Law Access matches applications for pro bono legal assistance from individuals and not for profit organisations to lawyers. The means-tested service is designed to increase community access to justice and legal services where the application has legal merit and all other avenues of assistance have been exhausted such as Legal Aid WA, community legal centres and the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA.

Law Access also identifies and refers matters of public interest with potential flow-on benefits for many more disadvantaged and marginalised Australians.

We receive applications in all areas of the law, from all over the State, and try to match applicants who will most benefit from legal assistance with lawyers willing to provide their legal services on a pro bono basis as a service to the community. All applicants must pass a stringent means and merits test before we try to refer them.

We also provide legal advice to unsuccessful applicants, advising them why their matter has not been able to be referred. This assists applicants to better understand their rights and to avoid costly self-representation.

Thanks to the direct in-kind support received from its sponsors and volunteers Law Access operates with low administrative overheads.

History

The Law Access Pro Bono Referral Scheme was originally established by the Law Society of Western Australia in October 1992. The concept for the current Law Access service developed out of a feasibility study conducted by Kalico Consulting and funded by Lotterywest in 2013 – Doing the Public Good. A key recommendation in this report was the establishment of a single, efficient gateway for assessing applications for legal pro bono assistance.

Law Access Limited was established on 11 December 2014 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Law Society. From 1 July 2015 the Law Access Pro Bono Referral Scheme has been delivered by Law Access Limited, a public benevolent institution registered with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission.

Stakeholders

The work of Law Access is informed by a Stakeholder Advisory Committee with representatives from a diverse group including the Courts, Legal Aid Western Australia, the Western Australian Bar Association, the Family Law Practitioners Association, community legal centres, university law schools and practitioner representatives from remote and regional areas as well as from small, medium and large firms.

The Law Access Board

The Hon Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC, Chairman and Director

Marshall McKenna, Director – Partner, Gilbert + Tobin

Maria Saraceni, Director – Barrister, Francis Burt Chambers

Paula Wilkinson, Director – Director, Kim Wilson & Co

Matthew Howard SC, Director – Barrister, Francis Burt Chambers (from 1 January 2019)

Shayla Strapps, Director – Director/Lawyer, Mental Health Law Centre (from 1 January 2019)

Greg McIntyre SC, Director – Barrister, John Toohey Chambers (from 9 December 2019)

Professor Natalie Skead, Director – Dean and Head of School, UWA Law School (from 9 December 2019)

Judy McLean, Director – Principal Solicitor, Fremantle Community Legal Centre (from 9 December 2019)