For Individual Solicitors and Barristers
Whether you are newly admitted to practice or are already an experienced solicitor or barrister, you can use your legal skills to make a valuable pro bono contribution.
There are a number of ways in which you can do so as an individual lawyer:
- I would like to make a pro bono contribution by volunteering in my individual capacity
- I would like to make a pro bono contribution through my firm
- I am interested in the National Pro Bono Target
- I am looking for disbursement assistance
- I would like more information about pro bono generally
If you are a young lawyer working in the pro bono sector, consider joining Pro Bono Young Folk (ProBo YoFo). ProBo YoFo is organised by Ella Alexander. Read more here and contact email@example.com if you are interested in joining the informal network.
I would like to make a pro bono contribution by volunteering in my individual capacity
There is a diverse range of exciting opportunities available for lawyers to undertake pro bono in their individual capacity, including at community legal centres, state and territory referral organisations, and via global networks.
The Centre has published a Pro Bono Guide for Individual Lawyers. This useful resource lists organisations who regularly seek volunteer lawyers, and details some key considerations for those undertaking pro bono in a personal capacity.
Community Legal Centres
Volunteering at a community legal centre (CLC) is a great way to make a pro bono contribution within a pre-existing program focused on increasing access to justice. There are both generalist and specialist CLCs, and most offer training and host after-hours clinics where you can provide assistance.
To find information on the CLCs in your state or territory, visit your state’s peak CLC body or law society/government directory:
- Australian Capital Territory– see the ACT Law Society directory
- New South Wales– Community Legal Centres NSW
- Northern Territory– see the NT Government directory
- Queensland– Community Legal Centres Queensland
- South Australia– Community Legal Centre South Australia
- Tasmania– Community Legal Centres Tasmania
- Victoria– Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria
- Western Australia– Community Legal WA
There are pro bono referral schemes and organisations in every state and territory in Australia. Pro bono referral schemes and organisations assist individuals and not-for-profit organisations by referring legal matters to solicitors, law firms or barristers.
See here for a list of referral organisations.
Social Justice Opportunities
You may also like to visit Social Justice Opportunities, a website run by the Centre which provides information on the types of volunteering (and employment) opportunities available in the social justice sector.
This website, targeted primarily at early-career lawyers and law students, also contains a listing of current job opportunities.
There are a number of global organisations and networks that connect charities, NGOs and social enterprises with lawyers who can provide free legal assistance. These opportunities may be particularly suited to senior and retired lawyers as they often involve high-level legal and advisory work.
The following are examples of organisations that accept applications from individual lawyers:
If you are planning on engaging in pro bono legal work in your own capacity, you should ensure that you have the appropriate type of practising certificate. Your local regulatory authority can provide you with details on the requirements in your state or territory. Volunteer practising certificates are also available in all jurisdictions at no cost or low cost.
You should also ensure that you are covered by appropriate professional indemnity insurance. This may be provided by your employer, the host or referring organisation (as appropriate), or on your own behalf.
If you are not covered by professional indemnity insurance for pro bono work, you may be able to obtain coverage under the Centre’s National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme.
I would like to make a pro bono contribution through my firm
Even if you are working in a practice area that does not naturally lend itself to pro bono referrals, there are other ways to become involved. Speak to your firm’s pro bono coordinator for more information.
If your firm does not have a pro bono program and you would like to be involved in establishing one you can contact us for practical and confidential advice, or refer to the For law firms and practices section of this site. This section contains many useful resources; for example, the Australian Pro Bono Manual is a useful starting point.
The Manual is a ‘how to’ and ‘best practice’ guide on establishing and operating a pro bono program within a law firm or practice.
See also section 2.6 of Pro Bono Partnerships: A Practical Guide to What Works, which outlines ways that individual lawyers and barristers can get involved in pro bono legal work.
I am interested in the National Pro Bono Target
The Centre runs the National Pro Bono Target of 35 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer, which can be signed up to by individual solicitors and barristers. The Target is a well-respected and widely adopted benchmark for measuring pro bono contributions in Australia.
If you would like to become a signatory to the National Pro Bono Target, or would like more information, please click here.
I am looking for disbursement assistance
If you are providing pro bono legal assistance that involves litigation, your client may be able to obtain Disbursement Assistance by way of:
- exemption and waiver of court and tribunal fees; and
- disbursement assistance schemes.
You may also be able to obtain expert witness services through the ExpertsDirect Pro Bono Service. This is a service that connects pro bono and community lawyers with professionals who are willing to provide expert witness services for free or at low cost, in legal cases assisting those experiencing disadvantage or margianalisation.
I would like more information about pro bono generally
For more information about pro bono please see the Information about pro bono section of this site, which includes our definition of pro bono, publications produced by the Centre, examples of pro bono case law and many other useful resources.