LawRight Newsletter - Summer Reads #4

LawRight Summer Reads #4
Happy new year and Happy Birthday!

Happy New Year! This is our last Summer Read and we hope you have enjoyed highlights from the 2019/20 Annual Report. We are excited for the challenges of 2021 – especially because LawRight is turning 20!

Please plan to join our celebrations, including at three big events [which will be in person or virtual or a combination] – book your calendars now!

Queensland Legal Walk – Tuesday, 18 May @ 7am
Red Wine for Justice – Friday, 6 August @ 6pm
Public Interest Address – Monday, 25 October @ noon

And get set for photos from the archive all year round.



LawRight Newsletter - Summer Reads #3

LawRight Summer Reads #3

The solicitors won the LawRight Debate in November 2019 (Should courtrooms be left to the specialists?), so hopefully this summer read evens the scales.


Better with Barristers

LawRight’s Court & Tribunal Services helped 778 clients in 2019/20 to navigate civil law proceedings in the Queensland Court of Appeal, Supreme and District Courts of Queensland, Magistrates Court Enforcement Hearings, QCAT, the Federal Courts and the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Pro bono contributions from busy barristers make a big impact. In 2019/20, 92 member barristers, including 19 QCs, accepted pro bono briefs for appearances, mediations and advice on prospects, or joined our “duty barrister” rosters.


Magistrates Court Enforcement Hearings

J & J borrowed $25,000 from friends to get their business through a “rocky patch”, but while they were interstate with a family emergency, the friends enforced the debt without their knowledge. J & J would have defended the proceeding if they had known they existed. LawRight advised them of their options and negotiated with the creditor on their behalf. Even though J & J provided the relevant documents, the creditor wanted to cross examine them on their bank records. Our pro bono barrister appeared for J & J and was able to have the enforcement hearing proceeding dismissed. After court, the volunteer barrister negotiated realistic repayments and now the business is back on track.

 

Training barristers

Damien O’Brien QC and Matthew Jones, former LawRight President, increased the number of barristers on our enforcement hearings “duty barrister” roster with their in-person and on-line training to 45 barristers. It is unusual for barristers to appear in this forum, but it made a big difference to the 48 clients we assisted before COVID forced court closures.


Stepping in to help

A worker at Julie’s daughter’s childcare kept complaining to Julie about another parent at the centre, including serious allegations that the parent wasn’t safe.
Julie was concerned and informed the centre management. She was shocked when months later she was served with court documents alleging she had defamed this parent when she passed on the information.

Julie lives with speech, reading and memory impairments and couldn’t afford a lawyer. Julie filed a defence but was told by lawyers for the other side that it was deficient, liable to be struck out and that Julie would be responsible for their costs. She was highly distressed. Her regional community legal centre didn’t have the resources to help with complex litigation and helped her apply to LawRight.

Rostered pro bono lawyers listened to Julie, helped her understand the complexity of the claim and discussed her options. Staff lawyers helped her correspond with the other side, request more time and amend her defence. The court had a hearing on procedural matters and we helped Julie prepare and consent. The matter was set down for mediation.

LawRight knew Julie would struggle to represent herself at the mediation, so a firm, a QC and his junior agreed to appear pro bono. The pro bono lawyers negotiated the discontinuance of the proceedings against Julie, with no order as to costs – a huge relief.


Reviewing government decisions

Pro bono barristers and lawyers contributed to 12 successful reviews ny QCAT of decisions to withhold Blue Cards from applicants. In Queensland a Blue Card is required to work or volunteer with children. Reviews can take up to three years and disproportionately impact survivors of domestic violence or residents of remote communities who struggle to navigate the government process.


Read more in our Annual report


LawRight Newsletter - Summer Reads #2

LawRight Summer Reads #2
From 3rd Space to Zig Zag

LawRight’s Community and Health Justice Partnerships nurture partnerships at 17 different community and health services. Our staff and pro bono lawyers work on-site with doctors, social workers and community professionals to solve complex problems together, instead of “siloed” processes that leave disadvantaged clients on a “referral roundabout”.

In 2019-20, LawRight’s C&HJP’s delivered 15,000+ hours of pro bono help to 540 clients, most of whom received over 10 hours of legal services.


3rd Space – a Fortitude Valley drop-in centre

T. left home at 16, and has lived with violence for most of his life. His partners used his credit to cover their own purchases and left him with utilities debts after relationship breakdowns. He can’t afford safe housing because he pays 50% of his income to creditors. Pro bono lawyers vigorously negotiated his $12,000 of debt with the Administrator, creditors and the Australian Financial Security Authority, reducing it to nil.


