Social Enterprises Included in New Pro Bono Legal Target
16 July 2018 at 12:58 pm
A national target for pro bono legal services is now including work undertaken for social enterprises, reflecting significant growth in this area of pro bono legal practice.
The National Pro Bono Target is a voluntary target calling for lawyers to complete at least 35 hours of pro bono legal services per year.
The tenth anniversary review of the target has resulted in a new definition of “pro bono legal services” to allow work undertaken for social enterprises to count towards total target hours.
— Aus Pro Bono Centre (@AusPBC) July 1, 2018
John Corker, the CEO of the Australian Pro Bono Centre which manages the target, said the review had been “extremely worthwhile”.
“It has facilitated a fruitful discussion within the signatory community about key definitional issues and facilitated the centre to revisit the strengths and limitations of the target scheme,” Corker said.
“The review has allowed the target to be updated to reflect contemporary pro bono legal practice and maintain its place as an industry standard and beacon for pro bono legal practice in Australia.”
While the previous definition of “pro bono legal services” only included work for charities and not for profits, the review noted that social enterprises were “an increasingly common structure” used by organisations to pursue social causes.
Changing the definition to include social enterprises also aligned the target with leading overseas pro bono organisations including US law firm Pro Bono Challenge.
Corker told Pro Bono News the updated definition was a “logical step”.
“We found that firms are already providing legal help to these organisations and it was a logical step to include this work in the definition of pro bono legal services,” he said.
“[This applies] under certain conditions, for example, in the start-up phase of such an organisation, and where the surplus funds generated are primarily being put towards furthering the mission of the organisation.
“Firms will always make their own judgement as to when it is appropriate to act on a pro bono basis. The new guidelines provide greater certainty and guidance for them in relation to the making these decisions.”
Justice Connect CEO Chris Povey said pro bono firms saw social enterprises as an effective and efficient way to deliver social outcomes.
He told Pro Bono News he “welcomed the change” which was consistent with the approach Justice Connect had taken over many years.
“We see social enterprises as having great potential to deliver public good and through our not-for-profit law service we see that social enterprises, especially in the start-up phase… don’t have the support they need,” Povey said.
“This change will provide more assistance to organisations that need the help.”