If we wish to live in a society ruled by law, then everyone must have access to legal representation and advice. Pro bono work helps to ensure that our legal system is accessible to, and therefore respected by, all members of our community, regardless of their ability to afford a lawyer.
A strong pro bono practice is enormously important, and not because it makes us better lawyers, or keeps our feet on the ground. First and foremost, pro bono work is about the impact which it has on our pro bono clients. It is about making people's rights mean something. It is about helping community organisations and charities to get on with their vital work assisting disadvantaged and marginalised people. It is about fixing injustice.
Like many in our profession, lawyers at Clayton Utz have always provided pro bono legal assistance. In 1997, we created a dedicated Pro Bono practice to co-ordinate our pro bono legal work and formalise it as a part of all of our lawyers' legal practice.
Pro bono work, both for people who cannot obtain Legal Aid and who cannot afford legal advice or representation, and for the not for profit organisations which support disadvantaged and marginalised people, is a fundamental part of being a lawyer at Clayton Utz. All of our lawyers are expected to be a part of our Pro Bono practice, and to meet the same high standards required of all legal work at Clayton Utz.
Our Pro Bono practice has provided more than 400,000 hours of pro bono assistance to people who are disadvantaged and cannot obtain Legal Aid and cannot afford a lawyer, and to the not for profit organisations which support them. We have also helped thousands of people who have seen us at one of our drop-in legal clinics. In 2012, our Pro Bono practice represents more than 3.25% of the firm's legal practice.
Clayton Utz works collaboratively with community legal and other not for profit organisations, with government, and with other members of the legal profession, to ensure that our Pro Bono practice is responsive to community needs. We have a particular commitment to rural, regional and remote communities. In 2012, we acted for clients in 98 regional communities around Australia, including Brewarrina, Dubbo, Geraldton, Katherine, Kinglake, Meekatharra, Weipa and Wodonga, and remote Indigenous communities such as Mimli Maku in South Australia, Mutitjulu and Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory, and Wirrimanu and Kalumburu in the Kimberley.
In 2005 we appointed a full-time Pro Bono Partner. In 2007 we became a Foundation Signatory to the National Aspirational Pro Bono Target, which challenges Australian lawyers to conduct at least 35 hours each of pro bono work each year, a target which we exceed.
To learn more about our Pro Bono practice, please contact David Hillard, our National Partner, Pro Bono. You can learn more about obtaining pro bono assistance here.