Australia's Legal Pro Bono Landscape-New Report
30 July 2007 at 12:14 pm
The National Pro Bono (Legal) Resource Centre has released its report on the legal pro bono landscape in Australia outlining the constraints and making recommendations for improvement.
Called Mapping Pro Bono in Australia the report was launched by the Chief Justice of Australia, Murray Gleeson at the offices of DLA Phillips Fox in Sydney recently.
The report confirms that the pro bono work being done in law firms, the bar and through professional associations and referral schemes has come a long way in Australia in the past 5 years.
However the report found that despite the increased interest in pro bono in recent years, it is still characterised by its ‘ad hoc’ nature, and little has been conclusively documented.
While the information in the report is not comprehensive, the publication does give the clearest picture yet of the Australian pro bono landscape as it addresses the questions of who provides pro bono, how is it delivered, how much is delivered and where it fits into the access to justice landscape.
The book reports on some of the constraints on service delivery and suggests future directions for the development of pro bono in Australia.
Centre Director, John Corker says there is now a greater expectation amongst the public that larger law firms, those with more than 10 partners (of which there were 91 in the last Census) will have a structured and visible pro bono program.
Corker says many of the larger law firms have strongly committed to their pro bono programs and provide considerable support to their lawyers to undertake this work.
The report identifies some key constraints on service delivery and identifies ways forward for the delivery of pro bono legal services.
Amongst the constraints are the risk of an adverse costs order in public interest litigation, the difficulty of obtaining pro bono assistance in regional, rural and remote areas and consumer confusion about pathways to this service.
Among the suggested ways forward are:
– Greater co-ordination of the delivery of pro bono services and
– Pro bono providers working collaboratively with publicly funded legal service providers to assist disadvantaged people.
– Ensuring the limited pro bono assistance available is directed to the meet the greatest unmet need.
– Better data collection and information sharing.
– Building capacity across the legal profession, in law schools, with corporate and government lawyers and in other professions.
– Supporting ‘aspirational’ pro bono targets. The Centre launched the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target of 35 hours per lawyer per year in April 2007.
– Lawyers working beyond the casework model of assistance.
– Fostering a green light approach in the court system to facilitate pro bono representation.
– Government upholding its part of the bargain with the private profession by adequately funding the primary legal service providers to the disadvantaged being Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.
– Government taking specific initiatives to encourage and support the legal profession in their pro bono efforts as the Victorian government has successfully done.
Copies of the report can be ordered online through the UNSW bookshop at www.bookshop.unsw.edu.au/probono