Clearinghouses around the world have been matching people with unmet legal need and public interest cases with lawyers wanting to contribute for free for many decades. For years these clearinghouses ran with physical blackboards, then whiteboards, and finally spreadsheets.
Justice Connect has developed a unique Pro Bono Portal (more on this below) that is being used by over 160 firms around Australia, and is a critical tool in disaster response efforts.
Justice Connect is working to adapt the Portal and make it available in jurisdictions around the world, at no or low cost, to ensure that pro bono is optimised.
We have collaborated with international pro bono organisations to scope out the potential of the platform and to define who needs to be involved. So far, the platform has been released in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, with further releases coming soon in Europe and Asia.
We identified that there were many inefficiencies in the clearinghouse model that relied on traditional communication from email to phone calls to make referrals.
We received support from Google through the Google Impact Challenge to investigate how technology could play a role in reducing these inefficiencies, and ensuring that pro bono hours are put to best use.
Starting by conducting research with our 50 member firms and our staff, we designed a technology-driven system to match unmet legal need with the capacity in our network of 10,000 pro bono lawyers.
We launched our portal in a pilot with 14 Australian firms in March 2019. After a three month pilot and iteration period, we on-boarded a second tranche of firms, reaching 49 users, and in January 2020 we onboarded a third tranche. There are now over 160 law firms using the Portal across Australia.
The Portal has resulted in the number of pro bono referrals being made by Justice Connect increasing by 50% after the platform was implemented, and philanthropic contributions along with firm membership fees are supporting Justice Connect to continue to extend the functionality of the Portal and grow its impact.
Recently, Justice Connect opened the platform for use by other community legal organisations with 13 organisations now using the platform alongside Justice Connect to post pro bono opportunities and connect with law firms around Australia.
“We strongly support this thoughtful, design-led approach to harnessing technology so that we can better match unmet legal need with pro bono resources.” (Global Head of Pro Bono)
“It has been really good to see what else is available at Justice Connect on the Opportunity Board. This is helpful for when there is a group at the firm that wants to do more work – I can proactively look.” (Australian pro bono coordinator)
“This is changing how we work in a good way – we’re rethinking our practice.” (Australian pro bono coordinator)
“It was the best IT roll-out I’ve ever been part of.” (Pro bono lawyer)
We are currently working to extend our Portal product to benefit jurisdictions around the world. We are working with global organisations to ensure that we adapt the Portal to meet various place-based requirements in jurisdictions around the world. Over the coming months, we will be creating a roll-out plan that will ensure that we have the right people and organisations involved in the project for success.
If you are interested in participating in this project as either a pro bono organisation or as a firm that works on pro bono, please register your interest below.
Read more about our global project at our global website Pro Bono Portal.