UQ Barrister Assistance Team provides pro bono research support for Counsel
The Barrister Assistance Team Program
The Bar’s longstanding contribution to pro bono legal work ensures that the most vulnerable have access to legal assistance. Legal needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic have further highlighted the growing importance and responsibility of the legal profession to undertake work on a pro bono basis. Importantly, a professional commitment to pro bono work is not only reserved for established practitioners; law students can also demonstrate their passion for the value and importance of access to justice through their involvement in pro bono legal tasks.
The Pro Bono Centre at The University of Queensland Law School celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2019. The Centre facilitates student pro bono opportunities in partnership with the legal assistance sector, including barristers who take on pro bono briefs. Currently 500 students have registered their interest to do pro bono work through the Centre – more than half the total eligible LLB cohort.
In early 2018, the Centre formalised a Barrister Assistance Team (BAT). The BAT is a small team of pre-selected, senior law students wanting to support barristers’ pro bono matters. The initiative operates, in part, through a collaboration with LawRight, with whom it trialled the initiative in late 2017. Referrals for BAT come to the Centre either via LawRight’s Pro Bono Connect service or directly from Counsel who request support with direct briefs. The level of support required from student volunteers is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Senior law students are generally very skilled at performing high-quality legal research under strict deadlines, and can perform a variety of administrative and casework assistance tasks. Much of the students’ work is performed flexibly and remotely under strict conditions relating to their confidentiality obligations. Prior to Covid-19, BAT students were also sometimes invited by Counsel to attend court or client conferences. Like everyone, we hope that these face-to-face opportunities for students might return later in the year.
Benefits of participating
Benefits for Counsel seeking the assistance of students through the BAT program include the following:
- Student selection process is undertaken at UQ. Pro Bono Centre staff advertise directly to BAT and only those students with the requisite skills, interest and availability are chosen.
- Student assistance may reduce the time and workload of your pro bono matter.
- Possibility of academic oversight. The Centre is able to draw on the considerable goodwill and expertise of law academics at UQ should that assistance be necessary.
- BAT students are comprehensively inducted, with training on conflicts and confidentiality.
- As an authorised volunteer activity, student pro bono work through the BAT is covered by UQ insurance (personal accident, professional indemnity and public liability).
Your involvement in the BAT program is also an opportunity to inspire the next generation of lawyers as you demonstrate your own professional commitment to pro bono!
How to get involved
Please contact Hannah at the UQ Pro Bono Centre to request assistance: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07 3346 8824. Alternatively, visit the Pro Bono Centre’s website to access the online request form.