Celebrating 2.86 Million Hours of Pro Bono Legal Work
Remarkably, over the ten-year life of the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target (Target), Australian lawyers have reported doing over 2.86 million hours of pro bono legal work, helping disadvantaged people and the organisations that support them.
The Tenth Annual Performance Report, released today, reports that 11,795 Australian lawyers provided a total of 420,195 hours of pro bono legal services in FY2017, compared to 11,185 Australian lawyers providing 402,216 hours in FY2016, a 4.5% increase in total hours. This total equates to 233 lawyers working pro bono full-time for one year.*
Target signatories averaged 35.7 pro bono hours per lawyer per annum in FY2017, down from 36.0 hours per lawyer in FY2016.
Unfortunately, performance across the 39 large firms** was still quite uneven, ranging from 0.3 to 73.6 pro bono hours per lawyer, with 20 of these firms reporting below the 35-hour target. “We urge firms that are persistently falling well short of the Target to review their programs against the Centre’s Best Practice guide. And of course we are always happy to suggest improvements,” said John Corker, CEO of the Australian Pro Bono Centre.
To mark the tenth anniversary, the Centre has released a Public Discussion Paper concerning the Target and is inviting comments on a number of issues such as whether the definition of pro bono legal service remains relevant, how well the Target is integrated with Governments’ legal purchasing arrangements from the private profession, and how more lawyers can be encouraged to support the Target.
“Whilst the Target remains a driver of pro bono growth, this year we’re pausing to reflect, consolidate, and consult, to ensure that the Target remains relevant as a benchmark of performance and a catalyst for further growth,” said Corker.
The tenth anniversary provides an opportunity for the Centre to thank the 40 foundation signatories (listed below) that supported the Target at its inception in 2007, and to celebrate the fact that a great many individuals and organisations have had access to vital legal support that they wouldn’t have but for the legal profession’s commitment to access to justice, he said.
“The development of the Target community shows that pro bono has become an integral part of professional life for thousands of Australian lawyers. We are a better profession and a better society for it,” said Corker.
Responses to the Public Discussion Paper, which will be made available on the Centre’s website, are due by 30 November 2017.
Target signatories sign a Statement of Principles and agree to make their best efforts to ensure that their firm’s lawyers will undertake an average of a minimum of 35 hours of pro bono legal services each year.
The Target signatories represent 11,795 FTE legal professionals and include 24 of the 25 largest firms in Australia.
For further information or comment, please contact:
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Pro Bono Centre
(02) 9385 7371 or 0402 474 628
* Based on the assumption of a 37.5 hour working week for 48 weeks in a year.
** More than 50 lawyers.