Friday, 24 July 2009

Reducing too business-oriented sentiment from clever lawyer

The corporate world has made the business lawyers too business-oriented, this means that business lawyers would only work for financially lucrative case and not bothering working for pro bono service that would bring some kinds of positive impacts to the community or a society as a whole.

Getting back to the legal education, we as the law students, have been taught to better the society and to protest against any phenomenon that we believe will bring negative impacts to the society. And indeed, we have been very active in seeing the society in a critical way and devoting our brain to bring in the good into the society.

The hectic corporate world has almost totally changed everything, as business lawyers become too busy with lucrative business cases and they have to fight day and night for the clients, leaving with no time to give some helps to the society they are living in.

As a law student and legal adviser, I feel that lawyer or legal practitioner would be the most qualified and efficient person, if he/she is the one who does the legally systematic thinking to clean the defects, whether such the defects are related or not related to legal aspect, in the society; will the politicians, economists, students, the public, etc, can positively rectify the society in term of legal aspects better than us?

What I am saying here, is that I just wish to suggest to all clever lawyers in the world to consider pro bono work for their society or any society as another piece of cake after work.

Posted by Vicheka Lay
Legal Consultant, Cambodia

Friday, 17 July 2009

Lawyers as society's self-regulating guardians of justice

Commentators such as David Fagelson* derive the obligation to provide legal service pro bono from attorneys' central role in the justice system. Justice is a fundamental social value, and equality before the law is its key element.

For a person to participate in a complex, adversarial justice system, a lawyer's expertise is indispensable. The state acknowledges and enables this expertise with various entitlements: most significantly, a monopoly, which lawyers themselves regulate, on the practice of law and on access to courts. Monopoly pricing is deemed to result, and pro bono service is deemed an appropriate acknowledgment of the power to price services beyond the reach of many. Some observe, perhaps more philosophically, that the self-regulation which secures the monopoly - the ability to determine who can join the club - itself secures important social values.

Thus, an independent, self-regulating legal profession, free to admit members of its own choosing who can exercise their profession without government direction, best preserves the rule of law. As society's self-regulating guardians of justice, lawyers are best positioned to secure its fundamental value of equality of all before the law and to work toward universal access.

While this may seem rather lofty, consider recent developments in Fiji where, as of June 30, all lawyers must apply for a Practicing Certificate from the newly-installed, military-backed regime, which moved the licensing of lawyers from the law society to an army-appointed major.** A lawyer was prevented from delivering a speech to the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress, scheduled for June 12, 2009, due to its discussion of Fiji’s political and financial crisis and the impact of the recent coup on human rights. Download the text of his speech here [PDF file].

Against this backdrop, a correlation between lawyers' autonomy and an ethical obligation to further access to justice does not seem extreme.

Posted by Robin Westbrook
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

* 'Rights and Duties: The Ethical Obligation to Serve the Poor', 17 Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory & Practice 171, Winter 1999.
** Rowan Callick, 'Fiji's military-led judiciary no paradise for business', The Australian, 5 June 2009,,28124,25588281-36418,00.html, accessed 17 July 2009.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Pro bono 'clearing houses'

During this troubled economy, there has been a notable increase in the number of lawyers in the United States volunteering to work pro bono with legal aid organizations -- a trend likely to be mirrored in other countries. Some of these recent volunteers, however, have no experience in dealing with loss of public benefits, evictions, discriminatory practices, and comparable issues that low income, legal aid clients generally confront. Instead, they are transactional lawyers experienced in finance, security laws, tax matters etc.

The problem of matching pro bono lawyers with deserving organizations that are in need of their skills is handled in São Paulo, Brazil, by the Instituto Pro Bono. This facility acts as a 'clearing house' in pro bono matters, assisting NGOs and other non-profit organizations find qualified attorneys for civil, criminal, and labor law issues.

In Washington DC, the Community Economic Development Project matches community based non-profits with law firms that can best address their business and transactional requirements.

The Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee leadership invites comments identifying additional clearing house facilities to which it can refer members for assistance in finding suitable pro bono projects.

Posted by Patricia Blair
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee