Barristers' Pro Bono Survey
4 December 2000 at 12:12 pm
This follows last year’s survey by the Foundation into the pro bono effort of Victorian lawyers.
The Foundation’s pro bono Secretariat Voluntas says there has been little information available about how pro bono is defined within the profession and how decisions are made regarding whether or not to do the work.
The survey says its results have confirmed what the Foundation already believed; that practising barristers of the Victorian Bar do an enormous amount of pro bono work. In fact 90% of those who responded to the survey have done pro bono work at some stage during the past two years.
The survey found that on average, the median monthly value of pro bono work done by barristers is $1500.
It found that whilst the vast majority (94%) of those surveyed do not keep a record of the pro bono work they do, criminal law is one of the most common areas of free legal assistance provided.
When asked why barristers do pro bono work, the survey found only 8 said they did it because of lack of Legal Aid Funds. The results found that the overwhelming reason given for doing pro bono work was a sense of personal responsibility; a way to give something back to the community.
It found 40% of barristers only do pro bono work when requested. Of that work, the three most common areas of law in which free legal assistance is provided are administrative/privacy (27%), commercial/tax/lease (30%) and criminal (38%). The three least common areas are defamation, public utilities and services and professional regulation.
The full results of the survey can be down loaded on a PDF file at www.viclf.asn.au and follow the prompts to the Pro Bono Secretariat and new projects.
Voluntas says the findings of this report compliment last years survey of 2000 Victorian law firms that found a huge difference in the amount of pro bono work being done from firm to firm.
One firm said it did $100 worth of pro bono work a month while another did $67,000 per month.
The Foundation’s Noelene Gration says the Labor Government in Victoria has instigated a system that considers the amount of pro bono assistance carried out by a law firm when it tenders for government legal work and take that into consideration when making its decision.
Gration says both NSW and the Northern Territory have been talking about a similar scheme but have so far not taken it up.
She says large international corporations such as Ford in the USA and British Aeronautical in the UK get their law firms to send a resume of the pro bono work and take on those they think have the best social conscience and a similar attitude to corporate philanthropy.
While many large corporations are talking about this issue here in Australia, Gration says she is unaware of any that have acted on the idea so far!