro bono client,” she said.

“It’s extremely beneficial for lawyers to have that one-on-one connection with a pro bono client. You need to be able to explain things and interview in a way which is more challenging than it can be for a commercial client.”

Wotton + Kearney was launched in 2002 as a specialist insurance law firm. It now has 100 lawyers across its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth offices.

The firm started a formal pro bono program in 2012 and has continued to grow its initiatives since then.

The firm was heavily involved in refugee matters and helped with judicial review of around 14 claims for asylum in collaboration with Justice Connect.

“We are looking to get involved now that matters are going back to judicial review again,” said Ms Nash-Smith.

The firms has also been involved in assisting members of the Stolen Generation locate details about their time in out-of-home care and launch claims for compensation.

“We have also been putting together as part of that project a toolkit to help others in NSW find and locate information about clients' time in out-of-home care,” continued Ms Nash-Smith.

“Our experience is that it's a very straight-forward process.”

Wotton + Kearney has a wide-ranging pro bono program and assesses matters on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the firm has the expertise and capacity and whether there is a public interest angle, according to Ms Nash-Smith.

The firm often provides advice pro bono to not-for-profit organisations in relation to litigation or disputes.

While Wotton + Kearney lawyers are specialised in insurance law, there is often a conflict of interest in acting pro bono in this area, according to Ms Nash-Smith.

Having a dedicated pro bono partner has allowed the firm to grow its program, she added.

Ms Nash-Smith is a finalist in the Partner of the Year Awards. Winners will be announced at a black-tie gala on 28 April at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth – tickets on sale now.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Smaller firms can punch above their weight in pro bono
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
microphone
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
protest
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Blocked
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...