Te Ara Ture Pro Bono Update

As the year ends, Te Ara Ture has been looking back on its first few months and imagining what the next year will bring. This update is provided by te Ara Ture. For more information, visit its website.

This is the second update to our wonderful team of pro bono providers - and our final update for 2021. Don’t fear – we’re working right through December and have lots of meaningful pro bono opportunities ready for lawyers both sides of Christmas!

As the year ends, Te Ara Ture has been looking back on our first few months and imagining what the next year will bring.

We do this work because providing access to justice can bring about life-changing outcomes for people and the community. Sometimes, the issues faced by people are a matter of life and death. This year, we supported a case on behalf of Afghan nationals – most with strong ties to New Zealand – who’s visa applications were not being processed because of border closures. This failure by Immigration New Zealand meant people were denied the opportunity to leave Afghanistan on repatriation flights. We know that some of these people have now died or disappeared.

The success of this case means those residents still trapped in Afghanistan now have a pathway to safety.

More often, the issues faced by people experiencing barriers to justice are connected to social and economic problems. In these matters too, the outcomes are often life changing. We can see this clearly in a spate of matters coming out of Northland, where low-income families live in unsanitary housing, simply because an estate has not been administered. In these matters, a routine application for probate or letters of administration can unlock the funds needed to provide safe and sanitary housing.

We’re pleased with the types of matters being referred through Te Ara Ture. With every matter, we work hard to identify the access to justice issues facing a client. Those issues take many forms – including disability, remoteness, low-literacy, financial stresses, unstable housing, or sole-parenting. We also work hard to identify the help needed to unlock life-changing outcomes. In some cases, this is lots of help, but in most cases it means simply drawing on the core skills, training and attributes which underpin any lawyers practice - it’s often as simple as a reassuring phone call.

As well as meaning a lot to the clients and their communities, it’s clear from the feedback we are getting this work means a lot to our lawyers too. The matters provide a real sense of purpose for the teams and allows them to use their skills in new ways, which brings great satisfaction.

Recent Highlights

While every matter is a highlight, here are some recent matters that resonate with us:

First Referral

The first matter we ever placed through our online portal was to Gilbert Walker. The recording of the wrong sentence in a minor criminal matter left this low-income client significantly worse off. The feedback we’ve had from Gilbert Walker was fantastic:

“The case is progressing well. It’s an interesting legal issue, and the client is a bit different from our usual client base. It’s been interesting and rewarding for the team - everyone is getting a real buzz helping out.” – Matthew Harris (Partner, Gilbert Walker)

Judicial Review success

We were delighted with the outcome of the Judicial Review matter referred through Te Ara Ture. The High Court ruled that Immigration New Zealand was wrong to stop processing decision-ready visa applications by Afghan nationals, and wrong to not make an exception on humanitarian grounds. 

The case was brought by Community Law Waikato, and supported by members of Te Ara Ture’s network - Wendy Aldred (barrister) and Simpson Grierson.  We understand it’s been a lot of hard work but has meant a lot to the public law teams involved.

A chance for closure

One of the best parts of this job is calling the clients to tell them we’ve found someone to help. There were lots of tears recently, when we placed a client with a relationship property lawyer. The client had experienced significant family violence and this placement represented an opportunity for closure after many difficult years.

The Numbers

  • 52 pro bono providers now registered to accept referrals (including firms, sole practitioners, and barristers). This reaches around 350 lawyers.
  • 53 applications from community law centres
  • 65% of eligible applications have been placed with providers to date
  • Only 10% of eligible applications remain unplaced after 1 month

Coming Up

Next year our main focus will be on growing our core operations – increasing the number of applications from community law centres and the number of pro bono providers in the network.

In addition to that, we are developing a couple of special interest projects:

Employment Law

This is the biggest area of law for community law centres. It’s also one of the largest practice areas for lawyers. This provides a great opportunity to match the skills in the profession with the needs of the community. We’re still working on the details but it’s likely to include a focus on disciplinary processes and pre-mediation advice.

Not-for-Profits

NFPs work with disadvantaged communities every day, helping to address the social and economic problems faced by those communities. These NFPs do great work – but have legal needs of their own. A special interest project will match the legal and business skills of lawyers to the legal needs of this sector.

Thank you all so much for your support of Te Ara Ture. You’ve helped us get off to a great start. As mentioned, we’re still around over December, and there’s plenty of pro bono opportunities available - jump on to the portal for a look. Otherwise, have a great Xmas break – and we look forward to working with you in 2022.

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