KWM has worked closely with our service to deliver pro bono legal assistance since we commenced operations on 1 July 2015 and have just formalised a 3-year community partnership with us in July 2020. We spoke to WA Pro Bono Coordinators Danika Kuczerepa and Ashleigh De La Rosa:
1. Can you describe the role you play in facilitating this important two-way relationship?
As the Pro Bono Coordinators, we coordinate the pro bono legal assistance (and other in kind assistance) provided by KWM’s Perth office. We are the first point of contact for Law Access at KWM and essentially act as the link between Law Access and KWM’s lawyers who want to do pro bono legal work. We conside
r referrals from Law Access and determine whether the matter is something that KWM has the expertise, experience and capacity to take on. If so, and provided matter fits in wit
h the strategic plan for KWM’s Community Impact Program (discussed in more detail below), we will help find a suitable KWM lawyer to work on the matter. The service provided by Law Access has helped our pro bono program to have broader reach in the West Australian community, and help clients that we would otherwise not have necessarily been in contact with, particularly vulnerable individuals. We also count on the Law Access to help place pro bono matters that we are not able to assist with, where KWM has been approached directly by a client.
In addition, we represent KWM at a variety of meetings hosted by Law Access, tog
ether with the pro bono coordinators from other firms, where we usually discuss matters related to pro bono legal industry in Western Australia and hear from other organisations in the industry. This is a great forum for keeping on top of the challenges facing the community and how the pro bono legal industry is responding.
We are both keen promoters of increasing access to legal services for those who might otherwise experience barriers to justice and so we make a point to encourage all KWM lawyers to get involved in our pro bono program.
2. Your firm takes many pro bono referrals which are allocated through you – what do you look for when considering whether to accept a pro bono referral?
Our pro bono program is driven by our KWM Community Impact Program ‘2022 Strategic Vision: Reimagining Equal Justice’, which sets out our overarching strategic priorities, including those related to our pro bono practice (more information here). KWM’s core vision is targeted at reducing inequality and poverty among young people, especially First Nations People. Young people are a group with one of the highest levels of unmet need for pro bono legal assistance, with research showing that more than 1.1 million young people in Australia live in poverty and experience inequality. We therefore prioritise seeking referrals that relate to assisting these groups directly or indirectly. However, we do consider all matters that are referred to us and often accept matters for other groups or individuals in need of pro bono legal assistance.
We assist pro bono clients with a wide variety of matters (within the limitations of our general expertise given our lawyers usual practice is of a commercial nature) so that we can have the greatest impact for the community. The more people who can benefit from the work that we do the better!
Ensuring a demonstrated need for legal assistance is also at the core of any pro bono practice, and we are grateful for our relationships with Law Access and the Community Legal Centres with which we have partnered, as we can be sure that the clients referred to us have been unable to obtain legal assistance elsewhere, genuinely require our help or have a legitimate claim.
3. Your firm provides wholistic philanthropic support to Law Access, both in-kind and financial, from across the firm – can you describe the type of support that you have provided over the last 12 months?
Law Access provides an important community service which KWM relies on to connect with clients in need and so we are pleased that we can do more to support Law Access undertake its work including:
- Secondments: KWM has been seconding lawyers on a rotation basis since 2019 to assist Law Access to consider applications for assistance in respect of asylum seeker judicial review matters;
- Financial support: KWM makes donations to Law Access; and
- Other support: KWM participates in the annual ‘Walk for Justice’ to help raise funds for Law Access.