Victoria amends Legal Profession Act to facilitate in-house lawyer pro bono
Thursday, May 10, 2012
- Organization: National Pro Bono Resource Centre
The Legal Profession and Public Notaries Amendment Bill 2012 was passed by the Victorian Parliament on 27 March, and commenced operation on 2 May 2012. It amends the Legal Profession Act 2004 to remove restrictions that prevented holders of corporate practicing certificates from engaging in pro bono legal practice.
Until now, the practising certificates available to Victoria’s in-house lawyers limited them to providing legal advice to their employer only. Now, Victoria’s 2,700 in-house lawyers who work for businesses, governments or community organisations will be able to use their professional expertise to assist in addressing unmet legal need by doing pro bono legal work outside their workplace.
The amendments provide for practising certificates issued to corporate legal practitioners to contain a condition that entitles the holder to practice as a volunteer at a community legal centre or otherwise on a pro bono basis. The amendment also provides for the Legal Services Board (LSB) to approve the terms and conditions of the required professional indemnity insurance policy that must cover the practitioner’s pro bono work. The National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy administered by the Centre has been suggested to the LSB as an appropriate policy.
The legislation followed lobbying by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, the Public Interest Law Clearing House VIC (PILCH) ,the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) and DLA Piper that raised concerns about legislative barriers being the principal obstacle to in-house lawyers undertaking pro bono work in Victoria. Queensland and New South Wales have already lifted similar restrictions on corporate practising certificates and there are efforts underway to work towards similar reforms in other jurisdictions.