Lawyers throughout New Zealand provide thousands of hours of free legal advice to a wide range of groups and individuals, and are among those being recognised for their voluntary work this week.
It’s National Volunteer Week and figures show that each year 1.2 million Kiwis volunteer their time to various causes.
Many of the over 13,000 practising lawyers give their time outside their normal hours of work in a pro bono capacity to community law centres, New Zealand Law Society law reform committees, sports clubs and arts organisations or trusts.
New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says many lawyers are providing free legal expertise outside a busy schedule for the betterment of worthy causes, and often these people remain nameless.
“I’d like to acknowledge the thousands of lawyers who are working above and beyond their normal duties. Their voluntary work is undoubtedly making a difference in many lives,” she says.
Just this week Tauranga lawyer Denise Arnold was awarded the annual Robert Anderson Memorial Award.
Mrs Arnold received the award for her work in helping children in Cambodia to receive an education. She established the Cambodia Charitable Trust in 2008, which has the objective of providing free, quality education to Cambodian children, especially girls.
Every eight months Mrs Arnold travels for two weeks to visit the schools, teachers and children in Cambodia. All work for the Cambodia Charitable Trust is on a voluntary basis and this allows for 100% of the donations received to pass directly to the schools.
“I feel that as a human being I have a responsibility for those that are less fortunate than me. I know that there is poverty in New Zealand, but there is a different kind of poverty in Cambodia. There is no safety net. These children wouldn’t be able to get an education if we did not help them. They’ll never meet me, but this is the legacy I want to leave,” she says.
Kathryn Beck says Denise Arnold is one of the many often unsung champions who are lawyers and her recognition is well deserved.
“Whether it is through setting up a Trust to deal with an area of profound need, volunteering at their local Community Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau, giving advice or sitting as a trustee on charitable trusts, giving free legal advice and work to community groups and projects, sitting on the Board of sports and other clubs, volunteering in prisons, sitting on School Boards of Trustees or doing pro bono legal work for those that would otherwise be unable to access justice, lawyers make an incredible contribution,” Ms Beck says.