LAW FIRMS looking to source pro bono work in the Northern Territory can now be officially assisted after the territory launched its own Pro Bono Clearing House.
The initiative, launched at the opening of Northern territory Law Week, will work to match up people and organisations in need of pro bono legal assistance to legal services providers — including Legal Aid, a Community Legal Centre or practitioners in private practice.
But, according to some firms, the success of the scheme will only depend on if and how the Clearing House is able to source its work.
While DLA Philips Fox has joined the scheme, pro bono partner Nic Patrick said a big challenge for the Clearing House will be finding the clients to refer. “The key for them is going to be building the relationships with the social services that are working with the group,” he said.
“Where they don’t have trust and collaboration with community legal centres and other contact points, they’re not very useful for us,” Patrick said.
Meanwhile Anne Cregan, pro bono partner at Blake Dawson, said that very little work actually comes to her firm from clearing houses. “Most of our work comes through our relationships with Legal Aid, the Aboriginal Legal Services and the Community Legal Centres, through the community organisations we assist and through word of mouth,” she said.
Clearing houses can be useful, said Cregan, but she warned that given the limited funding for the community legal sector, “clearing houses must be efficient and effective to justify the expenditure on pro bono infrastructure rather than pro bono services.”
Ideally, clearing houses should refer all matters, not just those of public interest, said Cregan. “Public interest matters are — by their nature, given their challenges and rewards — the easiest matters to place for pro bono assistance.”
The Law Society is now inviting members to be included in the Pro Bono Clearing House register
See the Pro bono, a business necessity feature on page 24