HSF commits $5m of pro bono legal advice to indigenous clients

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Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has launched a new Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which includes a major commitment of resources to indigenous clients.

The RAP was officially launched by Adam Goodes, co-founder and non-executive director of the GO Foundation and CEO of the Indigenous Defence & Infrastructure Consortium, at the HSF Pro Bono Lunch on 7 September.

The plan is the firm’s fourth RAP and the second to receive the “Elevate” recommendation from Reconciliation Australia, the country’s peak reconciliation body. The firm remains the only law firm that has received the “Elevate” endorsement for its RAP.

HSF has committed to providing up to $5m of pro bono legal advice to indigenous clients over the next three years. It has also committed to leading the development of an educational program that boosts employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the legal and corporate sectors.

Partner Sue Gilchrist, who chairs the HSF RAP steering committee, said that the recommendation for the plan not only recognises the firm’s efforts and outcomes to date, but more importantly reflects its even greater commitment for the future.

“We will collaborate as a firm and as individuals within the legal sector and beyond. We are focused on genuine and positive impacts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and businesses. We look forward to standing beside our clients and partners over the next three years and continuing to advocate on national issues such as justice reinvestment and constitutional reform,” she said.

Brooke Massender, who heads the global legal giant’s pro bono practice, was also present at the launch of the plan.

“Our vision for reconciliation is to increase the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the legal profession and to help reduce their over-representation in the criminal justice system,” she said. “This new RAP will see us provide an unprecedented level of pro bono legal services to Indigenous clients, building upon the work that we already do through The Shopfront Youth Legal Centre and our focus on empowering remote communities, particularly in the East Kimberly.”

“We are eager to do more to advance reconciliation beyond our existing credentials and the walls of our own firm. So, over the next three years we are going to be taking an active role in the national dialogue on issues such as constitutional reform. Our skill as lawyers makes us well placed to add value in this area because we can distil the complexity of the debate to make these important issues more widely understood and respectfully debate.” Massender said.

Only 21 partners have had their RAPs recognised with an “Elevate” recommendation, said Karen Mundine, Reconciliation Australia chief executive. The body has more than 1,000 partner organisations.

“By raising the bar of its RAP ambitions, Herbert Smith Freehills continues to lead national reconciliation action in the law and justice sector. The firm’s RAP actions, including advocating for justice reinvestment, are contributing positively to national policy and legislative change conversations,” she said. “On behalf of Reconciliation Australia, I congratulate Herbert Smith Freehills on adopting its second Elevate RAP, and look forward to following its future achievements.”

Andrew Pike, HSF’s Australian regional managing partner, said that the firm’s work on its RAP is central to its commitment to making a significant contribution to the community.

“We aim to make a difference by partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of our community to focus on access to justice, thought leadership and career opportunities, and we look forward to continuing this work into the future,” he said.

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