More and more, lawyers in the corporate sector and in-house legal units are looking for opportunities to contribute to the community using their legal skills.
We are confident that corporate legal departments are well placed to contribute to and benefit from a relationship with LawRight. Your involvement can be limited to making a financial contribution of the membership fee, or you may also wish to financially sponsor a LawRight project or participate in or sponsor forums and other services provided by LawRight.
You may feel able to second an in-house lawyer to assist us with case assessment or project work, creating an opportunity for developing staff experience while contributing to the profession's pro bono work. Or a corporate legal department may accept case work referrals from LawRight within the expertise of its staff, either on its own or through co-counsel arrangements with a LawRight member law firm.
The benefits of becoming involved
LawRight assists your legal department in establishing a pro bono policy and procedures to best suit its corporate identity and philosophy The opportunity to demonstrate your legal department's real support for the ideal of good corporate citizenship Public recognition for pro bono work by your involvement in public interest policy issues Improved recruitment possibilities with many graduates and lawyers seeking out employers with real commitment to pro bono lawyering Wide experience for lawyers, with exposure to diverse legal issues and regular contact with the broader sections of the legal and general community Increased staff satisfaction and retention by involving lawyers in community legal work Regular publication in the LawRight newsletter and other publications of the pro bono activities of its members The knowledge that you are helping people with real problems in practical ways Recognition of the full professional responsibilities of lawyers, wherever they work.
Many law firms second solicitors to LawRight and corporations have also seconded legal staff to our counterpart in Victoria. If you would like to broaden the experience of your staff, please contact us. Secondments can be of any frequency and duration.
Involvement in our projects may be of particular interest. For example:
We received a philanthropic grant from the English Family Foundation to develop legal services for people with mental illness. We coordinate the Open Minds Legal Clinic in coordation with DLA Piper, and have trained students to appear as advocates for clients in the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Through our Rural Regional Remote project, we help RRR law firms wishing to do pro bono work, by partnering them with larger Brisbane law firms which can provide specialised expertise and resources. In partnership with a number of community organisations, such as the Salvation Army and Mission Australia, we operate the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic (HPLC). Through the HPLC, volunteer lawyers with the support of their employers assist people experiencing homelessness during work hours at community host agencies. Ashurst seconded a solicitor to set up and initially coordinate the HPLC, and now over 300 lawyers from 24 firms across Brisbane, Toowoomba and Townsville volunteer with the HPLC. In Victoria, corporate legal units participate in the HPLC.
Our membership package demonstrates practical reasons why corporate involvement in pro bono cases is increasing internationally. The membership package also provides further detailed information that will help a corporate legal department decide what its association with LawRight would involve.
If your organisation is interested in sponsoring one of our programmes, events or projects, please contact our fundraising officer for more details on (07) 3846 6317 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The idea that corporations should have a greater role in supporting their community has been highlighted by recent events such as the James Hardie Group restructure and the establishment of an inquiry into corporate responsibility conducted by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.
While the Corporations Act 2001 provides guidance to company directors as to their legal obligations to the company, it also imposes some restrictions on their conduct. The Corporations Act 2001 requires directors and officers of a corporation to act in 'the best interests of the corporation', and this is often interpreted narrowly. More companies now realise that in order for them to be 'sustainable', they must draw their attention to the well-being of society and its operational environment rather than just short-term profitability.
The concern for stakeholders' interests (other than shareholders) and the involvement in social advancement are steps that a corporation may consider in promoting their role as an advocate for corporate social responsibility.
LawRight relies on the support of its members, individuals and various government and non-government organisations. LawRight's strength lies in its ability to marshal the resources of the legal and wider community and target its services to where they are most needed. We develop practical programs to use scarce resources to protect those who are most vulnerable and to promote a just and fair society. But funds to support legal services for the disadvantaged are scarce. Your help is needed.
We have established strong relationships with member law firms, barristers and institutions, and we are keen to expand our membership to include corporate legal units and to expand our services by establishing strong links with corporate sponsors. Whether it is financial support through membership fees, donations for immediate or perpetual use, sponsorship of a special project or the secondment of an in-house lawyer, LawRight encourages corporate involvement and has the structure, management and runs on the board to support and sustain it.
LawRight's insurance covers involvement by a corporate legal unit participating in our services. The National Pro Bono Resource Centre has introduced a Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme to encourage lawyers that work in corporations and government to undertake pro bono legal work. Cover is available at no charge to the applicant.