Legal Pro Bono Contribution Steady
10 October 2013 at 10:08 am
The number of hours of pro bono legal work done by Australian lawyers has dropped slightly in the last 12 months but is higher than two years ago according to the National Pro Bono (Legal) Resource Centre.
An average of 33.7 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer was done in the last financial year by signatories to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target compared to the 34.2 hours per lawyer reported in 2011/2012, according to the Sixth Performance Report on the Target.
Collectively, the reporting signatories provided 294,329 hours of pro bono legal work in the 2012/2013 financial year, which is more than 70,000 more hours than two years ago, the report said.
The Report found that the pro bono performance improved the longer the law firms had been signatories.
Law firms that had been signatories for at least three years averaged 42.7 pro bono hours per lawyer, compared with those firms that had been signatories for at least one year that averaged 35.9 hours per lawyer and the average of all reporting signatory firms (33.6 hours per lawyer).
An average of 36.3 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer was done in the last financial year by the signatories that were also signatories in the previous year.
“The Target provides a useful benchmark for firms. Many firms reported that the Target had a positive impact on their pro bono work with 32 firms reporting that the Target increased their focus on the legal needs of disadvantaged people and the organisations that assist those people, and 30 firms indicating that being a signatory to the Target led to an increase in the amount of pro bono work being undertaken,” Director of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre, John Corker said.
“The results indicated that Target signatory firms generally perform better than others. For example, the results of the Centre’s National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey of Australian firms with 50 or more lawyers, published in January 2013, indicated an average of 20.1 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer per year for non-signatory firms.
“Sixteen new firms were added to the Target Register in 2012/2013 taking the total number of signatories to 104. The Target now covers approximately 8,763 lawyers or approximately 15 percent of the Australian legal profession.
“A factor in the rapid increase in the number of signatories over the past two years has been the integration of the Target into the pro bono provisions in the application process for the Commonwealth Legal Services Multi-Use List for purchasing legal services, which requires agencies to consider each applicant’s pro bono contribution when awarding tenders.
“The Centre has been pleased to work with some of the new Target signatory firms to help them establish and develop their pro bono practices and welcomes any other firms who would like assistance from the Centre.
“There were some very impressive performances by firms this year. Ten out of 28 large firm signatories with more than 50 lawyers provided a total of 218,933.7 pro bono hours, which equates to an average of 51.2 hours per lawyer per year. It is also pleasing to see that some mid-tier firms are starting to exceed the Target for the first time.”
Solicitors, Barristers and Law Firms can sign up to the Target online on the Centre’s website.