The Ninth Annual Performance Report on the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target, released by the Centre in October, reports that 11,185 Australian lawyers provided 402,216 hours of pro bono legal services in FY2016. This equates to 223 lawyers working pro bono full-time for one year.
Despite the tightening legal services market, FY2016 was the first time since 2011 that, the signatories, as a group, either met or exceeded the Target of at least 35 hours per lawyer per year, reporting an average of 36 pro bono hours per lawyer. The 38 large firms (firms with 50 or more FTE lawyers) continued to perform strongly, reporting on average 36.4 pro bono hours per lawyer. Of the 37 large firms that reported in FY2015 and FY2016, 26 reported an increase in pro bono hours per lawyer, and 17 of these reported an increase of over 20%.
The 31 small law firms (fewer than 50 FTE lawyers) reported performing on average 16.3 pro bono hours per lawyer. Thirty percent of small law firms met or exceeded the Target.
Individuals (solicitors, barristers and sole practitioners) reported on average 112.5 pro bono hours each. This marked a 3.8% increase from FY2015.
Overall, 47.1% of the signatories met or exceeded the Target. The fact that nearly half of Target signatories either met or exceeded the Target shows that the Target remains a sound benchmark for pro bono legal work across the profession. However, performance across reporting firms remains uneven.
The Centre encourages firms that are looking to develop their pro bono programs to seek assistance from the Centre, law firms with developed pro bono practices or a pro bono referral organisation or scheme.
To see a list of target signatories and to sign up online visit the Centre’s Target page.