Law Access

Law Access Overview

Law Access Overview

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Season’s Greetings!

Law Access will close for 3 weeks from 5.00pm Wednesday, 20 December 2017 re-opening on Thursday, 11 January 2018.

Law Access is a not-for-profit organisation that coordinates the giving of pro bono (free or reduced cost) legal assistance by the Western Australian legal profession. The service is targeted at not-for-profits and individuals in genuine need of legal assistance who satisfy a means and merits test.

We wish to thank the lawyers and law firms who accept pro bono referrals, our funders, donors, and the sponsors who provide direct in-kind support for our administration. We would also like to thank the Law Society of Western Australia’s CPD presenters who donate to Law Access.

Funders

Public Purposes Trust
lotterywest-supported

Principal Supporters

Law Society of Western Australia
University of Western Australia’s Faculty of Law

Donors

Allen and Overy
Jackson McDonald

In-Kind Sponsors

Secondee lawyers
AGS
Jackson McDonald
Minter Ellison
Law student volunteers and interns
Edith Cowan University
University of Western Australia’s Faculty of Law
Other in-kind services
Archival services
K&L Gates
Expert advice
Kalico
Expert advice

Office furniture

Contact Us

Telephone:  (08) 9324 8600
Email:  lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au

Postal Address:  M249 / The University of Western Australia/ 35 Stirling Highway/ Crawley Western Australia 6009

Please note that Law Access does not provide a walk-in service at this address

How to Apply

How to Apply

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Application Process

Law Access coordinates the assessment and referral of applications for pro bono assistance to members of the Western Australian legal profession. Applications are assessed on a merit and means basis (see eligibility criteria) in order to determine whether a matter is appropriate for referral.

Applicants must submit a formal application before Law Access can consider the case. The application must be signed in front of an authorised witness. If you have problems filling out the form by yourself you may be able to get help from your local parliamentary representative, a community worker or a friend or family member.

How to Apply

Not-For-Profits please read our not-for-profit eligibility criteria before completing our not-for-profit application form.

Individuals – before applying, please complete our pre-application checklist:

Question 1:  Have you tried to obtain legal assistance from Legal Aid or a Community Legal Centre?

If ‘yes’, go to Question 2.
If ‘no’, please try to obtain legal assistance from Legal Aid or from a Community Legal Centre as Law Access is a service of last resort.

Question 2:  Is your matter one that Law Access can help with?

Please check the list of considered and excluded matter types.

  • If your matter is listed as an ‘excluded matter’ type Law Access is unable to help you. Procedural information can be found on information for unrepresented litigants
  • If your matter is listed as a ‘considered matter’ and meets our eligibility criteria, please download the relevant application form

Application Forms

Please Note: While Law Access does its best to locate a legal practitioner to take on matters that are assessed as meritorious, there is no guarantee that any matter will be taken up on a pro bono basis.

Law Access Ltd does not, by referring a client or a matter to a particular legal practitioner, law firm or community legal centre, warrant the services of that practitioner, firm or centre.

More Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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Does Law Access provide legal advice and representation?

Law Access does not offer any legal advice or information directly, nor do we act as your lawyer when we receive applications for pro bono referral. However, Law Access does advise unsuccessful applicants why their matter cannot be referred.

How long does the process take?

The time taken to match a case with a referral depends on the complexity of the case, the amount of time it takes to assess the matter, and the amount of time it may take to place the matter with the appropriately matched practitioner. We cannot guarantee that a matter, even if assessed as meritorious, can be placed at all.

It is important that you continue to meet all court commitments or commence any necessary legal action within statutory time limits, even if you have submitted an application to Law Access.

Please be aware that it is very difficult to place family law matters. It may take a long time and we may not be able to place your matter at all.

Is there an application fee?

There is no application fee. Law Access provides this service free of charge to the community.

Do you provide a walk-in service?

No walk-in service is available. All contact to Law Access must be made by telephone, email or post.

Does a list of pro bono lawyers exist?

No. Applications for pro bono assistance need to come through Law Access. Law Access then asks members of the legal profession whether they are able to render assistance to a successful applicant on a pro bono basis.

Do you refer family law matters?

Please be aware that it is very difficult to place family law matters as there is a shortage of family lawyers who are able to take referrals from us. It may take a long time and we may not be able to place your matter at all. We prioritise applicants with exceptional circumstances.

Who undertakes the assessment of applications?

The Law Access Principal Lawyer conducts the assessments.

Can decisions by Law Access be reviewed?

No. All decisions to consider and refuse/approve applications for pro bono referral are at the complete discretion of Law Access, and are final.

Are all successfully approved matters referred to a pro bono lawyer?

