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Abstract from

Pro Bono as a Professional Legacy

Donald Robertson is a Partner in the Sydney office of Freehills, specialising in competition law.

Lawyers have long been involved in the delivery of legal services to the economically and politically disadvantaged. However, they have not always taken that role. In the Roman legal tradition the Emperor took personal responsibility for ensuring that justice was equally available to all. In the medieval world, the responsibility for dispensing justice was a necessary element of the lord-vassal relationship, and hence ultimately of the monarch who was lord of all. The Christian church added to political theory the motivation of charity, and became an important provider of legal assistance to the poor. In the medieval period, lawyers identified themselves as professionals and regarded as a mark of their superiority to craftsmen that they furnished specialised skills to economically and socially disadvantaged persons without compensation. The breakdown in the modern world of the demarcation between the traditional professions and other callings and the emergence of social and political theories (placing legal representation in the context of a scheme of rights supportive of the political community) challenge the historical notion that the obligation to provide such services falls upon one sector of the community only.

Comment: The Activist Origins of Australian Community Legal Centres
Mary Anne Noone
Comment: Early Australian Statutory Legal Aid Schemes and the Legal Profession
John Lynch

(2001) 19 Law in Context 97
Keywords: Lawyering

   
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