Leanne Ho’s early profession was marked by uncertainty, but she now feels her perform and values are entirely aligned.

Leanne Ho has usually been focused to social justice. “As significantly back again as I can bear in mind, I have had this solid sense of the unfairness of injustice and the require to do something about it,” Ho states. She tells the story of how, at age 12, she organised with 20 school mates to every single add $1 per month so that they could collectively sponsor a boy or girl.

Now she is the Professional Bono companion at Wotton + Kearney, with a prosperity of professional knowledge in social justice and human rights. But the path to pro bono function as a job was not constantly distinct.

An uncertain start off

If her primary review system experienced performed out, Ho would have been a tunes instructor. Nevertheless, her higher college boyfriend had enrolled in legislation at the University of Sydney. And so Ho adopted him there, in her individual words and phrases, “without any clue about what law would really be like”.

It took a though for the legislation to click on for Ho: “I felt definitely out of position at law college in contrast to a great deal of other individuals at Sydney Uni Legislation Faculty at that time, I hadn’t come from a dynasty of lawyers”.

During her diploma reports, she completed coursework as needed, but struggled to experience a significant connection among her law research and her values. In reality, in her third 12 months she was all set to quit. As an alternative, she made the decision to do “something real” – “to see what it was all about and to really feel a perception of purpose”. It was at this position Ho found a volunteer job that helped every little thing fall into area.

“It wasn’t until finally volunteering at a group legal centre that I really discovered how know-how of the lawful procedure was effective and that it was helpful for aiding persons,” she states.

“I uncovered about the challenges that people today faced when they were monetarily deprived, and all the intersections with the other difficulties they had been experiencing in their life. And for the initially time, I really felt like I could help people today. It’s as simple as that.”


‘Volunteering at a group authorized centre … I really learned how expertise of the authorized technique was highly effective and that it was useful for serving to persons.’

Ho says, “I acquired about the problems that individuals faced when they have been monetarily disadvantaged, and all the intersections with the other concerns they were being dealing with in their lives. And for the initial time, I definitely felt like I could aid people today. It is as basic as that.”

By the end of her diploma, Ho was beginning to see the reason for which she was wanting, but continue to felt like an impostor. She graduated with a transcript whole of the two significant distinctions and bare passes.  That combined transcript fed into her absence of self esteem.

“I just believed that intended that I would never ever be able to live up to what my stereotype of a law firm looked like at that phase. I never ever even utilized for a clerkship for the reason that I just thought I wouldn’t get in,” she claims.

So Ho’s to start with experienced position following college was in authorized publishing. Below she identified fulfillment in management roles the place she could present improvement possibilities for her personnel. Continue to, she required more.

A leap into human rights

“When on the lookout for reason, [I] ended up quitting that task and going back again to the group lawful sector,” she said.

At the Welfare Legal rights Centre, Ho worked as a caseworker, and authored the handbook that practitioners of social stability legislation depend on: The Independent Social Protection Legislation Handbook, now in its fifth edition. It was in that role that she also discovered herself with one more chance to interact in values-dependent practice.

“I fulfilled a man although I was doing work [at the Welfare Rights Centre]. And he’d correctly utilized for a UN volunteer position in Kosovo,” she states.

“At that phase, I did not want to eliminate that partnership. So I rang each individual cell phone selection in the UN volunteer office in Bonn in Germany right until another person would give me a job, so I could go with him … I went to Kosovo, in which I was the legal officer to the Human Rights Advisory Panel that was set up to listen to grievances of breaches of human legal rights by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). And I worked in the UNMIK Department of Justice as an international authorized adviser.”

After four a long time in Kosovo, Ho designed the shift to UN Mission in Liberia.

“I started off out accomplishing authorized methods monitoring and reporting on how well the courts had been functioning submit-conflict there,” she suggests.

“I then moved into a role exactly where I was the lawful advisor to the mission [akin to in-house legal counsel] and controlling the connection in between the UN and the Liberian authorities as the host country.”

Returning property

Just after practically seven decades in post-conflict environments, Ho felt the want to arrive home. Implementing and interviewing for social justice roles from her compound in Monrovia, she uncovered a job at the Australian Professional Bono Centre.

Shifting by numerous legislation corporations, she grew to become “the casualty of a merger,” and finally identified herself with two prospects: as a pro bono consultant at Wotton + Kearney, and the CEO of Financial Justice Australia. She acknowledged both features.

Doing work in two roles in parallel, Ho observed how her human rights experience could impact legislation reform at a large degree. By means of Financial Justice Australia, she experienced “a agency seat at the selection-producing table” and would finally signify the organisation in vital meetings and forums with govt, as “part of a motion to make sure that the economic and social protection net is there when we will need it.”

The requirement of this security internet has been highlighted in modern years:

“COVID taught everybody that nearly anything can transform in an prompt. Any of us could have to have the social stability procedure, any of us could be in a place where we have to have money help,” she states.


‘COVID taught everyone that something can transform in an fast. Any of us could require the social security method.’

A foot in equally worlds

Following 5 a long time in the two roles, she moved into her latest function of Pro Bono Spouse at Wotton + Kearney. For her, this is a fantastic mix of the numerous places of her professional knowledge.

