Our commitment to the community
Helping those who are disadvantaged in their quest to obtain justice and defend their legal rights is one of the core tenets of the Victorian Bar, and I’m proud of the real difference that the Victorian Bar’s Pro Bono Scheme makes to those in need.
In November last year, members will remember that we launched our new online Pro Bono Platform, in a ceremony attended by the Victorian Attorney-General and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria. The platform enables courts to refer pro bono work to the Bar through a direct online portal, making the process more efficient and allowing more members of the Bar to be involved in pro bono activities. Since the platform went live at the beginning of June, 25 cases have been referred by the Supreme, County and Coroners Courts and all of them have been accepted promptly by members – the majority within 20 minutes, and one was snapped up in three minutes.
While the platform was designed pre-COVID, it has come into its own as an extremely efficient method to allocate pro bono referrals in these times of social distancing. We’re delighted that Justice Connect has let us know that it will soon be trialling the platform. This will provide further opportunities for members to be involved in pro bono work, and certainty for those in need of help to know that they will be represented. The Supreme and County Courts will soon be reviewing the scheme and will be contacting members who have accepted referrals for their feedback, which I encourage them to give.
There are many encouraging stories behind the Bar’s pro bono work, where barristers have truly transformed the lives of those in dire legal straights. One of these is the case of Maria and Betty, who were helped by members of the Bar working pro bono to save them from homelessness. The video can be viewed here. I’d like to thank all members who undertake pro bono work for their dedication and acknowledge the members of the Pro Bono Committee for spearheading this project and Amanda Utt, Daniel Cousens and Poorva Sabnis in the VicBar team for getting the platform up and running.
Victorian Commercial Arbitration Scheme – update
We’re delighted about the positive responses that we’ve received from across the Bar, profession and the client community following the launch of VCAS last week.
VCAS is a set of Rules through which parties can resolve disputes quickly and efficiently in fixed timeframes with capped-fee arbitrators. You can learn more about VCAS at vcas.net.au. As part of the next stage of the Scheme’s rollout, we are seeking expressions of interest from members who wish to join the initial VCAS panel of arbitrators. In accordance with VCAS’s objectives, interest is sought from members who are experienced and qualified arbitrators, who agree to use the VCAS Rules (including agreeing to the VCAS scale of fees), and who are prepared to travel to regional Victoria if required (restrictions permitting).
Given the nature and purposes of the Scheme, and its focus on low-cost dispute resolution, (including the reduced fees that arbitrators on the panel will be charging), we encourage submissions from junior arbitration practitioners who satisfy the criteria. Members can express their interest by emailing email@example.com for more information.
Vale His Honour Judge Guy Andrew
It was with sadness that we heard of the passing of His Honour Judge Guy Andrew. He was a highly respected barrister and diligent and determined judge, who lived a life of service to others and to the law. I read the Family Law Bar Association’s communication earlier today, and I echo the sentiments of the Chair, Geoff Dickson QC. I refer members to the communication here.
Members who need support in these difficult times should contact one of the Bar-funded counselling services: Re-Vision Group on 9650 5540 or Converge International on 1300 687 327. Consultations are free and confidential. More information is on the members’ health and wellbeing page here.