We pride ourselves on our commitment to providing access to justice for marginalised and disadvantaged individuals through our pro bono practice.
Keith Rovers currently serves as a Finance and Projects Partner and the Sydney Office's Pro Bono and Community Investment Partner.
This year marks 20 years that I have worked at the firm as a partner. Initially, I joined the Projects practice team within the Corporate group. I then transitioned into Finance, which has been my primary practice area over the years. I act for sponsors or financiers on real estate and infrastructure projects.
In 2014, I became the Sydney Office Pro Bono and Community Investment (PB&CI) Partner. Since 2005, I had been involved in the firm's Community Investment (CI) programs, including the first LEAPS program with James Meehan High, a school in Macquarie Fields, New South Wales, which is close to where I grew up and attended school. As I board member of the Sydney Olympic Football Club and NSW Football's Legal and Regulatory Committee, I have had an on-going involvement in various community projects – and I currently sit on a number of not-for-profit boards (charities and social enterprises), as well as being involved with a B Corp.
During my time as PB&CI partner, I have had the privilege of working with many of our corporate clients and their community partners, as well as our own longstanding partners including Adara, Camp Quality and Mission Australia. Through our collaborative efforts across the firm and with clients, we have built multi-disciplinary teams to deliver high-quality legal services to the not-for-profit and social enterprise sectors.
There were a few things that really struck me upon joining the firm. There was a genuine degree of humility and humanity amongst the people. This translated into excellence without attitude or arrogance in the firm's approach to service delivery, coupled with a professional and ethical commitment to serve.
I was also surprised by how family-oriented the firm was at that time; the opportunities to involve family in activities including Christmas events with clients and partner or division retreats.
There is a real sense that we are part of a broader community ecosystem. We work closely with our clients, and build long-term, enduring partnerships with our corporate and community partners. Our genuine care is apparent – which is why our community work is so important to us.
Mentoring young students through the LEAPS program at James Meehan High is a grounding and enervating experience. It gave me a good sense of my life skills and privilege. It was empowering to share my stories and knowledge, and acknowledge the power of education and its role in social mobility.
In 2015, I led a cross-practice team acting on the Vanguard Laundry Project in Toowoomba, Queensland with leading social entrepreneur, Luke Terry and the ‘social investment bank’, Social Ventures Australia (SVA). Vanguard Laundry Project creates permanent jobs and career development opportunities for people living with mental illnesses. This industrial laundry is built around an anchor contract with the local St Vincent's Hospital and has around 50 different donors, funders and investors. This project was recognised for its innovation receiving the Social Traders’ 2016 Capital for Impact Award and a Good Design commendation.
This project demonstrated a model for how a commercial law firm could bring its cross-disciplinary skills to bear, across tax, construction, property, finance, HR, IP and other areas to help build a major social enterprise. This was achieved in collaboration with our corporate clients, family offices, foundations and individuals providing philanthropic and commercial capital. It was the forerunner of much of the work we have done since - building Australia’s leading social enterprise practice – where we work with nearly fifty social enterprises and indigenous controlled businesses. We have accomplished this by working with the likes of AMP, Westpac, Optus, SVA, Social Traders and other incubators and accelerators, as well as government agencies. It is a great example of using our skills to amplify social impact and how working across the three sectors (government, social and private) can also provide networking opportunities whilst doing good at the same time.
ABC's 7:30 Report looked at how the Vanguard project is changing lives in a story from October 2018.
In celebration of Westpac Group's 200th anniversary, the Group committed $100M to the Westpac Foundation to support 100 social change scholarships in perpetuity. This is an outstanding leadership development program and the Foundation is building tomorrow's leaders with its Asian Exchange, Future Leaders, Research Fellowship, Young Technologists and Social Change Fellows (who receive $50,000 to undertake leadership training in a supported environment).
Our relationship with the Westpac Foundation was established in 2015 following discussions with the Group's General Counsel and legal teams around how we could collaborate to build shared value and amplify social impact, which subsequently led to our introduction to the Foundation.
We now support over 20 of the Foundation’s social entrepreneurs and social enterprises across the range of legal and non-legal services and across the entity lifecycle - from start up, to scale up, to restructure - supporting governance and risk management across all of our offices. This involves our legal teams, but also importantly our non-legal teams have been involved on initiatives.
We have co-designed a Board Observership Program to help Westpac and MinterEllison staff join the boards of its social enterprises as observers and provide training, mentoring and networking opportunities to those participants (like a mini-AICD course). We participate in Westpac’s Changemakers programs providing governance and other legal skills training. This contribution has been recognised by Westpac with its Partnership Award and our story appears in its recent Impact Report.