A West Australian lawyer has received the Attorney General’s award for his outstanding commitment to pro bono work.
Devoting hundreds of hours to pro bono each year, Levine runs his firm’s hugely successful pro bono practice in Perth, which has an 80 percent participation rate and averages 35 hours of pro bono work per partner per year.
“Most of us rarely need to see a lawyer – maybe just to make a will or to buy a house. However, for the disadvantaged in society the need for legal services often increases as they are faced with issues like eviction, unfair dismissal and homelessness,” said Levine. “The stark irony is that as their need for justice increases, their ability to access justice seems to diminish.”
Levine works closely with the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA and its clients, as well as the Nyamba Buru Yawuru Group in Broome. Among the lengthy list of pro bono clients are a number of not-for-profits, including the Cancer Council of Western Australia, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Black Dog Ride.
“Pro bono work often takes you out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Clients are not large corporates; legal issues like refugee work, eviction or mental health applications are not your run-of-the-mill matters. We sometimes have to skill up and that can be challenging but rewarding at the same time.”
Levine’s work extends beyond pro bono: having provided advice to Manna Inc, a service that provides meals for the homeless, for many years, he said the relationship has evolved to become more of a partnership that just charity work.
“We do all the legal work, on a pro bono basis, for Manna Inc, a local Perth charity that is now one of the largest providers of meals and assistance to the homeless and disadvantaged,” said Levine. “What started as a pro bono arrangement has now developed into a comprehensive and dynamic partnership between K&L Gates and Manna Inc through which his team members now actively volunteer, assist and fundraise for Manna Inc. Manna Inc now holds this up as a 'best practice' model for corporate social responsibility engagement.”
In 2013, Levine played an important role in the development and implementation of a report on the feasibility of pro bono models in Western Australia. The report led to the establishment of the state’s first pro bono clearing house.
“There is so much unmet legal need out there that there is no problem in finding pro bono opportunities,” he said. “There are pro bono clearing houses in most states that provide referrals (Community Legal Centres and legal clinics that are always looking for assistance) and public interest matters that need to be tackled. In house legal teams sometimes face regulatory and insurance issues in doing pro bono, but various schemes have now been established to get over these hurdles. It is also becoming common for in house teams to partner with their external lawyers to jointly do a pro bono project.”