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Not just “feel good” law: feature interview with public interest partner Peter Seidel

Native Title & Public Interest Law
PeterS website
This month’s edition of the Australian Pro Bono Centre’s biannual journal profiles Arnold Bloch Leibler’s Peter Seidel, describing him as “truly inspiring example of someone who reminds you of why we do pro bono work and the difference it can make in our communities”.

The Q&A interview covers how Peter came to lead ABL’s renowned public interest practice, how the practice became so central to the firm’s culture overall and the benefits that flow to Peter and everyone associated with the firm, including its fee-paying clients.

Here’s a sample:

On how the public interest practice came about, starting with Peter’s work with the Yorta Yorta’s struggle for native title justice: The work on the Yorta Yorta case in the early 1990s reflected a long-standing commitment that the firm had made from its inception to act on behalf of peoples and causes requiring legal advice where those people were unable to afford such advice. We are in a privileged position as lawyers to do the work we do and be paid for it. We take the view that pro bono work is part of our professional obligation, our ethical duty in fact.

Public interest law is not necessarily just ‘feel good’ law and it is not an adjunct to the real work of law. To the contrary, that attitude is anathema to any thriving public interest law practice, and Arnold Bloch Leibler understands that very much. It’s not ‘after hours work’. It’s heart and soul; central to our culture as a firm.

“Public interest law is not necessarily just ‘feel good’ law and it is not an adjunct to the real work of law.”

On the benefits that flow from the work: The brightest and best want to come to our law firm because of our pro bono work. The work also helps re-enthuse not-so-young lawyers because it is why we studied law in the first place – namely, to be involved in something bigger than ourselves. Most of our clients have community leadership roles so we encourage our lawyers to show an interest in that and have a conversation with them about it. If your client knows about the good work you do for the community and they know you genuinely appreciate the good work they similarly do in the community, naturally they’ll want to continue giving you fee paying work. 

To read the full interview, click here.

To listen to the interview on the Pro Bono Centre’s podcast, click here.

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