Media release: Legal advice within reach for many more Victorians
2 March 2012
Legal advice within reach for many more Victorians
The Public Interest Law Clearing House VIC (PILCH) today welcomed the Victorian Government’s intention to introduce legislation that will allow in-house lawyers to provide free legal services to the Victorian community.
Restrictions in the Legal Profession Practice Act limit lawyers working in business and government to volunteering their time and expertise at a community legal centre, and not otherwise.
“The current law significantly reduces the pool of lawyers who are able to do pro bono work. This in turn entrenches the disadvantage many individuals face – legal advice is often expensive and out of reach for many in the community,” said PILCH Executive Director, Fiona McLeay. “The proposed reforms will unlock an opportunity for in-house lawyers to provide free legal services for marginalised and disadvantaged Victorians.”
“Time and time again I’ve spoken with corporate and government lawyers expressing a strong appetite to offer their advice and expertise outside their place of work – they’re frustrated that they can’t – and it’s not clear what the reasoning behind the current law is,” she said.
“If passed, this legislation will give over 2,700 lawyers the same opportunities as their counterparts working in law firms.”
Trish Hyde, CEO of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA), also welcomed the announcement. “We have long held the belief that Victorian in-house lawyers should be allowed to undertake pro bono work. If these changes are made, thousands of in-house lawyers previously prevented from using their professional expertise outside their workplace, will be able to give back to the community just like their private practice counterparts and in-house lawyers elsewhere in the country. We congratulate the Attorney-General for taking this important step.”
PILCH, along with the National Pro Bono Resource Centre and ACLA, has been advocating for amendments to the Legal Profession Practice Act 2004 since 2008. Similar reforms have been passed in NSW and Queensland.
“PILCH urges all parliamentarians to get behind this legislation and show their commitment to a justice system that is fair and accessible to all Victorians. Passing this legislation would be a step towards that,” Ms McLeay said.