Volunteers sought for pro bono schemes in 2015: a message from the president


Dear colleagues

Members need no reminding that there has been a proliferation of pro bono schemes. The Bar Association has repeatedly stated that such schemes are not intended to relieve governments of their obligation to provide adequate funding for legal aid services. Nor are they intended to provide general assistance for unrepresented litigants or for complex and lengthy trials. They are, however, designed to assist deserving litigants to have their cases properly presented.

Those members who volunteer their services for any or all of the schemes in the attached lists, are reminded that pro bono assistance is not to be used as an introduction to obtain a speculative€™ brief.

Bar Association Legal Assistance Referral Scheme (LARS)

I would also like to ask members to again offer their support for our own Legal Assistance Scheme. Our scheme, which has formally existed since 1996, offers people who genuinely cannot afford to pay for barristers the opportunity to have their matters legally assessed and, if appropriate, to have barristers appear for them in court. Over the years there has been a significant increase in the number of requests for assistance. There is no indication that the increase in requests will abate. In order that the same generous people are not overburdened from doing legal assistance work, and to assist us in the day-to-day running of the scheme, I should be grateful if members would indicate their willingness to be involved, stipulating their preferred areas of law. The scheme'€™s guidelines are available from the Bar Association'€™s web site at www.nswbar.asn.au under €Legal Assistance€™. The guidelines are also available at the Bar Association'€™s Reception. If you are willing to offer your services to assist, please complete the accompanying form and return it as soon as possible. The information will be used to prepare the 2015 list that will be provided to all courts involved in the scheme.

LARS now includes mediation

The NSW Bar Association has been a Recognised Mediation Accreditation Body since May 2008. Since this date, the association has accredited 92 members as mediators.

The LARS program has now been expanded to include mediation. Where the parties to the dispute have agreed upon mediation or a court or tribunal has ordered the dispute to mediation, an application may be made under LARS for the assistance of barristers as legal representatives for mediations and also the services of barristers as independent mediators to facilitate the resolution of disputes.

If the matter is referred to a barrister as an independent mediator, that barrister will be a mediator accredited by the Bar Association under the National Standards for Accreditation of Mediators. The barrister will undertake mediation for up to four hours at no cost to the parties. Any further assistance will be by agreement with the parties.

The legal assistance form has been updated accordingly to include a page specifically for barristers accredited as mediators under the national accreditation scheme who wish to offer their services.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court operates, with assistance from the Bar Association, a scheme for the provision of legal assistance on a pro bono basis to deserving litigants in appropriate cases commenced in that court. The central aspects of the scheme were embodied in Part 7 Division 9 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005.

A judge will make an order for referral to LARS, who will then contact a barrister who has volunteered to participate. Barristers may provide assistance including advice in relation to proceedings, the drafting and settling of documents to be filed or used in proceedings, representation on directions hearings, interlocutory or final hearing, in arbitrations and mediations.

This year, again, I urge all members of the Bar with expertise in the areas of practice covered by the scheme to offer their services. If the scheme is to succeed, it requires the co-operation of sufficient numbers of members of the Bar to ensure that the burden of providing pro bono assistance under it does not fall unfairly on only a few of our members.

Federal Magistrates Court Pro Bono Scheme

I would like to encourage members to volunteer their services for a pro bono scheme established by the Federal Magistrates Service. Volunteers will usually be approached directly by solicitors on the court’s pro bono panel, although there may be occasions when the court will approach a barrister direct. Volunteers are being sought for the following jurisdictions: family law, migration, bankruptcy, human rights, judicial review, including Administrative Decisions Tribunal appeals, trade practices and privacy.

Part 12 of the Federal Magistrates Court Rules establishes a scheme to facilitate the provision of legal assistance to parties who are otherwise unable to obtain assistance if to do so is in the interests of the administration of justice.

Federal Court Pro Bono Scheme

I take this opportunity to again ask members of the Bar to volunteer for this scheme if they have not already done so. Those members who have already volunteered would no doubt be glad if some additional names could be given to the Registrar. The feedback on the operation of the scheme to date has been very good and to those members who have been involved I record my thanks. The central aspects of the Federal Court scheme are contained in Order 80 of the Federal Court Rules.

District Court Pro Bono Scheme

I would like to encourage members to volunteer their services for the pro bono scheme established by the District Court and which operates along lines similar to those operated by the Supreme Court of NSW and the Federal Court. The central aspects of the District Court scheme are contained in Part 7 Division 9 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005.

Jane Needham SC

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