- 15 law firms provided almost 13,000 hours, or more than $4.8 million, in pro bono legal services in 2020-21 under WA's pro bono model
- Pro bono requirement took effect on July 1, 2020, requiring law firms that undertake legal services for Government to subscribe to the National Pro Bono Target and provide pro bono legal services in WA
Western Australia's unique pro bono model has delivered almost 13,000 hours, or more than $4.8 million, in free legal support to the WA community in its first year.
The program came to fruition following extensive consultation by the State Solicitor's Office with law firms, the community legal sector, various legal groups and organisations, as well as the public sector.
People affected by Cyclone Seroja were among those who received legal advice, tenancy support and financial counselling from dedicated teams that were set up to assist those impacted by the cyclone. The teams were able to assist with insurance claims and disputes, mortgage stress and financial hardship, debt, employment law problems, family law issues, housing/tenancy complications and the replacement of important documents.
Under another initiative, private, community and public sector lawyers joined forces to deliver free wills to people in the West Kimberley. The pilot project assisted individuals in the Djarindjin and Beagle Bay communities with the preparation of wills, enduring powers of attorney and enduring powers of guardianship.
A total of 15 law firms undertook pro bono work in the 2020-21 financial year as part of the program, which applies to all law firms that undertake legal services for government departments and agencies.
Under the WA pro bono model, law firms that undertake legal services for the State Government must subscribe to the National Pro Bono Target - a voluntary and aspirational target of at least 35 hours of pro bono services per lawyer per year.
In addition, law firms are required to undertake pro bono services for 'approved causes' - which include the provision of legal services for individuals - for at least 10 per cent of the value of its Government legal work, and report annually on the total fee charged to Government and the types of pro bono services delivered. The first report will be tabled in State Parliament today.
Comments attributed to Attorney General John Quigley:
"WA's pro bono legal program involves private law firms that are given State Government contracts having to provide a certain amount of free legal services to the community.
"The program has a strong focus on helping individuals from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds secure access to justice.
"I am heartened by the enthusiasm with which the legal profession has engaged with the program.
"We have seen how this important program has already helped hundreds of individuals right across WA, including 81 people affected by the devastating effects of Cyclone Seroja.
"Aboriginal people, domestic violence survivors, elderly people, people with disabilities, people with limited English language skills, people with mental illness and homeless people are amongst those who have benefited from the program in its first year.
"The program was able to assist individuals with court appearances, document preparation and lodgement, legal advice, legal research, litigation settlement, mediation services and negotiation."
Attorney General's office - 6552 6800