“That perform I’ve finished in the not-for-income sector has educated the work that [I am doing] at Wotton + Kearney due to the fact it keeps me up to date with what the requirements are in the neighborhood,” she suggests.

“Because I have had a foot in both of those worlds, I have bought relationships, equally in the law firm, but also in the neighborhood sector. So I’m in this posture to understand what contribution pro bono regulation companies can make – with the expertise and the expertise of the lawyers in the company, what they can contribute – that is likely to be practical to the organisations who are representing purchasers at the coalface and advocating in their interests.

“I actually enjoy that I can draw on all the different encounters I’ve experienced, and all the networks that I have, to bring alongside one another these suggestions that can aid shift human rights forward.”

For Ho, experienced satisfaction comes from looking at real change. Nonetheless, the truth of the lawful occupation, she states, is that “law reform can get a seriously long time – you get started advocating for something and it can be decades, sometimes a long time, prior to you see any sort of motion.”

Which is what makes her current get the job done such a vital vocation highlight. When Ho was nonetheless with Financial Justice Australia, she and her workforce ended up guiding variations to “how users of a pair are assessed in the social protection system, which usually means that persons experiencing household and domestic violence are heading to have improved obtain to fiscal aid, [and] that they can depart.”

“So they really do not have to make that awful preference among either keeping in a violent scenario, or leaving with their little ones and struggling with determined poverty,” she suggests of the function, which involved assembly with MPs and authorities officers.

Not an uncomplicated method

The procedure of bringing about adjust was by no signifies easy. Through Wotton + Kearney, Ho was “able to obtain a crew of attorneys, who did some analysis on how this concern was dealt with in other countries – progressive nations around the world, like Scandinavia, but also New Zealand and the British isles.”

“That provided some self-assurance in the proposed improvements, for the reason that the governing administration was saying to me, ‘it tends to make sense, but what are the unintended implications? How’s it heading to perform in exercise?’” she states.

Even so, there were being lots of setbacks – “but we didn’t acquire “no” for an respond to,” Ho says.

Eventually, the function paid off: “In May [2023], the government declared the transform to the policy, and now loved ones and domestic violence is a variable that will be thought of when determining no matter whether a person is a member of a pair for social safety reasons.”

This accomplishment has been recognised in a broad assortment of destinations. Recalling the government’s Work and Techniques Summit at which she was a single of the local community leaders invited to make a speech, Ho suggests: “I handed a duplicate of the temporary to the Key Minister, and took a selfie with him holding it.

“That had signatures of hundreds of reps of domestic violence organisations and community organisations and business leaders and a entire wide coalition of supporters.”

At the Employment and Capabilities Summit. Still left: Leanne Ho on screen. Appropriate: handing Key Minister Anthony Albanese the quick on superior access to economic assist for folks going through relatives and domestic violence

Most likely the most satisfying evidence of the change came for Ho at a the latest CBA occasion.

“A woman came up to me and stated that when she went to Centrelink they decided that she could be assessed as a one man or woman,” she suggests.

“Because her partner was earning a great deal of income, she would have not been entitled to any payment, but simply because of this policy adjust, she and her little ones have still left, and she’s bought again on her feet.

“That is the most effective attainable result. Which is a genuine spotlight, to have anyone for whom that policy improve has essentially changed her life.”

Lessons learned

Through her assorted profession, and new achievements, Ho has acquired the benefit of rest – and she’s about to commit various months on vacation.

“[I’ve had an] really intense pair of several years, in which I’ve been on significant warn all the time … I’ve recognised the influence that type of continuous anxiety is acquiring on my well being, and my relationships,” she claims.

Other than normal relaxation, Ho has discovered that selecting the proper interactions is crucial to handling the tension of her function.

“I invest time in the individuals who enrich my lifetime,” she says. “I’ve labored with these kinds of fantastic colleagues about the decades. I’ve been really fortuitous to have mates that I get the job done with, and they are just this kind of a lifeline in occasions of intense anxiety. I consider there’s so a great deal tension on us, [we’re] pulled in so many distinct directions. [So] I’ve truly offered myself authorization about the latter years of my vocation to pick and pick who I’m heading to make investments time in.”

Ho displays that her early decades in regulation had been typified by a lack of self esteem, and inspite of her achievements this has ongoing to be an issue.

For her there are two key classes. The to start with is the electric power of making interactions. Early on, perfectionism prevented her from achieving out to new contacts and prospective mentors. Now Ho is keen to encourage many others to be courageous.

“I’ve realized that relationships are these kinds of a massive element of getting prosperous in the regulation, in any occupation,” she suggests.

“I desire I’d learned before not to be frightened to generate networks and access out to my possess, whether that’s friends or lecturers or colleagues, or just individuals who publish strategies that resonate on LinkedIn. Men and women normally just produce to me on LinkedIn, and talk to if they can have a espresso […] I would not never ever have done that in my early job. But that has led to so a lot of seriously critical relationships in my profession.”

The next lesson is to embrace understanding and modify.

“I’ve figured out to settle for that I will normally be mastering,” she claims.

“And it’s all right to consider one thing and then change course if it’s not proper for you. I have accomplished this several instances. And I have landed where by I am these days by just having a go.”