If your application is assessed as suitable for pro bono referral, Law Access will attempt to refer the matter to legal practitioners who may be willing to accept the legal matter on a pro bono basis. Law Access does not have any power to compel a legal practitioner or law firm to assist with matters on a pro bono basis. The decision to undertake pro bono work is completely voluntary and at the discretion of the practitioner or firm.

Please note that whilst Law Access will do its best to locate a legal practitioner or law firm to take the matter on, there is no guarantee that the matter will be taken up on a pro bono basis.

It is important that you continue to meet all court commitments or commence any necessary legal action within statutory time limits, even if you have submitted an application to Law Access.

Can I provide feedback about the Law Access service?

Yes, Law Access welcomes your feedback. Please address your feedback to:

The Manager, Law Access
Email: lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au
Post:
M249, The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009

Eligibility Criteria

What is the eligibility criteria?

In order to be eligible for assistance, you must demonstrate that you meet all of the following:

  • the matter is a Considered Matter Type
  • all appropriate avenues for assistance have been exhausted, for example, the Legal Aid Commission has refused assistance
  • the scope of the work required is beyond the capacity of a Community Legal Centre and you are unable to afford the services of a solicitor in private practice
  • the matter for which assistance is sought has sufficient legal merit and
  • you meet our means test

What are the Excluded Matter Types?

Unfortunately, there are some matter types which we do not accept applications for. These include:

  • Disputes going through internal complaints mechanisms
  • Dividing fences disputes
  • Intractable disputes between neighbours
  • Matters which are customarily or can adequately be dealt with by the applicant without legal representation or assistance
  • Matters which are not/cannot be brought in a Western Australian court
  • Matters which have been refused by Legal Aid WA on the basis of merit
  • Minor criminal offences
  • Personal injury and negligence
  • Restraining orders
  • Native title
  • Tenancy
  • Uncontested deceased estates
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Welfare rights and social security (except if at Administrative Appeals Tribunal level)
  • Any other matter as deemed appropriate by Law Access Ltd, at any time

What are the Considered Matter Types

The following legal matters may be eligible for pro bono referral through the Law Access Pro Bono Referral Scheme:

  • Administrative appeals and tribunals
  • Animal welfare
  • Banking and finance
  • Bankruptcy and insolvency
  • Breach of contract
  • Commercial law
  • Contested deceased estates
  • Coronial matters
  • Corporate law
  • Criminal injuries compensation
  • Employment law
  • Environmental law
  • Family law
  • Human rights and equal opportunity
  • Immigration law
  • Indictable criminal offences
  • Indigenous corporations
  • Intellectual property
  • Loans, mortgage agreements
  • Not-for-profit associations and clubs
  • Property and conveyancing
  • Protection and care matters
  • Trade practices
  • Any other matter as deemed appropriate by Law Access Ltd, at any time

For more information on where to find legal assistance and information for unrepresented litigants please Community Legal Resources

Our Impact

Our Impact

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Helping Those in Need

Law Access is committed to helping individuals and not-for-profit organisations. Just some examples of how we have helped those in need are listed below. They have been de-identified to protect the anonymity of the applicants.

A homeless victim of domestic violence was staying in a women’s refuge when Law Access found a family lawyer to represent her in relation to a small property settlement. With the lawyer’s help the client obtained $160,000. The money will help her to make a new start in life.

An elderly blind man whose first language is not English received assistance to pursue a financial adviser who had ‘disappeared’ after misappropriating his life savings.

A detained asylum seeker was matched with a solicitor and a barrister who succeeded in a Federal Court application for judicial review of the rejection of his visa.

A not -for-profit organisation working with children and young people obtained pro bono advice on obtaining informed consent from minors to receive counselling and on the legal requirements concerning storing and destroying the counselling notes of minors.

Measuring Our Impact

Law Access has adopted a Monitoring and Evaluation Plan to measure the impact of our work. Our success is measured quantitatively by:

  • numbers of pro bono placements made
  • numbers of applications received
  • numbers of pro bono lawyers registered with the law access service
  • time taken to complete a merit assessment and numbers of applications assessed as meritorious but unable to be placed

Qualitative assessment takes place via surveys completed by legal practitioners once the matter is completed and via feedback received from applicants.

The success of Law Access can also be qualitatively assessed by the number and nature of pro bono matters that we refer with a broader public interest.  With permission from the applicants and their lawyers, Law Access intend to report on these matters once they have concluded.

Making a Difference

Law Access needs to raise extra funds to ensure our sustainability and assist us to help more applicants. You can help us by donating to Law Access and by promoting our fundraising campaigns through your networks.

We know we are on the right track and serving an important need in the community. Between 1 July 2015 and 30 September 2016 Law Access matched 151 applicants with lawyers and means and merit assessed 460 applications for pro bono assistance.

To find out how you can support our valuable work, please contact lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au or click the ‘Donate now’ button below.