Multicultural Australia – partnering with Corrs Chambers Westgarth since 2007

“I joined the Refugee Civil Law Service to assist refugees experiencing disadvantage in Australia. I have assisted clients from Iraq, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia with debt collectors, car accidents and even just incorrect billing details. English is not usually the first language of clients, which is an unfortunately common factor in how their situations ended up requiring legal intervention. So it’s rewarding resolving a matter, knowing someone is genuinely better off from your assistance.”

– Volunteer lawyer


Anglicare Homelessness Services Hub, Cairns

Joe, a former truck driver with limited literacy, had been living in a homeless hostel for more than 6 months with advanced terminal cancer at the time he saw LawRight. We helped him access >$67,000 from his super fund, arrange a will, liaise with Centrelink and work with his doctor to consider an Advanced Health Directive. Joe used the money to rent accommodation for himself and his elderly mother. He also fixed up his car for a last big road trip, his final wish as an old truckie.


Mater Young Adults Health Centre

“As the Director of the Mater Young Adult Health Centre (MYAHC) I have seen first-hand the immense benefits of the Health Advocacy Legal Clinic here at the Mater. At MYAHC we work with young people facing significant medical conditions. The effect of having legal problems on top of existing medical challenges places considerable additional burdens on these young people. With the support and advocacy of the [LawRight] team, these legal concerns are often able to be addressed swiftly and comprehensively. This is transformative for young people in these situations as they previously had believed these legal concerns to be insurmountable.”

– Dr Simon Denny, MYAHC Director


Zig Zag

“Young women living with the impacts of sexual violence have a myriad of complex systems and issues to navigate upon their roads to stable housing and personal recovery. LawRight and its volunteers have made such a difference to many young women.”

– Community Worker


Read more in our Annual report


LawRight Newsletter - Summer Reads #1

LawRight Summer Reads #1

While you are sipping something cool, snoozing after a bush walk or recovering from a family feast, you can binge-read our Annual Report or alternatively work your way through the highlights in this weekly series. Enjoy!


The Big Quiz

Q1. How many pro bono hours did the legal profession deliver through LawRight in 2019-20?

a.    29, 904
b.    33,383
c.    38,983

(Answer B. 33,383. If you answered 29,904 that was our 2018-19 pro bono hours, so let’s aim high for 2020-21)

Q2. Is 778 the annual number of:

a.    clients of our Court and Tribunal Services, incorporating the former Self Representation Service
b.    applicants seeking referral to a law firm for pro bono representation?
c.    number of “secondary consultations” our lawyer offers health workers on-site at Wuchopperen Health Service, growing their capacity to understand the legal needs of clients?

(Answer A. We had 819 applications for pro bono referrals and delivered an estimated 900 secondary consultations.)

Q3. At how many different locations is LawRight embedded on-site?

a. 11
b. 16
c. 20

(Answer C. We are co-located at 20 community and health organisations or courts and tribunals, and have one central office)

Q4. How many QCs are members of LawRight?

a.    9
b.    19
c.    29

(Answer B)

Q5. What was the size and complexity of Violet’s telco debt?

Violet was homeless as a teenager and now lives in social housing. She was “broke as hell” when she asked her telco to repair her phone. Instead they signed her up to a more expensive contract. She was now $2,400 in debt and the telco wanted the phone back. LawRight spent 6 months chasing details of the debt while the telco repeatedly assigned the debt to multiple collections companies.

After LawRight raised concerns of inappropriate contracting, failure to conduct correct credit assessments and breaches of consumer protection obligations with the telco and the Ombudsman, the debt was waived and Violet could keep the phone. Violet stays connected with her lawyers, her housing is stable, “finances in order and everything has been really good for her”.


Read more in our Annual report


LawRight Newsletter - December 2020

Celebrating 2020

Although 2020 offered many challenges, your pro bono efforts brought lasting and positive change for many.

The legal profession delivered 33,383 pro bono hours in 2019/20 through LawRight – increasing access to justice at 21 community, health and court locations.

From supporting a woman with disabilities at a defamation mediation, to helping a young survivor of sexual violence navigate Centrelink, or restoring dignity to an elderly Torres Strait Islander women who lived without hot water for 8 months  – these opportunities to bring change are the reason LawRight exists.

Our Annual Report has all the details – of our legal casework and services, law reform, events and supporters. It is a “blockbuster”, featuring stories and impacts from each of the locations where we partner. We hope you enjoy it and will bring you highlights from the report in a summer newsletter series, starting in December.


Reconciliation Action Plan

LawRight is both proud and privileged to have launched our RAP. For centuries the legal system has added to challenges faced by First Nations people, and LawRight believes this places an additional responsibility on lawyers to provide constructive and culturally safe services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. LawRight’s new Acknowledgment of Country echoes the aspirations of the Uluru Statement, which we whole-heartedly support.


AGM

As well as tabling the Annual Report and launching the RAP, we also launched our new website.

at our recent AGM. We farewelled Damien O-Brien QC and Matthew Jones from the Management Committee and are grateful to all new and continuing members of the Committee.

