Barristers Doing More Pro Bono Legal Work
17 November 2008 at 2:33 pm
A survey by the National Pro Bono (Legal) Resource Centre has found that pro bono legal work in Australia is on the rise.
The survey results show an impressive commitment to pro bono, with 88% of respondents having done pro bono legal work in the last 12 months, but only 43% of respondents had done Legal Aid work in the previous 12 months.
A national survey was carried out on the pro bono legal work of individual Australian barristers during December 2007-June 2008 from 355 barristers from all States and Territories, covering a range of practice areas, ages and levels of seniority, representing approximately 7% of all Australian barristers.
Survey respondents spent an average of 44.5 hours doing pro bono work last year, giving more than a week of their time for free, providing access to justice for the disadvantaged and marginalised.
Fifty-nine percent of respondents undertook more than 35 hours of pro bono work a year, which is the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target.
Of the 28% of barristers who had volunteered legal assistance at a community organisation, the majority (16% of all respondents) had worked with a community legal centre (CLC), the others with other not-for-profits (10%) and 2% at ‘other’ organisations.
The Centre says the amount of pro bono seems to be on the rise, with 38% percent of respondents indicating an increase in the amount of pro bono legal work compared with the previous year.
However, just over a third of respondents (34%) felt that they had reached their limit for doing pro bono, indicating that nothing could encourage them to do more.
Responses to questions about Legal Aid highlighted barristers’ disenchantment and frustration with the Legal Aid system, indicating that Legal Aid work has lost its appeal and isn’t considered to be a part of a lawyer’s responsibility to help those who wouldn’t otherwise get access to justice.
Issues raised included inadequate government funding, low rates of fees paid generally, and denial of fees for preparation, conferences and other related activities.
The release of this report completes the Centre’s two-year long project of surveying the pro bono legal work done by the Australian legal profession.
The surveys have provided the first national picture of pro bono legal work being done across Australia, and all reports are available at: http://www.nationalprobono.org.au/page.asp?from=4&id=17