Law Access September 2015-16 statistics
For Practitioners

For Practitioners

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Interview with Tim Mason, Law Access volunteer

Tim Mason retired as a partner of Jackson McDonald in June 2016 after being with that firm for 40 years. Prior to retiring, Tim was Jackson McDonald’s Pro Bono Co-ordinator for three years and later represented it on the Law Access Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

Tim was also a member of the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee, which played a pivotal role in the establishment of Law Access Limited. Following his retirement, Tim obtained a Pro Bono Practising Certificate and has been volunteering one day a week with Law Access since August 2016.

What made you choose to volunteer for Law Access?

I wanted to do some voluntary work that involved making use of my legal education and experience. My previous involvement with Law Access and with Jackson McDonald’s pro bono programme made it a good fit for me.

Can you please describe what is involved in your volunteer role?

Essentially, I do whatever I’m asked to do! Up to now, that has involved considering applications for pro bono legal assistance and the supporting documents provided, preparing merit assessments (or reviewing and amending them, where drafted by one of the student interns) and drafting/settling related correspondence to applicants and to lawyers that have accepted a referral.

What do you enjoy the most about the role?

The fact that I’m using my legal brain, the variety of types of law, being involved in the process of helping those who can’t afford a lawyer to get one and being back at the UWA campus again!

What do you find most challenging about the role?

I practised as an insurance lawyer for most of my career, but am now dealing with migration, family law, commercial disputes and the like – slightly outside my comfort zone!

Pro Bono Practising Certificates are still quite new and take-up is not yet widespread. Do you have any suggestions for retired practitioners considering pro bono work?

There are Community Legal Centres and voluntary organisations that would welcome more legally qualified and experienced people. The restricted certificate is free of charge and PI cover either funded by the organisation concerned or available at a modest cost. It is a good transition between a career as a lawyer and leaving the law behind altogether.

Do you have anything else you would like to say about volunteering for Law Access?

It is a good organisation to work for. The people are friendly, the work valuable and the (non-financial) rewards worthwhile. Law Access could use more volunteers and I recommend contacting Dominique Hansen if you are interested.

How can lawyers get involved in Law Access

For Legal Practitioners

“I am keen to do pro-bono work for two reasons – because I want to give back to our community but also because it’s a learning process for me to expand my knowledge and practice areas. It’s not easy fitting everything in, but I think if you are lucky enough to have a half decent life, you need to give back.” Director of a small legal practice who takes regular pro bono referrals for Law Access

Law Access advertises pro bono referrals through various channels including the Law Society of Western Australia’s weekly Friday Facts e-newsletter. Law Access may also contact law firms directly when trying to place matters. If you would like more information about our service and how you can get involved please email your name, contact details and the areas of law in which you are able to take pro bono referrals to the Law Access Manager at lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au.

Law Access also relies on generous support received from secondee lawyers from private firms who second lawyers on a part-time basis to assist Law Access with triage and assessment of applications. Law Access would like to thank The Australian Government Solicitor, DLA Piper, Jackson McDonald and Minter Ellison for providing us with secondee lawyers. If your firm is interested in assisting in this way, please email the Law Access Manager at lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au.

Law Access receives referrals from individuals, Courts, Tribunals, members of the profession and community organisations. Many of our best referrals come from legal practitioners. If you wish to assist an applicant to refer a matter to Law Access please download the appropriate form; Individual or Not-for-Profits.

Does Law Access provide training?

This page will be updated from time to time with details of upcoming training sessions for pro bono lawyers. If you are a lawyer and are seeking information or training on a particular issue relating to undertaking pro bono work please contact lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au.

What is the Law Access Pro Bono Coordinators Network?

Law Access holds quarterly meetings for law firm Pro Bono Coordinators. If your firm wishes to join this group please contact the Law Access Manager via lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au.

What is the Law Access Lawyers for Refugees Network?

Lawyers and migration agents who wish to undertake migration related pro bono work can join the Lawyers for Refugees Network which is co-convened with The Humanitarian Group (formerly Case for Refugees) and which also works with Southern Communities Advocacy Legal and Education Service (SCALES) and with the Federal Court Self Represented Litigants Scheme operated by Legal Aid Western Australia.

The Lawyers for Refugees Network was established by Law Access in July 2014 to boost the capacity of the profession to undertake pro bono referrals in this area of law. The group builds pro bono capacity and expertise by providing training about judicial review and, where required, by pairing less experienced instructors with experienced Counsel or vice versa. The number of pro bono migration referrals made by Law Access has quadrupled following the inception of this group.

The Network meets as required but in the intervening periods Law Access contacts lawyers and migration agents on the network with requests for assistance with migration related pro bono referrals throughout the year.  Judicial Review training materials are available for members of the Law Access Lawyers For Refugees Network. Please email lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au if you wish to join this network.

What is the Law Access Lawyers for LGBTI network?

