Pro bono makes for a rewarding career

When Dusan Stevic started his six-month secondment with Justice Connect, he knew he was interested in pro bono. Now, after seeing the impact pro bono work can have first-hand, he’s continuing to partner with Justice Connect on pro bono matters, alongside his commercial work at MinterEllison.

“You also learn a lot of things [doing pro bono work] that you otherwise wouldn’t,” Dusan said, “You learn to deal with people. You learn to deal with conflict. It accelerates your legal development. But the main value is in having a huge impact on someone’s life and helping someone who otherwise might have felt helpless.”

After returning to MinterEllison, Dusan was asked to manage several matters through the Homeless Law clinic MinterEllison runs with Justice Connect. One of the highlights has been putting together a team to provide ongoing legal help to seven men who were facing eviction from their rooming house into homelessness.

“The provider didn’t want to establish other options for the men who lived there,” he said. “They just wanted to refurbish the property and boot them out. We took on seven of the residents, and another legal centre took on the eighth person.”

“Often the work isn’t actually that difficult to do, but it makes such a big difference to the people who need it.”

Many of the men faced vulnerabilities that made it more challenging to find accommodation, or navigate the legal system. One of the residents spoke limited English, while another was over seventy. One tenant struggled with addiction, which worsened when he received the notice to vacate.

“His doctor and his social worker said they’d never seen him like this,” said Dusan. “It was directly related to his eviction.”

Dusan pulled together a team of lawyers to help the men avoid eviction and find new accommodation. They spent the next few months negotiating with the housing provider, attending VCAT hearings and ensuring the men found alternative accommodation.

“Now we’ve successfully had them all rehoused. They all moved in – the last three moved into their new property last week.”

Working alongside Justice Connect, Dusan was able to directly use his legal expertise to help others. And thanks to support from his firm, he can manage the pro bono work he’s passionate about alongside commercial matters.

“It’s definitely the most rewarding work I’ve done as a lawyer,” he said. “Often the work isn’t actually that difficult to do, but it makes such a big difference to the people who need it. It’s so rewarding, I love helping people.”