Development of the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target
In Australia, prior to the launch of the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target on 26 April 2007, recommendations for the implementation of a voluntary minimum target came from a number of sources:
1998 – the Law Society of NSW’s Access to Justice Task Force Report recommended establishing a voluntary “minimum pro bono commitment”.
1999 – the Law Institute of Victoria resolved to encourage its members to dedicate one hour per week to pro bono work.
2000 – the Pro Bono Working Group convened by the President of the Law Society of NSW recommended that the Law Society issue a voluntary pro bono target for all members.
2000 – the Australian Law Reform Commission Report No. 79, Managing Justice: A Review of the Federal Civil Justice System (2000), recommended that legal professional associations urge their members to undertake pro bono work each year.
2002 – the Chesterman Review of the New South Wales Solicitors and Barristers Rules, commissioned by the NSW Attorney-General, recommended that consideration be given to including an aspirational target of a prescribed number of pro bono hours within the Solicitor’s Professional Conduct and Practice Rules.
Despite the above recommendations, no Australian State, Territory or national legal professional association had or has implemented an aspirational target within its professional conduct rules.
Establishment of the Target
In April 2007, in consultation with a number of key leaders in the delivery of pro bono legal services in Australia, the Centre adopted and promulgated a set of principles for a voluntary and aspirational target of 35 hours of pro bono legal services per lawyer per year.
There were 23 Foundation Signatories to the Target; 13 firms and 10 individuals. For a full list of current signatories to the Target (137 as at 30 June 2017) see Target Signatories.
This initiative was supported and endorsed at its inception by:
Australian Lawyers Alliance
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
National Association of Community Legal Centres
Office of the Chief Magistrate, Law Courts of the ACT
Office of the Chief Judge, Land and Environment Court of NSW
The Law Society of Western Australia
The Law Council of Australia has indicated that consistent with the voluntary and aspirational nature of the Target, individual barristers and solicitors should make their own decision as to whether they wish to be a signatory to the principles.
Overseas aspirational pro bono target initiatives
The American Bar Association Models Rules of Professional Conduct have includes a voluntary pro bono goal of at least 50 hours of pro bono work per lawyer per year. This was introduced in 1993. For links to this and other American initiatives, see below.
In November 2014, 18 firms with offices in the UK agreed to participate in a new Collaborative Plan. One key component of the Plan is a 25 hours per fee-earner aspirational target. Please see our story “Law firms agree to collaborate around a new UK pro bono aspirational target” from the November 2014 edition of Australian Pro Bono News (formerly “National Pro Bono News”) for further details.