08 Jul 2015

Clayton Utz marks 500,000 pro bono hours milestone by funding new Health Justice Partnerships centre

Sydney, 8 July 2015: Clayton Utz today reaches the significant milestone of providing 500,000 hours of pro bono legal work since our Pro Bono practice was launched in 1997. This is a first for an Australian law firm, and for any firm outside the US.

The Pro Bono practice at Clayton Utz focuses on providing access to justice for individuals at disadvantage: giving people who could not otherwise afford a lawyer the ability to have a voice and pursue their legal rights.  Similarly, the Clayton Utz Foundation, established in 2003, provides financial support to charities which address disadvantage and facilitate access to justice.

Clayton Utz and the Clayton Utz Foundation celebrate this Pro Bono landmark with the announcement that the Pro Bono practice and the Foundation will establish an Australian Centre for Health Justice Partnerships.

Health Justice Partnerships (HJPs) create better health outcomes and improved access to justice by delivering community legal services to patients within the health system. They use healthcare professionals to identify when a patient has potential legal problems and to link them with a lawyer onsite, meaning that earlier legal intervention can prevent health and legal issues from escalating. Around 15 pioneering HJPs now operate in Australia.

Clayton Utz Foundation Chair Steve Murray explained that "many people with a legal issue never consult a lawyer. Research shows that people are more likely to speak with a trusted healthcare provider about a legal problem than seek out legal advice.   For example, a woman experiencing domestic violence may not be allowed to leave her house for anything other than medical appointments. Training health workers on how to refer her to a lawyer actually based at the hospital or community health centre can have life-changing, and life-saving, effects".  

The Clayton Utz Foundation has played a key role since 2011 in nurturing the HJP movement, including funding an HJP with Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre and Bendigo Community Health Services. The creation of a national centre was a recommendation made by Clayton Utz Foundation Fellow Peter Noble in his August 2012 Report to the Foundation "Advocacy-Health Alliances: Better Health Through Medical-Legal Partnerships".

Pro Bono partner and national practice leader David Hillard said "there are some great HJPs operating in Australia, and we need more of them. A national centre will support our colleagues working across the health and legal professions to develop HJPs, and will have a transformative effect on how legal services are delivered to vulnerable people at times of real crisis in their lives".

The centre will focus on policy development and be a focal point for a more permanent HJP presence in Australia. Clayton Utz will work with a range of health and justice organisations, including Justice Connect, the Health Justice Partnership Network in Victoria and the NSW Health Justice Partnership Community of Practice, to get the centre up and running by the end of 2015.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.