Survey of Pro Bono Legal Work Released
27 March 2008 at 11:12 am
A survey of 887 solicitors conducted by the National Pro Bono (Legal) Resource Centre, has revealed that about $250 million of work was undertaken on a pro bono basis by Australian solicitors in 2007 and the figure continues to rise.
On average this amounts to every solicitor giving one week each year of their time free of charge to the community.
The survey launched on 19 February 2008 covered solicitors from all states and territories, from the big and small end of town, from city to country and remote areas. A range of practice areas, ages and levels of seniority were surveyed.
Centre Director, John Coker says that the bourgeoning support for pro bono can be attributed to the positive impact it has on the solicitors as well as the broader community.
Corker says pro bono makes sense. Not only does it provide disadvantaged individuals and the organisations that support them with access to justice, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences in a solicitor’s life. Almost every solicitor undertakes some form of pro bono work.
Key findings of the report were:
– 80 percent of respondents conducted pro bono work in the previous 12 months.
– 52 percent reported an increase in pro bono work compared with the previous year.
– Solicitors spent an average of 42.5 hours doing pro bono work in the last year, with 60 percent undertaking more than 35 hours of pro bono work during the past 12 months.
– Solicitors are undertaking significant amounts of pro bono work in their own time as well as with their employer.
– 71 per cent of solicitors thought that their law society should issue a policy statement about solicitors’ commitment to pro bono. Of those, 87 per cent thought that the statement should include a voluntary pro bono goal such as the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target.
The survey revealed that the main obstacle to doing pro bono work was lack of time, followed by insufficient expertise in relevant areas of law and lack of professional recognition.
A pivotal theme emerging from the survey is that solicitors undertaking pro bono require better support and recognition. Many respondents from large firms called for greater recognition of the valuable contribution of their pro bono work, not just in their performance appraisal, but by giving credit for pro bono work in relation to their billable and financial targets.
John Corker says these obstacles have; however, done very little to dampen the enthusiasm for pro bono as 94 percent of respondents said that solicitors should undertake pro bono work.
The main report and State by State reports are available for download from http://www.nationalprobono.org.au/publications/index.html