Salvos Legal, a Sydney-based law firm run by the Salvation Army, has today (30 November) made global history by being the first firm of its kind to open a commercial legal practice.
The firm, which was established in Surry Hills earlier this year, was previously a purely humanitarian firm which provided pro bono legal services to the disadvantaged. General counsel Luke Geary ran the practice with the assistance of several volunteer lawyers.
Today marks the beginning of Geary's plan to start paying the volunteers and make the firm self-sufficient, with an accredited specialist in property law, Andy Stucken, and a senior licensed conveyancer, Peter Pitson, joining the firm.
"The legal services we provide to our humanitarian clients [will be] funded by the fees we receive for the services we provide to our commercial clients," explained Geary.
"For our commercial clients, this means that they receive first class legal services at a market competitive fee, but with the knowledge that the fees paid are used to help those less fortunate, in times of crisis."
The idea behind the firm's business model is based on the philosophies of Salvation Army founder William Booth, who in 1890 penned The Poor Man's Lawyer, which advocates such a model. Salvos Legal is the first firm in the world to be established based on the model.
Stucken has made the move to Salvos Legal from a metropolitan boutique firm where he worked as a commercial and property lawyer, while Pitson was formerly the principal of his own conveyancing practice.
"The Salvation Army is extremely excited to have such qualified practitioners as part of its foundation teams and we have already been [asked] to receive instructions from a number of personal and institutional clients," Geary said.
Despite its new commercial capabilities, Geary stresses that the primary aim of Salvos Legal remains the provision of pro bono legal services through the firm's humanitarian arm.
"I don't like to think of us as a commercial law firm that does some pro bono work. Rather, we are a pro bono firm that does some commercial work," he said.
Rizpah Jarvis has also joined the firm as a humanitarian law partner, leaving behind a role at a national law firm as a building and construction lawyer.