Through a dedicated Pro Bono Program, Sparke Helmore recognises and acts on its ethical obligation, which is two-fold; to enhance access to justice for disadvantaged individuals and to support our not-for-profit charitable clients with their legal needs, so their income can be directed to further advance their valuable services. This includes providing specialist legal advice and services to charities and individuals on a substantially discounted or no fee basis.
Pro bono legal work is highly valued by the firm and every lawyer is encouraged to participate in our Pro Bono Program. In 2013, the firm signed up to the voluntary National Pro Bono Aspirational Target of an average of 35 pro bono hours per lawyer, per year, which is a target we exceed each year.
Our pro bono legal assistance includes helping charities establish or become viable and effective organisations equipped with, and committed to, the best structure for good governance and efficient administration. It also includes assisting charitable clients with regulatory compliance issues and establishing the legal parameters that allow them to collaborate with other organisations.
The firm also provides charitable organisations with specialised advice and assistance across all other practice areas, including employment law, property, litigation, insurance and intellectual property. We are proud to support the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety and Batyr Australia Limited, among others, by providing them with pro bono legal services across a range of practice areas.
The firm also provides a range of pro bono legal services for individuals. Examples include:
- Assisting individuals in NSW and Victoria referred to us from Justice Connect with their legal concerns, including advising self-represented litigants who are appearing before the Federal Court. We work with similar clearing houses in other states, such as the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House in Brisbane.
- A proud partnership with the Cancer Council NSW helping people with cancer deal with their legal matters through its Legal Referral Service. These include managing employment arrangements as well as the preparation of wills and other end of life documents. We have also assisted the Council by reviewing its legal fact sheets, providing legal education in regional areas and placing our lawyers in secondments at the Council to work on referrals.
- Running wills clinics for Indigenous Australians in rural, regional or remote areas of NSW and Western Australia.
- Lawyers from our Sydney office regularly attend Lakemba Advice Service and Marrickville Legal Centre to provide free and accessible legal services to disadvantaged people.
- Our Melbourne lawyers assist the Mental Health Legal Centre with tribunal hearings and their phone advice service.
- Our Newcastle lawyers work with law students at the Newcastle University Legal Centre to provide free legal advice across a range of topics.
- We are involved in the Street Law program, which assists people who are homeless in Canberra.
The In Kind—Social and Environmental Sustainability Report FY 15/16 provides insight into some of our key community and pro bono activities, as well as the challenges faced by the organisations and individuals we work with each year.