AUSTRALIA’S PRO BONO Centre has praised the concept of driving a ‘pro bono bus’ around the country to promote the notion of giving, following England’s doing just this as part of its Pro Bono Week.
A specially designed double-decker has just completed a tour around England and Wales, and was the first to be used for such purposes. The bus idea was part of an effort to involve more lawyers in voluntary work and providing free legal advice.
Australia’s National Pro Bono Resource Centre director John Corker fully encourages such methods to get lawyers on board. He told Lawyers Weekly: “If anyone wants to donate us a bus, we’ll take it.”
The double-decker travelled to London, Bournemouth, Warwick, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bolton and Newcastle to encourage lawyers to discover the benefits of pro bono work. Lawyers were given pro bono training during the trip and in some locations free legal advice clinics were held.
Pro bono is the “jewel in the crown” of the legal community, according to Mike Napier, the UK Attorney-General’s Pro Bono Envoy. “National Pro Bono Week is hitting the road to take law to the people and inspire lawyers,” he said. Pro bono was undertaken by all parts of the profession, from law students through to senior partners, he added.
Thirty-eight events across England and Wales throughout Pro Bono Week were aimed at raising the profile of pro bono work. It was also an effort to enable charities and voluntary organisations to meet legal professionals willing to help them.
“This week will enable those not yet involved to see for themselves the satisfaction to be gained from volunteering to help others,” Napier said.
The bus is an excellent device to raise awareness of the importance of pro bono, Corker told Lawyers Weekly. “Anything that raises the visibility is useful. It’s a matter of growing the culture of giving, and anything that does this is great.”
Will we be seeing our own pro bono bus travelling the streets of Australia’s capital cities? Not yet, due to the lack of bus, but Corker said the Resource Centre would welcome the donation.
In the UK, Pro Bono Week and the pro bono bus, as well as a new website, are the result of a drive by the Attorney-General’s Committee, Corker said. “It is an example of the legal profession working together.”
Napier also acknowledged there was an enormous amount of support for members of the legal profession who were interested in getting involved in pro bono. But it is important to remember, he said, that pro bono work was not a substitute for a proper system of publicly funded legal services.
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