NFPs Top Pro Bono Legal Assistance
25 January 2013 at 10:29 am
The majority of pro bono legal work in Australia is done for Not for Profit organisations, according to new research.
Over 60 percent of the pro bono work undertaken by large law firms is for organisations rather than individuals, according to the Final Report on the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey 2012, released by the National Pro Bono (Legal) Resource Centre.
Four of the five areas of law and practice where most pro bono services were provided are only relevant to the legal needs of organisations: governance, deductible gift recipient (DGR) applications, commercial agreements and incorporations.
The report also highlights family law (other than domestic violence), employment law, wills/probate/estate law and criminal law, as the top practice areas where firms rejected requests for pro bono assistance in the last financial year.
“By doing work for Not for Profit or community organisations, firms are not only efficiently using their resources, given their expertise in these areas, but also supporting these organisations so they can use their resources to assist those in need, rather than pay for legal services,” the Director of the Centre, John Corker, said.
“It also shows that most pro bono work done by the larger firms is not a substitute for legal aid which almost exclusively provides legal support for individuals, and in limited circumstances and areas like criminal and family law where large firms do not generally have expertise.”
However he said, there is evidence to suggest that even in some areas of core law firm expertise, unmet legal need remains high.
“For example employment law and DGR applications were identified as areas where pro bono assistance is frequently provided but also frequently rejected in both the 2012 survey and the last biennial survey conducted in 2010," he said.
“In order to prioritise limited pro bono capacity, firms with an increased emphasis on undertaking pro bono work for organisations should be skilled at working out which organisations they should assist, and on what basis. Best practice guidelines in this area, that have regard to the mission, management and financial resources of an organisation, could be useful to many firms.”
Thirty-six of the 51 firms in Australia, which have 50 or more lawyers, participated in the survey, including all nine of the largest national firms. Results were based on 2011/2012 data.
An interim survey report published by the Centre in October 2012 revealed that the thirty-two firms that provided data on pro bono hours undertook more than 343,058 hours of pro bono legal work in the 2011/2012 financial year, or an average of 29.9 hours per lawyer, up 0.9 hours from 2010.