A strength of QPILCH is its ability to marshal the resources of the wider profession and community to assist disadvantaged individuals and community groups to access the legal system. We focus our services on people experiencing significant disadvantage - the homeless, people with mental illness, people self-representing in courts and tribunals and the community organisations that support them. The resources we marshal include law firms and barristers, university law schools, our professional associations, law students and volunteer lawyers and philanthropic support, to leverage the greatest benefit from a very lean budget.
QPILCH works with its members and partners to provide pro bono legal help to people experiencing disadvantage, who are unable to pay a lawyer and ineligible for legal aid, and to not-for-profit organisations established to address individual and community disadvantage.
In 2012-13, over 1,400 people and 60 community organisations received free civil law assistance and representation through QPILCH's services and clinics with a commercial value of over $5 million. We advised and represented 488 new clients experiencing homelessness, 144 clients with mental health issues and 46 refugees through 18 outreach clinics, provided assistance to over 330 people representing themselves in Queensland courts, and referred over 142 people and community groups who would otherwise have been without legal help to law firms and barristers for full pro bono representation. QPILCH conducted 11 training sessions for over 200 homelessness and mental health support workers.
The need for assistance is continually growing with the number of applications we receive increasing each year. However funding does not keep pace with the growing demand for assistance. The below graphs highlight the number of new clients received and the related funding over the last 12 years for two of our areas of activity - homelessness and referrals for representation in civil law.
Membership contributions are an essential component of our funding, with membership fees supporting daily operations and providing assistance to clients. The Foundation Members of QPILCH were Allen Allen & Hemsley (now Allens Linklaters), Blake Dawson Waldron (now Ashurst), Clayton Utz, McCullough Robertson, Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now King and Wood, Mallesons), Minter Ellison, Legal Aid Queensland, the Bar Association of Queensland Inc, Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services and Griffith University Law School. A full list of our current members can be found here.
As a coordinator of pro bono services, QPILCH provides a structure to assist legal practitioners to engage in pro bono work by assessing applications for assistance and referring meritorious matters to law firms and barristers. This structure allows QPILCH to facilitate access to justice for those who cannot afford a private lawyer and cannot find substantial assistance anywhere else. However it also benefits members as it provides them with an opportunity to give back to society, face new challenges and gain experience in the areas of law faced by our clients.
We are grateful for the support that our member firms and barristers provide, for their assistance with pro bono referrals and for the secondment of their solicitors. More information on becoming a member can be found here.
In addition, we have been fortunate to receive generous support from government and private donors, providing us with the funds we require to continue providing legal services to those in need. The largest part of our funding from government is not from the taxpayer but from the Legal Practitioner Interest on Trust Accounts Fund (LPITAF). We have also received grants from the Federal Government to open an office in Townsville and to operate the Self Representation Service in the Federal Court for four years. Government and LPITAF funding plays a vital role in the coordination of pro bono legal services.
Philanthropic donations play a crucial role in developing innovative responses to legal problems that are not on the government radar. The English Family Foundation has supported QPILCH to establish a volunteer advocacy service for people before the Mental Health Review Tribunal and the Ian Potter Foundation has funded our innovative service for young people transitioning from state care - LegalPod. The Sylvia and Charles Viertel Foundation also supports our mental health legal services. Legal Aid Queensland's Continuing Legal Education Fund has enabled QPILCH to develop its innovative Legal Health Check so that all of a client's legal problems, not just the presented one, can be identified.
All potential donors and members can be assured that we focus our services on those most in need, ensuring that the pro bono dollars, donations and grants are used wisely.
QPILCH continually researches and surveys our clients' needs and our supporters' needs to ensure that we are targeting and using resources effectively and we develop innovative ideas into practical steps to continuously improve what we do. Our annual reports, available here, discuss the performance of our different services and provide further information on our funding.
We are grateful for all the support we receive and thank all donors and members for their generosity. For more information on how you can help QPILCH please visit our get involved page or our donations page.
A list of all major grants and donations to QPILCH can be seen here.