For Practitioners

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.