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Dla Phillips Fox Supports Pro Bono Disclosure

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The trans-Tasman law firm, DLA Phillips Fox, which this year will do about AU$8.5M of pro bono work, has welcomed calls by the New Zealand Law Society for government to require pro bono disclosure from its panel firms. The firm's fulltime partner in charge of pro bono, Sydney-based Nicolas Patrick, said "It is entirely appropriate that governments should choose to purchase services from responsible, ethical businesses that demonstrate a commitment to the ideals of justice". DLA Phillips Fox's Auckland office leader, partner John Hannan, said a formal pro bono programme was established in New Zealand in 2004. The firm's New Zealand pro bono clients include charities such as the Fred Hollows Foundation, Oxfam, Habitat for Humanity and Starship Foundation. The firm also acts for individuals for who cannot afford to pay for legal assistance and for the past three years has operated a weekly outreach clinic in partnership with the Otara Law Centre in South Auckland. DLA Phillips Fox has been reporting on its pro bono work for several years under similar schemes introduced by the Australian Government and the Victorian State Government. "The Australian schemes have certainly been a success, to the extent that they have encouraged firms to facilitate the participation of their lawyers in pro bono work. Nobody at my firm is forced to do pro bono work, but we still have over 80% lawyer participation rates, because our people want to do this stuff, and we provide them with lots of opportunities," said Mr Patrick. The firm introduced full fee credit for lawyers who undertake pro bono work. This means that lawyers can do pro bono work and it counts towards their budgets. Mr Patrick says this was a key step in driving up pro bono initiatives in the firm. "This year we will do about $8.5million of pro bono work. Three percent of all of the legal work undertaken by the firm is for a pro bono client." Mr Hannan said there is room for improvement in the New Zealand legal sector, and that the government has a key role to play. "Rather than making pro bono mandatory, the government can encourage pro bono by using its buying power to preference firms with a strong commitment to pro bono."

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