Here at Herbert Smith Freehills, we have a strong culture of pursuing equal access to justice. All HSF staff are encouraged to get involved in our Pro Bono and Responsible Business initiatives, which represent some of our most interesting and impactful projects. Whether it’s a multi-jurisdictional pro bono legal matter, fundraising for a worthy cause, improving our supply chain, or improving our environmental performance - you’ll have a range of opportunities to get involved in initiatives that mean something to you, and have a positive impact in the community.

Pro bono @ HSF

Pro bono work is woven into the fabric of HSF. Our firm has a thriving, Partner-led pro bono practice, which provides assistance to charities, NGOs and individuals. All pro bono legal work at HSF is undertaken with the same degree of competency, expertise, professionalism and credit as any other legal work.

In Australia, our mission is to increase access to justice and opportunity, and our focus is on four key areas: health, disability, homelessness and reconciliation. Our clients range from global partners like Médecins Sans Frontières to local charities. Our Australian pro bono practice prioritises assisting those experiencing or at increased risk of marginalisation, underrepresentation or systemic disadvantage, including: First Australians, young people, people with disabilities, LGBT+ community members, asylum seekers and women. 

You’ll have the opportunity to get involved in pro bono at HSF by:

  • providing advice to charities and non-profits on issues which span the full gamut of HSF's practice areas and specialist expertise;
  • completing casework for underrepresented individuals, through the various pro bono legal clinics we support in each of our Australian offices;
  • engaging in systemic advocacy to challenge inherent inequities in society, for example by supporting our long-term strategic projects; and
  • undertaking pro bono secondments to community legal centres and other organisations – some of our pro bono secondments have been in place for more than 25 years.

Case studies

Our pro bono legal practice enables practitioners at all levels to apply their skills to work on a wide range of pro bono matters. Below are some examples of legal clinics and strategic projects we support.

Case study: Asylum Seeker Clinic (Sydney)

Our Sydney office collaborates closely with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) to provide pro bono support to people seeking asylum in New South Wales who are eligible to apply for protection visas. At a fortnightly evening clinic, our lawyers and graduates interview clients with the assistance of interpreters, prepare a client statement and identify and refer any other migration advice the client requires to RACS.

Case study: ​​​​​​​The Shopfront Youth Legal Centre (Sydney)

We have operated a free legal service in Sydney for disadvantaged young people aged 25 and under with Mission Australia and The Salvation Army for over 25 years. The Shopfront represents and advises young people on a range of legal issues, with a particular emphasis on criminal law. In addition to assisting around 600 individual cases each year, the Shopfront advocates for systemic change that will benefit all homeless young people. In addition to the permanent Shopfront legal team (who are Herbert Smith Freehills staff), we send two lawyers on a pro bono secondment to The Shopfront each year from our Sydney office.

Case study: ​​​​​​​The Homeless Law Clinic with Justice Connect (Melbourne)

A joint project of Justice Connect Homeless Law and Herbert Smith Freehills’ Melbourne office, the Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project (WHPP) combines legal representation with social work support and aims to prevent women and children from being evicted into homelessness, and resolve legal issues stemming from family violence.

Our lawyers can get involved in the WHPP by attending a weekly clinic, acting as a file lawyer, and appearing at court or tribunals to represent clients in relation to evictions and other tenancy legal issues that reduce security of housing.

Case study: ​​​​​​​LawRight Homeless Persons Legal Clinic (Brisbane)

Team members in our Brisbane office, in partnership with LawRight, provides free legal assistance to local people experiencing homelessness. Our lawyers attend fortnightly clinics at Anglicare Women’s Shelter (which provides crisis as well as medium term accommodation for women experiencing homelessness).

Case study: ​​​​​​​Sussex Street Community Law Service (Perth)

Sussex Street Community Law Service is a community legal centre that provides access to legal services to low income and disadvantaged people in the community. The advice covers both civil and family matters. We send all graduate solicitors in Perth on secondment for a period of two weeks throughout the year.

