Issue 61: September 2010
Welcome to the September 2010 edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (the Centre). We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas.
This special National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference 2010 edition is devoted to the launch of the Interim Report on the 2010 National Law Form Pro Bono Survey and the Third Annual Performance Report on the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target. It also contains an advertisement for a new Senior Policy Advisor/ Project Manager (Legal) for the Centre.
Over 300 delegates attended the 3rd National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference held in Brisbane last week.
Some of the highlights of the program were:
All papers currently available from the conference can be downloaded at http://www.qls.com.au/content/AccessToJusticeConference2010/index.html
Large Australian law firms have continued their strong commitment to pro bono legal work, despite the significant economic pressures of the past two years. Those large firms who are signatories to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target generally have performed more pro bono work for disadvantaged people and community non-profit organisations, than those firms who have not yet signed the Target.
The findings come from the Interim Report on the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey (“the Survey”) launched on 25 August 2010 by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (“the Centre”) for the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference 2010 being held in Brisbane from 26-27 August 2010.
Whilst the number of fee-earners in the top twelve firms decreased by 13.3 percent in the last two years, the amount of pro bono work which these firms performed for disadvantaged people and community non-profit organisations has grown during this same period.
“Pro Bono work is not some passing fad. Australia’s large law firms have demonstrated a real commitment to making the legal system accessible for those who cannot afford legal representation and who cannot obtain Legal Aid” said John Corker, Director of the Centre. “Even while firms have had to tighten their belts, the amount of pro bono work which they are performing has continued to grow”.
Twenty nine of the 39 Australian firms with more than 50 lawyers responded to the survey, including all of the large national firms. Twenty four of them provided data on pro bono hours per lawyer. Between them, their 10,410.3 full time equivalent lawyers in Australia undertook more than 322,000 hours of pro bono legal work in the 2009/2010 financial year, or an average of 29 hours per lawyer. “That’s equivalent to more than 178 lawyers working pro bono full-time for a year”, said Corker.
Contributions continued to vary greatly between the firms. Some firms averaged less than five hours per lawyer per year with those at the other extreme providing more than 70 hours per lawyer per year.
“The firms that continue to make the most significant contributions have dedicated pro bono partners and pro bono coordinators in each office who help to ensure that a pro bono culture is fully integrated into the firm’s practice”, Corker said. “One of the positive trends observed is that more mid-tier firms are beginning to embrace this approach.”
The Centre developed the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target in 2006, setting a voluntary goal for lawyers of at least 35 hours per lawyer per year. The third performance report on the Target was also released on 25 August 2010. The report confirms the transformative effect which the Target has had on the pro bono culture of Australia’s law firms.
“Not surprisingly, the firms with the highest pro bono contribution and lawyer participation rates are generally those which have signed up to the Target” said Corker. On average, signatories to the Target compared to non-signatory firms, reported higher average pro bono hours per lawyer (37.8 v 18.6) and a higher level of pro bono participation by their lawyers (66.3% v 42.4%).
The number of lawyers signed up to the Target increased by 23.4% in the past year and now covers 5,677 FTE legal professionals, being about 10% of the Australian legal profession. Target signatories now include 6 of the 8 largest Australian firms.
The firms that had the highest number of pro bono hours per lawyer were firms with between 50-200 FTE lawyers, however larger firms had a higher overall average than smaller and mid tier firms. “Although the biggest firms collectively employed only one third of all lawyers reporting their Target performance, they provided more than half of the total pro bono contributions, or an average of 49.4 hours per lawyer per year, well above the law firm average,” said Corker.
“This is the second time there has been a national picture of the pro bono work of large and mid-tier law firms. We hope that firms will use this information to benchmark their contribution against their peers and review their pro bono programs.”
For further information please contact the Centre at [email protected] or on (02) 9385 7381.
 AFR Partnership Surveys 2008 and 2010 – decrease from 10,066 in July 2008 to 8,731 in July 2010.
Are you interested in using your legal and policy experience in an organisation committed to improving access to justice for disadvantaged people?
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre is seeking a committed and enthusiastic person to manage key policy initiatives and projects as part of the Centre’s small team.
The successful applicant will have:
The position is for 5 days per week. A salary range of $60,000-70,000 (plus super) will be negotiated.
An Information Package can be downloaded by following this link. To discuss the position, please phone John Corker on (02) 9385 7371.
Applications addressing the selection criteria should be addressed to:
National Pro Bono Resource Centre
The Law Building
University of NSW
UNSW Sydney 2052
Or sent by email to [email protected].
Closing date for applications: Friday 10 September 2010
Articles of interest to the pro bono community from July – August 2010. Click through to read any news article in full.
27 August 2010 – The Australian
25 August 2010 – Lawyers Weekly
6 August 2010 – The Age
7 August 2010 – The Independent Weekly
3 August 2010 – Lawyers Weekly
29 July 2010 – Lawyers Weekly
19 July 2010 – The National Law Journal
19 July 2010 – ABC News
17 July 2010 – The Record (New Jersey)
16 July 2010 – The Australian
16 July 2010 – The Daily Telegraph (UK)
16 July 2010 – Sydney Morning Herald
15 July 2010 – Commonwealth Attorney-General