The Law Access Lawyers for LGBTI Network was established in November 2015 in response to a request from Living Proud for the provision of safe, sensitive and high quality legal services to financially disadvantaged members of the LGBTIQ community. As a result Law Access is now able to make referrals for people seeking assistance in LGBTIQ matters to trained pro bono lawyers.

Lawyers who intend to undertake LGBTI related pro bono work can join the Lawyers for LGBTI. Free initial training for network members was provided in November 2015 and further more in-depth training was provided by Living Proud in February 2016. Training materials are available for members of the Law Access Lawyers for LGBTI Network.

The Network meets  as required but in the intervening periods Law Access contacts lawyers on the Network with requests for assistance with LGBTIQ sensitive referrals throughout the year.  Please email lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au if you wish to join this network.

Can pro bono lawyers get help with disbursements such as fees for expert reports?

Thanks to a generous donation from Allen & Overy, Law Access has now established a limited disbursement scheme for pro bono lawyers who take Law Access referrals. Information on how to apply for a Law Access Disbursement Grant can be found in the guidelines.

The Commonwealth Government provides funding for disbursements in certain legal matters. For more information please see Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department’s Disbursement Support Scheme. Where Commonwealth funding is available it should be used instead of  the Law Access Disbursement Scheme.

The Civil Litigation Assistance Scheme operated by Legal Aid may provide funding in certain civil matters to cover both professional legal fees and disbursements. Applications must be made by lawyers on behalf of plaintiffs. More information is provided on Legal Aid’s Civil Litigation Assistance Scheme Information Sheet. Where Legal Aid funding is available it should be used instead of  the Law Access Disbursement Scheme.

For Law Students

Law Access relies on the generous support of law student volunteers. We have an arrangement with both the University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University through which law students are recruited from time to time to assist with work. Law Access currently do not accept applications for student volunteers outside of these recruitment processes.

Useful Links and Resources

Australian Pro Bono Centre – a not-for-profit whose website contains a variety of useful resources including template pro bono costs agreements and a pro bono manual with information on how to obtain exemptions and waivers of Court fees in pro bono matters.

The Legal Practice Board of Western Australia – offers pro bono practicing certificates.

Information Sheet and translations For Asylum Seekers Forming Part of the Legacy Caseload – Law Access has prepared an information sheet about Federal Circuit Court appeals following an IAA refusal and the process for obtaining pro bono assistance through Law Access.  This short document has been translated into Arabic, Bengali, Farsi, Tamil and Vietnamese. Pro Bono Lawyers and community organisations may distribute this information to applicants seeking pro bono legal assistance.

About Law Access

About Law Access

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Law Access matches applications for pro bono legal assistance from individuals and not for profit organisations to lawyers. The means-tested service is designed to increase community access to justice and legal services where the application has legal merit and all other avenues of assistance such as Legal Aid and community legal centres have been exhausted. Law Access also identifies and refers matters of public interest with potential flow-on benefits for many more disadvantaged and marginalised Australians.

Thanks to the direct in-kind support received from its sponsors Law Access operates with low administrative overheads. The service is staffed by a Manager, a Principal Lawyer, part time secondee lawyers and law student volunteers.

History

The Law Access Pro Bono Referral Scheme was originally established by the Law Society of Western Australia in October 1992. The concept for the current Law Access service developed out of a feasibility study conducted by Kalico Consulting and funded by Lotterywest in 2013 – Doing the Public Good. A key recommendation in this report was the establishment of a single, efficient gateway for assessing applications for legal pro bono assistance.

Law Access Limited was established on 11 December 2014 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Law Society. From 1 July 2015 the Law Access Pro Bono Referral Scheme has been delivered by Law Access Limited, a public benevolent institution registered with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission.

Stakeholders

The work of Law Access is informed by a Stakeholder Advisory Committee with representatives from a diverse group including the Courts, Legal Aid Western Australia, the Western Australian Bar Association, the Family Law Practitioners Association, community legal centres, university law schools and practitioner representatives from remote and regional areas as well as from small, medium and large firms.

The Law Access Board

Adam Ebell, Chairperson and Director – State Prosecutor, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Western Australia

Helen Creed, Director – Executive Director, Community Legal Centres Association of Western Australia

Matthew Keogh, DirectorMP, Member for Burt, Western Australia

Marshall McKenna, Director – Partner, Gilbert + Tobin

Elizabeth Needham, Director – Barrister, Francis Burt Chambers

Maria Saraceni, Director – Barrister, Francis Burt Chambers

Paula Wilkinson, Director  – Director, Kim Wilson & Co

Contact Us

Telephone:  (08) 9324 8600
Email:  lawaccess@lawaccess.net.au

Postal Address:  M249 / The University of Western Australia/ 35 Stirling Highway/ Crawley Western Australia 6009

Please note that Law Access does not provide a walk-in service at this address