LawRight Summer Reads #3

The solicitors won the LawRight Debate in November 2019 (Should courtrooms be left to the specialists?), so hopefully this summer read evens the scales.

Better with Barristers

LawRight’s Court & Tribunal Services helped 778 clients in 2019/20 to navigate civil law proceedings in the Queensland Court of Appeal, Supreme and District Courts of Queensland, Magistrates Court Enforcement Hearings, QCAT, the Federal Courts and the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Pro bono contributions from busy barristers make a big impact. In 2019/20, 92 member barristers, including 19 QCs, accepted pro bono briefs for appearances, mediations and advice on prospects, or joined our “duty barrister” rosters.

Magistrates Court Enforcement Hearings

J & J borrowed $25,000 from friends to get their business through a “rocky patch”, but while they were interstate with a family emergency, the friends enforced the debt without their knowledge. J & J would have defended the proceeding if they had known they existed. LawRight advised them of their options and negotiated with the creditor on their behalf. Even though J & J provided the relevant documents, the creditor wanted to cross examine them on their bank records. Our pro bono barrister appeared for J & J and was able to have the enforcement hearing proceeding dismissed. After court, the volunteer barrister negotiated realistic repayments and now the business is back on track.


Training barristers

Damien O’Brien QC and Matthew Jones, former LawRight President, increased the number of barristers on our enforcement hearings “duty barrister” roster with their in-person and on-line training to 45 barristers. It is unusual for barristers to appear in this forum, but it made a big difference to the 48 clients we assisted before COVID forced court closures.

Stepping in to help

A worker at Julie’s daughter’s childcare kept complaining to Julie about another parent at the centre, including serious allegations that the parent wasn’t safe.
Julie was concerned and informed the centre management. She was shocked when months later she was served with court documents alleging she had defamed this parent when she passed on the information.

Julie lives with speech, reading and memory impairments and couldn’t afford a lawyer. Julie filed a defence but was told by lawyers for the other side that it was deficient, liable to be struck out and that Julie would be responsible for their costs. She was highly distressed. Her regional community legal centre didn’t have the resources to help with complex litigation and helped her apply to LawRight.

Rostered pro bono lawyers listened to Julie, helped her understand the complexity of the claim and discussed her options. Staff lawyers helped her correspond with the other side, request more time and amend her defence. The court had a hearing on procedural matters and we helped Julie prepare and consent. The matter was set down for mediation.

LawRight knew Julie would struggle to represent herself at the mediation, so a firm, a QC and his junior agreed to appear pro bono. The pro bono lawyers negotiated the discontinuance of the proceedings against Julie, with no order as to costs – a huge relief.

Reviewing government decisions

Pro bono barristers and lawyers contributed to 12 successful reviews ny QCAT of decisions to withhold Blue Cards from applicants. In Queensland a Blue Card is required to work or volunteer with children. Reviews can take up to three years and disproportionately impact survivors of domestic violence or residents of remote communities who struggle to navigate the government process.

Read more in our Annual report