Supporting our community
Since 2004, Sparke Helmore has dedicated significant resources to making a difference for the not-for-profit (NFP) sector, charities and disadvantaged individuals. The firm wants to have a positive impact on the communities within which it operates, provide a rewarding working environment for its staff, and understand and positively shape the social issues material to its business.
Our Pro Bono Program
Through its Pro Bono Program, Sparke Helmore recognises and acts on its ethical obligation to enhance access to justice and support its NFP clients. This includes providing specialist legal advice and services to NFPs and individuals on a substantially discounted or no fee basis.
Pro bono work is valued by the firm and its lawyers are encouraged to participate in the pro bono program. In 2013 the firm signed up to the voluntary National Pro Bono Aspirational Target of 35 pro bono hours per lawyer per year. At the end of 2014, the firm had achieved its short term goal of 20 pro bono hours per lawyer and it has since dedicated additional resources to the program with the aim of continuing this upward trend.
This firm's pro bono legal assistance includes helping NFPs establish and develop into viable and effective organisations, equipped with and committed to the best structure for good governance, efficient administration and regulatory compliance. The firm also helps NFPs and individuals by providing specialist advice across all of its practice areas including employment law, property and conveyancing, commercial disputes, insurance and liability, risk and compliance, environment and planning and IP. For example:
- We have partnered with Life Without Barriers, a national organisation whose primary programs support people with a disability, children in foster care and older Australians. We have committed to providing Life Without Barriers pro bono legal services within our areas of expertise on a national basis.
- The firm is also proud to partner with the Cancer Council Legal Referral Service to assist people suffering from cancer with legal matters that arise due to their illness.
- Many of the firm's lawyers also volunteer their time assisting a number of community legal centres with their valuable work including the Employment Law Program through Marrickville Legal Centre, the Self-Represented Litigants Federal Court service through Justice Connect and the Mental Health Legal Centre in Melbourne.
- The firm's Newcastle lawyers advise several local NFPs, including the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, Hunter Medicare Local and the Aboriginal Awabakal Limited. They also work with law students at the Newcastle University Legal Centre to provide free legal advice across a range of topics.
- The firm also contributes to the law reform consultation process, and provides community legal education and secondments to community legal centres.
Our Community Program
Sparke Helmore also recognises that it is able to make a valuable contribution by providing non-legal support to NFPs through its community program.
In response to stakeholder analysis conducted in 2014, the firm's community program has been structured in a way that supports five core support areas namely: mental health; access to justice (i.e. pro bono legal assistance); animal rights; and health and wellbeing (specifically cancer support and physical activity and nutrition).
Sparke Helmore's workplace giving initiative gives staff a simple way to regularly donate to charities of choice as a salary sacrifice through automated payroll deduction. There is no restriction on the organisations that may be supported through workplace-giving, except that they need to be registered as a tax deductible gift recipient and be entitled to receive donations via EFT.
The firm shares its resources, such as meeting rooms, teleconferencing facilities, expertise and networks, with its community and pro bono partners.
Community volunteering initiative
Fifty volunteer days are allocated to selected staff every financial year. A volunteering activity may include skilled volunteering in or out of the office. For example, our Information Management team is in the process of assisting a NFP organisation with the redevelopment of its website.
Community service leave
A Community Service Leave Policy supports staff members to take paid leave for eligible community service activities, including jury service and voluntary emergency management activities.
Since 1994, the annual Sparke Helmore - NBN Triathlon has been Newcastle's premier participant sporting event, to date raising in excess of $465,000 for the Hunter Medical Research Institute. The Triathlon is held in late February or early March each year.
Other local activities
Many staff members are actively involved in a range of community organisations, from the grass roots level to the boardroom. In recognition of this, the firm regularly hosts or participates in local activities in support of community organisations. In late 2014 eight Sparke Helmore participants represented the firm in the "Below the Belt Pedalthon". In total, they cycled 532 kilometres around the 4.5km Sydney Motorsport Park circuit in four hours. Raising $3,731.10 for the Australian and New Zealand Urogenital and Prostate Cancer Trials Group to support their efforts to combat the prevalence of urogenital (prostate, bladder, kidney and testicular) cancers.
The firm has a tradition of supporting those in need at Christmas. In 2014, we financially assisted Life Without Barriers to organise Christmas parties for about 600 children who are in care or are unaccompanied asylum seekers. Each year we organise food donations to be made by staff to an appropriate charity. In 2014, those food donations went to the families supported by Weave Youth & Community Services.
The firm is committed to minimising the environmental impact of its business and ensuring its operations are conducted in line with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. We strive to ensure that the conduct of our business is environmentally sound and acceptable to our clients, employees and the community at large.
Sparke Helmore is an active member of the Australia Legal Sector Alliance (AusLSA) an affiliation of Australian law firms dedicated to reducing their environmental impact. A condition of membership is that the firm measures and takes steps to reduce its environmental impact on an annual basis. We have recently committed to formulating an environmental management system (EMS) through AusLSA. In doing so, the firm will be focused on reducing its environmental footprint, ensuring it is sourcing environmentally sustainable products, and implementing systems and procedures to monitor and manage resource consumption.