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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 323 asked in the Legislative Council on 2 April 2020 by Hon Peter Collier

Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on

LEGAL SERVICES — PRO BONO MODEL

323. Hon PETER COLLIER to the Leader of the House representing the Attorney General:

I ask this question on behalf of Hon Michael Mischin, who is away on urgent parliamentary business.

I refer to the Attorney General's response to my question without notice dated 31 March regarding the requirement that from 1 July 2020, all law firms supplying legal services for government departments and agencies will be required to provide at least 10 per cent of the value of that work pro bono for approved causes.

(1) Noting the support of the Law Society of WA and the vast majority of law firms, can the Attorney General guarantee that the cost of private sector legal services to government will not increase to absorb this mandated charitable work?

(2) Will legal counsel briefed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and Legal Aid WA who are not at the independent bar be required to provide this pro bono service?

(3) Will briefing fees paid by government agencies to counsel who are not at the independent bar be increased to absorb the value of the mandated pro bono work?

(4) What mechanisms is the Attorney General putting in place to ensure that the mandated pro bono work is performed by practitioners who have the aptitude and interest to perform that work?

Hon SUE ELLERY replied:

I thank the honourable member for some notice of the question.

(1) As previously indicated in answer to question without notice 277, law firms presently engaged by the State Solicitor's Office charge at hourly rates fixed by the State Solicitor—rates that are generally reviewed every two years. Work is underway for all rates being charged by private sector firms to government departments and agencies to be captured in a single common user agreement, with those rates being fixed following discussion with the State Solicitor.

(2) No.

(3) Not applicable.

(4) Rule 7(f) of the Legal Profession Conduct Rules 2010, which apply to all practitioners, requires that a practitioner must not accept an engagement that is beyond that practitioner's competence. Consequently, the Attorney General does not need to put in place any measures to ensure that practitioners have the aptitude for the work. Whether a practitioner might be interested in the work is a matter for the practitioner. If they do not want to undertake any pro bono work, that is a matter for them. However, that would mean that they may not undertake any government work.