A professional insurance indemnity scheme was launched on Wednesday which will assist in-house and government lawyers to get involved in pro-bono legal work.
The scheme - which comes into force on 1 July - was launched at the Sydney office of DLA Phillips Fox last week by NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos, who described pro bono work as "a fundamental component of our justice system".
To date, in-house and government lawyers - who make up just less than a third of the legal profession - have remained a largely untapped resource in terms of the provision of pro bono legal services. Until now, in-house and government lawyers - unlike their private practice counterparts - have been restrained from participating in pro bono legal practice because they usually don't hold the necessary professional indemnity insurance to cover them for civil claims arising out of their pro-bono work.
The scheme will be underwritten by LawCover and administered by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (NPBRC). Lawyers will be able to seek cover under the scheme by applying to NPBRC to get approval for specific pro bono projects, which must meet the definition of "pro bono legal work" as defined by the Law Council of Australia. Once approval is given, insurance cover will be provided for all lawyers and paralegals working on the project.
Speaking at the launch, DLA Phillips Fox consultant Michael Gill said the scheme was important because it would greatly increase the profession's capacity to provide much-needed legal assistance as well as ensuring pro bono clients are adequately protected.
"It ensures pro bono clients have the same level of protection as every other client in a law firm. Pro bono clients must never be second-class clients in any sense," he said.