Pro Bono Requirements in Government Tender Arrangements for Legal Services
In order for law firms to secure legal work from Australian Commonwealth and state/territory government departments, they must first tender or apply to be included on the department’s “panel” or “list” of pre-approved law firms. In order to qualify to be included on the “panel” or “list”, these firms must meet certain requirements.
The Commonwealth, Victorian, South Australian and New South Wales Governments include pro bono requirements in their tender arrangements for legal services. While the arrangements between jurisdictions differ from each other in various ways, they have been successful in increasing the pro bono contribution made by participating law firms.
For example, in Victoria in 2005-2006 the Victorian Government Legal Services Panel (Victorian Panel) arrangements resulted in pro bono legal services with a value of $5.2 million being performed. This contribution increased to approximately $7.7 million in 2006-2007, $12.4 million in 2007-2008 and by 2010-2011 had reached $22.08 million. The Victorian government has not reported figures again but in 2016 the A-G, Martin Pakula indicated that firms on the new Panel had committed to deliver a record average of 20% of professional costs earned from the Panel arrangements to pro bono work in the community. In introducing new rules, the government lifted the minimum pro bono requirement to 10%, from a minimum 5% under the existing Panel.
The trend for the Commonwealth Legal Services Multi-use List (LSMUL) reflects a similar increase on an hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer per year basis for many firms. For example, in 2015-16 the legal services providers on the LSMUL performed a total of 555,224 hours of pro bono work, an increase of 144,572 since 2014-2015.
For further information on the different tender arrangements, please see: