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 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 and become viable and effective organisations equipped with, and committed to, the best structure for good governance and efficient administration. It also includes assisting these 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, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety and Batyr Australia Limited, among others through our Pro Bono Program.
The firm also provides a range of pro bono legal services for individuals. Examples include:
- Assisting individuals in New South Wales and Victoria, who have been referred to us by 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 LawRight in Queensland and Law Access in Western Australia.
- A proud national partnership with the Cancer Council NSW, helping people with cancer handle their legal matters through its Legal Referral Service. These include managing employment arrangements as well as the preparation of wills, power of attorney and enduring guardianship documents. During the 2016/17 financial year we provided more than 1,000 hours of pro bono legal work for these clients. 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 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in rural, regional or remote areas of New South Wales and Western Australia. An estimated 70% of burial disputes that go to court in Australia involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet the proportion who have made a will and provided instructions on their remains is between 2-5%. During the 2016/17 financial year, our wills clinics, held in collaboration with community organisations, assisted more than 86 attendees by drafting more than 183 estate documents. The Wheatbelt Aboriginal Health Services Moorditj Djinda Awards recently acknowledged the positive impact of our first clinic in Northam, naming it the "Best Single Event in 2017".
- Lawyers from our Sydney office regularly attend Marrickville Legal Centre, the Inner City Legal Centre, Redfern Legal Centre and the Australian Centre for Disability Law Clinic to provide free and accessible legal services to vulnerable people.
- Our Melbourne and Perth lawyers assist the Mental Health Legal Centres in their regions with tribunal hearings, phone advice services and face-to-face clinics.
- Our Newcastle lawyers work with law students at the Newcastle University Legal Centre to provide free legal advice across a range of topics.
- Lawyers from our Canberra office regularly attend the ACT Law Society Pro Bono Clearing House and Legal Advice Bureau.
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.
You can also view the previous Sparke Helmore's Pro Bono & Community Report 2015 here.