Clayton Utz – leading Australian pro bono

A couple of years ago David Hillard, the pro bono partner at Australian law firm Clayton Utz, and I began to talk about the interface of health and legal issues. A vision was born of supporting services in Australia to explore this dynamic, animating a new and accessible language about legal service provision. And so to was hatched a plan to visit the World’s best exemplars of the model – Medical-Legal Partnerships across the United States.

LCCLC have had a long-standing partnership with Clayton Utz, supporting the provision of legal services in Central Victoria since LCCLCs establishment in  2005. This partnership is reflective of Clayton Utz’s proud commitment to pro bono services, commitment to developing the capacity of regionally based community legal services, and its active community involvement through its Community Connect program. While the support provided by Clayton Utz has been diverse, it has notably included funding (through the Clayton Utz Foundation)for three fellowship positions based at LCCLC:

  1. To research unmet legal need and improve legal services or homeless people or those at risk of homelessness;
  2. To establish pilot community legal services in the Goulburn Valley; and
  3. To research medical-legal partnerships in the US with a view to making recommendations for their establishment or expansion in Australia, especially in the region.

A lot can and will be said about the role of pro bono in Medical-Legal Partnership. One thing that is worth emphasising is that the MLP or Advocacy-Health arena is vast and is burgeoning. There are tremendous opportunities for firms, corporate counsel and barristers to contribute in myriad ways from direct legal services, sponsoring entire medical clinics, targeting specific cohorts or localities, engaging in lobbying, the list goes on. Not only is this an exciting time for MLP / AHAs in Australia, it is a wonderful opportunity for pro bono.

L to R at the 2012 Pro Bono Institute Conference Washington DC, David Hillard (pro bono partner at Clayton Utz), Esther Lardent (CEO at the Pro Bono Institute) and Peter Noble (coordinator and lawyer at the Loddon Campaspe CLC).

As I travel from site to MLP site, people have been invariably impressed at the commitment and foresight of the Clayton Utz foundation in sponsoring the research initiative. Rarely have people here in the States had the opportunity to personally visit so many sites and get a feeling for their shape, complexity and challenges – let alone someone from Australia doing it.

LCCLC congratulates Clayton Utz on making this tremendous investment and welcomes, as I’m sure Clayton Utz does, further interest and investment in the field by Australian pro bono contributors.

Peter Noble

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