Highlighting our Pro Bono Work During COVID-19

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May 07,2020
COVID-19 has changed the delivery of legal services on an international scale. In response to this, our practice has come together to provide assistance to those who are most in need.
 
The Foundation would like to thank all of our people who have been or is, working on pro bono matters. Your contribution to the community comes at a time when it is most needed
 
We have seen a significant increase in referrals and assistance sought and we are all providing an exceptional service to vulnerable people and NFP's. This is particularly essential during COVID-19 when so many can fall through the cracks
 
The Colin Biggers & Paisley Foundation would like to share some of the highlights from what your colleagues are working on across our offices in this new climate:
 
ROSTERS
 
Elyse Di Stefano is a solicitor in our Sydney Property and Development team.  Elyse provides advice at the Monday evening Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC) Youth Advice Roster, held in our Sydney office pre social distancing.  Elyse is continuing to provide legal advice to vulnerable young people whilst working from home.
 
Elyse: Just because we are working remotely does not mean we have to stop volunteering and contributing. The format of the MLC Youth Advice Service has changed to adapt to social distancing measures, but the great thing about it is we still have the ability to provide this pro-bono service from home.
 
Instead of meeting in the CBP offices on a Monday night, we now access the file details and phone numbers online. We call the clients to give them legal advice, and the MLC staff are available over the phone to assist us if we need their help.
 
It is very rewarding to know that this service can continue running during the COVID-19 period for the benefit of vulnerable youth.
 
Our Brisbane lawyers are continuing to provide legal advice to the community through the new LawRight QCAT Roster on Wednesday afternoons via telephone.  The assistance provided by our lawyers largely relate to issues with obtaining a positive Blue Card notice.  If people can't get a positive Blue Card notice it can often prevent them from working.  Continuing to provide this assistance despite the COVID-19 pandemic is really important and the change to telephone consultations has been seamless thanks to our wonderful legal volunteers.  Leanne Dearlove and Lois Bullen have been instrumental in ensuring the smooth continuation of this roster in Brisbane.
 
Leanne: Its great we have been able to continue to provide assistance to our QCAT clients so they can confidently pursue their legal issues themselves.
 
CASEWORK AND RESEARCH
 
Maddison Ives is a solicitor in our Sydney insurance team and provides legal advice on a range of pro bono matters, particularly focusing on vulnerable women who have experienced domestic violence. Maddi recently provided advice and research on an international memorandum in regards to coercive control to assist with advocacy on this issue for Women's Legal Service NSW and Rape & Domestic Violence Service NSW.
 
Maddi: We are working with several firms on an international scale to produce a memorandum regarding coercive control legislation. I have been focusing on the coercive control legislation introduced in Tasmania. This review includes a consideration of the criminalisation of financial abuse and its implementation. Tasmania was one of the first jurisdictions internationally to legislate against economic abuse as a domestic violence offence and the only State in Australia to do so.
 
We anticipate being in a position to make a final submission to be used by domestic and family violence Community Legal Centres and advocacy organisations to assist them to advocate for change in existing state based legislative schemes in Australia so as to better protect victims of domestic and family violence.
 
Fraser Oakley, a lawyer in our Insurance team in Melbourne assists vulnerable young people exiting out of home care with pro bono legal assistance through our Youth Law Legal Pod.
 
Fraser: Our pro bono work for YouthLaw is a great opportunity for lawyers of all levels to create positive change for disenfranchised youth and others who have suffered acts of violence.
 
We have seen a steady flow of referrals from YouthLaw including some matters from other states, which is uncommon! It is fantastic to know that young people are continuing to engage with their support systems (including YouthLaw) and are being proactive about seeking assistance.
 
During COVID-19 we have been able to involve our new graduates and junior lawyers in this pro bono work.  We have been able to manage as people are stepping up, taking on new clients and communicating effectively with their legal pod teams about their capacity. This support has enabled the practice to continue assisting new and old clients who are no doubt suffering in the current pandemic.
 
Ana Kolovos and Elizabeth Flatley coordinate our Victorian Women's Legal Service Victims of Crime referrals where we assist women victims of violent crime. This service has seen an interesting development for clients who are seeing counsellors and psychologists.  Appointments are now proceeding via telephone and video link and those clients that are not yet receiving treatment have been able to begin to access it remotely at a more rapid rate as the government subsidies towards tele-health consults has resulted in an increase in the number of mental health care providers offering bulk-billed services.
 
Elizabeth: It is motivating and encouraging that, in conjunction with the WLSVic, we can still offer our services in a meaningful way to some of the most vulnerable women in Victoria.
 
ASSISTING COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRES
 
Our lawyers are also extending their assistance toward the needs of our priority pro bono partners. Bob Miljevic and Emma Croskery in our Property and Development team are assisting Marrickville Legal Centre with updating the centre's Residential Tenancy Fact Sheets. MLC has seen a sharp increase in Tenancy referrals during COVID-19.  Bob and Emma's assistance with updating MLC's online Fact Sheets will assist the centre to meet the increased demand for their legal advice service and to provide community members with up to date easy to understand information.
 
Kerry O'Brien will be providing assistance at the Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) through a secondment 1 day per week with the RLC employment team. RLC has seen a tripling of requests for advice and assistance around employment related matters by community members during COVID-19 and are seriously under resourced to provide this much needed legal advice.  Kerry will be invaluable in assisting RLC to meet this gap in legal need.
 
Brianna Clark is also assisting RLC and in particular the tenancy team with triaging requests for assistance. The tenancy team have been inundated with calls and are struggling to keep up. Brianna is assisting the most vulnerable people who cannot access the RLC online Legal Assistance Form due to a disability or other condition or lack of access to a computer, the internet or language difficulties. These community members would otherwise fall through the gaps.