Tuesday, 14th December 2010 at 4:43 pm
Australian law firms are receiving more requests for pro bono legal advice than they can provide, according to a national survey.
The Report on the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey 2010 shows that pro bono legal requests from new Not for Profit groups seeking help with obtaining deductible gift recipient (DGR) status are often declined.
The report, released by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, identified DGR applications as an area of law in which pro bono services are regularly provided, with 72% of law firms providing DGR advice.
However, the report also highlighted that many requests are turned down, with 34% of law firms indicating they turned down DGR requests for reasons other than merit and means.
The report suggests that despite the efforts of private law firms and community legal centres, unmet legal need in this area of practice remains high, with demand outstripping supply.
PilchConnect, a legal service set up to provide help to Victorian Not for Profit community organisations, has received over 1,200 inquiries since its launch 2 years ago, with a significant amount relating to tax matters, principally those about DGR and other tax concessions.
Sue Woodward, Manager, PilchConnect says the new research supports the need for the free PilchConnect telephone advice service.
Woodward says PilchConnect developed their free telephone advice service to meet the gap between providing general information via a webportal and referring a matter to a PILCH member law firm for tailored pro bono assistance.
She says the telephone service has already helped many fledging groups access tax concessions which, in turn, helps them access funding from public and philanthropic sources.
PilchConnect hopes that with further funding, it will be able to continue to help Not for Profit organisation to better understand their obligations with respect to tax, governance, fundraising, insurance and managing their volunteers and paid staff beyond the end of 2011.
The survey also revealed the varying approaches firms take to their community service programs and how they are managed. 72% percent of firms reported having a community service program.
A diverse approach to the management of these programs emerged, with over half of these firms (58%) indicating that their community service and pro bono programs are jointly managed, either by the same people or broadly under the same umbrella, whilst the remaining firms (42%) all reported separately managed programs.
The survey targeted all 39 Australian law firms with more than 50 full time equivalent lawyers, of which 29 took part in the survey. Altogether, the respondent firms had 10,227 full time equivalent lawyers in Australia, representing approximately 18% of the Australian legal profession.
To access the Final NPBRC Report in full see www.nationalprobono.org.au and for further information on PilchConnect, visit: www.pilchconnect.org.au