Each year in February, World Social Justice Day is acknowledged around the globe. Social justice is the equal distribution of rights and opportunities to everyone, no matter who they are. We all have a responsibility to ensure that we can all play on a level field.
How lawyers can help achieve social justice
You may have heard the term pro bono used in legal shows or movies, but what does it mean?
Pro bono is when a law firm provides legal assistance for free or at a substantially reduced rate. In its Latin form pro bono or “pro bono public” means “for the public good”.
Who is eligible for a pro bono legal services?
Individuals or organisations are eligible if they:
- Demonstrate a need for legal assistance but cannot obtain legal aid without significant financial hardship.
- Raise an issue of public interest which would not otherwise be pursued.
- Work on behalf of low income or disadvantaged members of the community, i.e. charities or not-for-profit organisations.
Pro bono legal services can include conducting law reform or policy work, and providing free legal education to the community on issues affecting disadvantaged people. It also includes providing a lawyer on secondment at a community organisation.
Keep in mind, it doesn’t include providing free services to anyone who can’t afford to pay, providing legal assistance under a grant, sponsorship or time spent by lawyers at a community organisation.
Pro bono work is essential for our society, providing all Australians with the opportunity to seek fair legal representation.
To apply for pro bono legal services, you must have your Legal Aid refusal letter, bank statements, Centrelink information, payslips and other supporting documentation.
How is this funded?
Pro bono work is supported by not-for-profit organisations, such as the state-based Public Interest Law Clearing Houses (PILCHs) and the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC), who provide many of the pro bono legal services in Australia.
PILCHs are not-for-profit legal services that refer cases to the relevant legal centres and clinics. They also fund many of the community legal clinics they refer work to, such as the Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic or Mental Health Law Practice.
The clinics and community centres themselves often require lawyers to dedicate their time to work there on cases. This network of volunteers is sourced from law firms around Australia and includes those who spend their free time volunteering.
Shine Lawyers pro bono and social justice work
Shine Lawyers are fortunate to have a number of volunteers among our ranks. Those who give up their time outside of work to assist in pro bono cases at community legal centres around Australia. Our volunteers assist the marginalised and vulnerable on a case-by-case basis. Our pro bono and social justice work covers many areas of law and enables us to provide legal representation in cases of special public interest.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 19, 2020.