Paying it forward: Building a collaborative pro bono culture in law schools to improve access to justice and promote graduate employability skills

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation

Description

The latest Queensland Law Society Access to Justice Scorecard rates access to justice in Queensland at 5.01 out of 10, even lower than the previous year’s score which was 5.2. This score is indicative of the vast improvements left to be made to improve access to justice for Queenslanders, the greatest barrier to access to justice being the high cost of legal services. These figures also support the findings of the Law Council’s 2018 Justice Project, where it was found that more than 13 per cent of Australians live under the poverty line, while legal aid is available to just eight per cent, and that many impoverished people are considered too wealthy to get basic legal help. With reduced government funding to community legal centres, Australian law schools can play an important role in reducing the gap and increasing access to justice for the community through pro bono law clinics and social justice initiatives.
It has been widely acknowledged that pro bono service in law clinics and university access to justice initiatives have a positive impact on students, especially in relation to increasing their graduate employability skills. However, little empirical evidence exists in respect of the extended benefits of pro bono service during students’ studies in relation to the students themselves once they enter the workforce, as well as data on the perceived benefits by recipients of the pro bono services. This paper explores the impact of pro bono service by university students in a university law clinic from two perspectives, namely that of the graduates themselves after they enter legal practice; and that of the community members who are clients of the pro bono clinics. In this pilot project the author investigated: first, the incidence of continuing pro bono service once law graduates enter legal practice, and the motivating factors for their ongoing involvement in pro bono (or lack thereof), by surveying a group of clinic alumni of a Commercial Law Clinic held at Bond University; and second, the perceived benefits reported by clients of the same law clinic over a period of approximately five years.

Period11 May 2021
Event titleLaw Futures Centre Roundtable, Griffith University, Australia
Event typeSeminar
LocationBrisbane, Australia
Degree of RecognitionLocal