The response from Australian lawyers to Lawyers Beyond Borders (LBB), an initiative of Australian Volunteers International (AVI) has been "unprecedented", program manager Emma Hess told Lawyers Weekly Friday.
LBB was launched by AVI in May this year to an audience of around 400 legal professionals, in a bid to build a series of partnerships with lawyers and law firms that could be harnessed to fill needs for legal expertise in developing countries.
Since May, Hess said the interest expressed from law firms and lawyers alike has been remarkable, a factor she puts down to the strong culture of pro bono work that already exists in Australian law firms.
"The response was unprecedented in terms of the interest and the excitement we have experienced," said Hess. "Particularly from people in the legal profession who are really interested in going overseas and sharing their skills and doing some capacity building and actually working in these organisations."
While the program is still in its infancy, Hess believes the possibilities for lawyers assisting developing countries overseas are limitless. She points to opportunities such as working in a people's lawyers organsiation in Tuvalu or Kiribati, capacity building in East Timor, and establishing a Law Reform Commission is Samoa as just some o the needs opening up overseas that will require legal experise.
In particular, said Hess, Australian lawyers can assist in simply training lawyers in developing regions - on everything from setting up filing systems to presenting in court and managing case notes.
"It's low level to high level skills that they [overseas partner organisations of LBB] are requesting," said Hess. "Some of it will involve be a quick in and out, others will be much longer-term proposition where people need to stay there and build strong relationships."
Through LBB, AVI can ensure that volunteers are adequately trained, have support when they are on the group, manage the risks of the programs and also provide necessary debriefing following the completion of their stint overseas.
"We can ensure there is an integrity to the program and also that we can ensure they have the relationship with the partners, and we are meeting their needs, understanding their needs and ensuring the partner is actually getting what they need as well as the legal sector in Australia," said Hess.
Check out www.lawyersbeyondborders.com for more information.
For more on volunteering overseas, see this Friday's edition of Lawyers Weekly.