The National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme was established by the Centre to encourage lawyers to undertake pro bono legal work. The Scheme removes one of the key barriers for in-house, government and individual volunteer lawyers who wish to engage in pro bono legal work – the need for professional indemnity (PI) insurance to cover them for any civil claims arising from their pro bono legal work.
The Scheme provides free PI insurance to lawyers and paralegals working on pro bono projects approved by the Centre, in circumstances where there is no other PI insurance available.
The Centre is proud to cover many fantastic projects under the PI insurance scheme. A register of all pro bono projects currently covered by the Scheme can be viewed here.
The Scheme is only able to cover projects in certain circumstances. Before applying for coverage, please consider if you meet each of the 4 eligibility criteria below.
1) Is the Scheme available in your location?
The Scheme is currently available in:
New South Wales
the Australian Capital Territory; and
Western Australia (as of October 2022, available to holders of all types of practising certificates).
Lawyers who hold a practising certificate in any other state or territory are not currently able to access the Scheme. The Centre continues to advocate for the availability of the Scheme in other jurisdictions.
2) Have you confirmed that there is no other PI insurance available to you?
The Scheme is a “safety net” policy, so coverage will only extend to circumstances where no other PI insurance will cover a project. In some circumstances, other PI insurance may be available through an employer, community legal centre or referring agency. For example, the Scheme will not apply if a lawyer is undertaking pro bono legal work through a community legal centre and that centre’s PI insurance provides coverage for the work.
Being an in-house corporate, government or individual volunteer lawyer does not automatically entitle you to coverage under the Scheme. Nor does being a signatory to the Centre’s National Pro Bono Target. You should only apply for coverage under the Scheme if you (a) require PI insurance in order to undertake a specific pro bono project, and (b) you cannot obtain that PI insurance elsewhere.
3) Does your proposed project fit within the policy’s definition of pro bono?
To facilitate the Scheme, the Centre holds a policy with Lawcover. The policy provides coverage for pro bono legal work undertaken by lawyers and paralegals as part of a pro bono project approved by the Centre.
A “project” can take many forms. For example, it might be ongoing legal work for a charity or community organisation; work referred through a pro bono referral scheme; work as part of a multi-partner project involving a law firm pro bono program; or a single legal case.
For a project to be eligible for coverage under the Scheme, it must meet the policy’s definition of “pro bono work”:
Pro bono legal work means work done or business transacted by:
(i) a lawyer or paralegal, who without fee or expectation of a fee, advises and/or represents a client in cases where:
(A) the client’s case raises a wider issue of public interest; or (B) the client has no other access to the courts and the legal system; and/or
(ii) a lawyer or paralegal involved in free community legal education and/or law reform; or
(iii) a lawyer or paralegal involved in the giving of free legal advice and/or representation to charitable and community organisations.
If your project involves limb (iii) – i.e., providing advice or representation to a charitable or community organisation, the project must also meet these additional guidelines.
You should be satisfied that your project meets the definition before applying. If you are unsure if your project qualifies, you are welcome to contact the Centre for guidance.
 Note that this is different from the Centre’s definition of pro bono legal services which applies to the National Pro Bono Target. In a borderline case, projects will also be assessed against the Centre’s Target definition, which is more specific about certain activities that have been considered “grey areas” in some definitional debates.
4) Does your project’s Supervising Lawyer hold an appropriate practising certificate?
Responsibility for the coordination of each project rests with a Supervising Lawyer. The Supervising Lawyer is also responsible for supervising any legal advice provided by lawyers under the auspices of the project.
Importantly, it is the Supervising Lawyer’s responsibility to ensure that they hold an appropriate practising certificate that authorises them to undertake pro bono work in the relevant jurisdiction. This practising certificate must be unrestricted or unsupervised. Any change of Supervising Lawyer must be approved by the Centre.
How to apply for coverage
To obtain coverage under the Scheme, please complete the Application Formand submit it to the Centre for approval (together with a copy of the Supervising Lawyer’s practising certificate) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If approved, the Policy will, subject to the terms and conditions, provide PI insurance cover for all lawyers and paralegals who work on the approved project.
PI insurance under the Scheme is provided free of charge. The Centre has paid the policy premium and will cover the excess payable on any claim.
The Centre is willing to consider applications for coverage from law firms collaborating on a pro bono project. Please contact the Centre at email@example.com to enquire about applying in these circumstances.
The Scheme was launched on 3 June 2009 by the then Attorney-General of NSW, The Hon John Hatzistergos. Since that time, the Scheme has facilitated over 200 pro bono projects.
The Centre thanks the Law Society of New South Wales, Lawcover and DLA Piper for facilitating the establishment of the Scheme. The Centre also thanks the state and territory governments and law societies in the jurisdictions in which the Scheme is approved, for the steps they have taken to facilitate access to justice.
Related useful resources
Pro Bono Legal Work: A Guide for In-house Corporate Lawyers is an invaluable guide and essential reference point for corporations looking to establish, manage or refine an in-house pro bono program (and for individual corporate lawyers seeking involvement in pro bono work). The guide includes helpful precedents for establishing in-house pro bono programs.
Pro Bono Legal Work: A Guide for Government Lawyers is practical guide for government legal teams seeking to establish, refine or expand an in-house pro bono legal program. It contains information about the key issues affecting participation by government lawyers in pro bono legal work and draws on the experience of government legal teams with existing pro bono policies and legal programs.