Case study: Towards Truth (National)

We provide pro bono legal support to Towards Truth, a ground-breaking collaborative partnership of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Indigenous Law Centre at UNSW. This project provides foundational support for the truth telling process called for in the Uluru Statement From the Heart. Our graduates and lawyers from all Australian offices support the Towards Truth project by undertaking legal research and analysis of laws and policies that have impacted upon First Nations people from 1788 to present day. Our work to-date has traversed topics including Aboriginal land rights, water rights, participation in democracy (eg voting, elections), forced removals, and life on missions and stations.

Responsible Business @ HSF

Herbert Smith Freehills is committed to managing the environmental and social impacts of our business, recognising that our success is closely linked to that of the communities in which we live and work, as well as our commitment to manage the firm in a responsible way. Being a responsible business is at the heart of our approach which fits broadly within the three areas of community, sustainability and business and human rights. You can get involved in our responsible business initiatives by way of community engagement, or joining a Responsible Business Committee.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Each office supports community partners that reflect our focus areas; these partnerships are multifaceted, including volunteering, pro bono, donations, workplace giving and more. Some examples of our community partnerships include Centre 360, Yalari, Youngcare, the Brotherhood of St Laurance, Ronald McDonald House, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Opportunity International Australia.

Case study: Centre 360 Youth and Family Service (Sydney)

Centre 360 Youth and Family Services specialises in counselling, case work and early intervention for disadvantaged young people aged 12-24 and their families, who move in and through inner city Sydney. HSF awards scholarships to support their education and runs a mentoring program to help foster confidence. The program includes a scavenger hunt around the CBD, master chef night, tour of the office and staff stories, and skywalk at Sydney Tower.

Case study: The Brotherhood of St Laurence (Melbourne)

The Brotherhood of St Laurence is a social justice organisation working to prevent and alleviate poverty across Australia. In 2020, Herbert Smith Freehills and the Brotherhood of St Laurence celebrated our 15th year in partnership.  Our Melbourne office offers support through:

  • Brekky Club volunteering once a week; and
  • The Youth Transitions program.

Case study: Net Zero Carbon by 2030

In 2020, we announced our intention to reduce our carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.

We are committing to reducing our overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and then balancing that lower figure with emissions removed from the earth’s atmosphere to reach a net sum of zero. We are planning to do so in a number of ways, including using clean energy; working with suppliers who are also committed to reducing emissions; and supporting initiatives that remove any carbon dioxide that the firm produces from the atmosphere.

Our emission reduction target is backed by science-based targets aligned with the requirements of the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. HSF is pursuing changes to limit warming to 1.5°, and will be verified by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), an organisation formed by the United Nations, World Wide Fund for Nature, CDP and others to encourage and measure corporate climate action.

COMMITTEES

Our Responsible Business Committees make a critical contribution to our social impact progress and are at the heart of our connection to local communities. You can get involved in committees that work towards reconciliation with First Nations Australians, environment and sustainability, or local and international community engagement. For example, as a member of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Champions Committee you’ll have the opportunity to champion initiatives that align with HSF’s RAP and raise awareness and increase office engagement surrounding the RAP.

Case study: Herbert Smith Freehills ‘Elevate’ Reconciliation Action Plan

"As Australia’s leading commercial law firm, we are committed to making a significant contribution to the community. Our RAP work is central to this. We aim to make a difference by partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of our community and using the skills and commitment of our people. Key areas we are focused on include access to justice, thought leadership and career opportunities. We look forward to continuing this work into the future". - Andrew Pike, Regional Managing Partner, Australia

In September 2018 we launched our second ‘Elevate’ Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – we are the only law firm to receive this highest endorsement from Reconciliation Australia. As a firm committed to reconciliation with First Nations people, we seek many avenues to strive towards justice and truth telling through community consultation, whilst ensuring that efforts are made for First Nations voices to be heard and empowered.

For more information download the Herbert Smith Freehills RAP 2018 – 2021 brochure.

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