LawRight Management Committee 

President – Roslyn Atkinson AO

Treasurer – Tony Denholder, Ashurst

Secretary – Gabriella Ritchie, McCullough Robertson

Tania Boal, MurphySchmidt

Katie Clarke, MinterEllison

Jacqueline Wootton, Herbert Smith Freehills

Francesca Bartlett, TC Beirne School of Law

Andrew Crowe QC, BAQ

Binny De Saram, QLS

Angela Rae of Counsel

Hamish Clift of Counsel


Every Step Counts

Seventeen LawRight staff registered for the recent Darkness to Daylight challenge to raise awareness for women experiencing domestic violence. Each participant walked, ran or cycled 100km throughout October or teamed up to count joint kms. LawRight has supported D2D every year since its creation in 2014 by our Life Member Rob Reed.


Summer break

We hope you enjoy a refreshing summer break. LawRight offices are closed from COB Wednesday, 23 December 2020, reopening on Monday, 11 January 2021. Next year LawRight turns 20 and we are already planning a series of celebrations, which we look forward to sharing with you in the new year. 


2021 dates

Queensland Legal Walk – Tuesday 18 May
Red Wine for Justice – Friday 6 August
Public Interest Address – Monday 25 October


LawRight Newsletter - June 2020

June 2020

Pro bono stays strong

Your skills, time and donations enabled access to justice for these recent LawRight clients:


Barry Thornton Legal…

Helped an elderly client who had been pressured into a mortgage by her children. They negotiated with the bank to release her from the mortgage debt.


Josh is a young university student with multiple disabilities who failed a compulsory course after he couldn’t reach an agreement with his university about what adjustments would be reasonable for his final exams. Complaints to the university and the then Anti Discrimination Commission Queensland did not resolve the problem. Josh asked our QCAT service for help and Gillian Shepherd provided pro bono help for a satisfactory outcome. Joshua repeated the course with a credit and has agreed adjustments for all future exams.


Zoe invested in and worked for the plaintiff’s business. Under a separate arrangement she received bonuses, but new managers were unaware of the arrangement and sued for $500,000 of fraud and contractual breaches. Zoe paid lawyers to file a defence and then ran out of money, so pro bono lawyers on LawRight’s roster at the State Courts helped her settle the dispute for less than $3000.


Jane’s landlord tried to evict her when he realised she needed an assistance dog and eventually Jane left the property at considerable expense. After a failed conciliation arranged by the Australian Human Rights Commission, Jane commenced an anti discrimination action in the Federal Circuit Court. LawRight’s pro bono roster offered Jane several appointments to prepare documents, prepare for directions hearings and attend mediation where the dispute was settled favourably, allowing Jane to recoup all her losses and re-establish herself.


Clayton Utz volunteers helped a client from a homelessness service who lost his job following a mental health episode and then fell into arrears with his social housing provider. Clayton Utz advocated at QCAT, preventing his eviction into homelessness and are still working to stabilise his debts and income.


A dispute about rental damages and arrears was resolved with the help of volunteer lawyers at Holding Redlich. A vulnerable young client they met through a youth service, reduced her repayments by two-thirds and avoided a tenancy black-listing.


Pro bono lawyers from Ashurst successfully appealed a Department of Housing and Public Works decision refusing to list our client on its social housing waitlist. The client is now on the list and waiting for appropriate housing.


Hamish Clift appeared pro bono at QCAT for a young man we met at the Mater who wanted to remove the Public Trustee as financial administrator so that he could manage his own finances. Despite the challenges of multiple disabilities, his family and medical specialists confirmed he was capable of achieving his goal to purchase a car. Before LawRight’s involvement, this young man was frustrated, prone to outbursts and depressed. We helped secure his housing and supports and with success at QCAT, he’s now saving for a car and is “a different person”.


A Hall & Wilcox secondment has supported LawRight in its work with forensic patients with Mental Health Review Tribunal hearings. These patients are receiving involuntary mental health treatment relevant to criminal charges and are generally subject to intensive monitoring regimes. The secondment has increased LawRight’s capacity and has been well received by clients, including Eleanor who said the hearing went ‘really well’ despite having the order confirmed. She thanked us for our clear advice and wants our help at the next review.


A psychologist at Wuchopperen connected her client to LawRight’s on-site, integrated legal service. Annie suffers with acute generational trauma and wanted her son released early from prison. The son’s mental health conditions resulted in several attempts of suicide, so LawRight reached out to Prisoners Legal Services who arranged for his early release. Annie’s reunion with her son has improved the whole family’s well-being according to the psychologist: “[Annie] is feeling much more hopeful than over the few last months”. Annie would not have sought our help without the encouragement of her psychologist and these referrals from trusted health workers are key to responding to the justice needs of our most vulnerable First Nation clients.