For in-house corporate and government legal teams and lawyers
About the Target
Q. Why did the Centre establish the National Pro Bono Target (the Target)?
A. The Centre established the Target because it believes the Target helps to promote pro bono legal work throughout the Australian legal profession. This is demonstrated by the continual growth in the number of pro bono hours performed by Target signatories and the fact that Target signatories undertake more pro bono hours than non-signatories (see Reports on the Target).
More information can be found at Development of the Target.
Q. Can I participate in the National Pro Bono Target as an individual in-house lawyer?
A. Although we encourage your in-house legal team to become a signatory, another option is for you and other interested team members to join in your personal capacities as individual in-house legal Target signatories.
Q. Why is the Target set at a minimum of 20 hours per year for in-house lawyers?
A. This number of hours was selected as a realistic goal and appropriate benchmark. It reflects what many in-house lawyers are already doing and takes into consideration the unique context for in-house legal professionals. The Centre has decided to take a staged approach to the Target for in-house lawyers and will review whether this hourly target should be raised to be aligned with other legal professionals in the future.
Q. Is there a danger that in-house signatories will do 20 hours a year and no more?
A. No. The Target requires signatories to use their best endeavours to do a minimum of 20 hours, but signatories are encouraged to do more. Many signatories outperform the Target. See Reports on the Target for signatories’ annual performance against the Target.
Q. Why have a formalised target if in-house lawyers are already committed to doing pro bono legal work?
A. Having a target raises the visibility of the ethical obligation of a legal professional to undertake pro bono work, both across the profession and the general public, and helps to provide access to justice to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain it. It also allows lawyers to demonstrate that undertaking pro bono work is a shared commitment and professional responsibility. Raising the Target’s visibility encourages the continuation and growth of pro bono legal services.
Q. Won’t the Target become a mandatory minimum for the profession?
A. No. The Centre does not advocate the mandatory performance of pro bono legal work or the mandatory imposition of the Target. This would be inconsistent with its voluntary and aspirational nature. The Target is simply aimed at recognising and capturing the amount of pro bono work that many lawyers in Australia are already doing. There are no adverse consequences for signatories that do not meet the Target.
Q. Does the Target encourage governments to reduce funding for Legal Aid and Community Legal Centres?
A. No. The Statements of Principles for the Target clearly recognises “that pro bono is not a substitute for the proper funding by government of Legal Aid agencies and Community Legal Centres” and the definition of “pro bono legal services” that applies for the purposes of the Target is limited to the giving of legal assistance for free or at a substantially reduced fee to “people who cannot obtain Legal Aid”.
Q. Who has signed up to the Target?
A. As of 10 June 2020, there were 192 signatories to the Target, including all 25 of the largest law firms in Australia. A full list of the law firms, incorporated legal practices, solicitors and barrister that have signed up to the Target can be found in Target Signatories.
Q. How are the results reported and celebrated?
A. The Centre publishes a report on the performance of signatories each year (to view the latest report see here). Since the Centre’s establishment in 2002 and inception of the Target in 2007, the pro bono culture in the Australian legal profession has developed considerably. We greatly value each and every signatory to the Target as the number of signatories helps communicate to others in the profession the importance of the pro bono ethos. We invite each new signatory to incorporate the Target Logo branding into your communications platforms, if desired, to identify that you are part of this growing community. With your consent we would also like to give you a “social media welcome”, alerting our channels to the fact that you are a new signatory.
Q. How do I withdraw from the Target?
A. You can withdraw from the Target at any time upon notification to the Centre. Before doing so, signatories are encouraged to seek the assistance of the Centre to develop plans to help them work towards or meet the Target.
What legal work can be counted towards the Target?
Q. Can in-house legal teams average their commitment across all the lawyers in the team?
A. Yes. The commitment is the average across all the lawyers in the in-house legal team. In some legal teams some lawyers may do more than 20 hours of pro bono legal work, and others may do fewer than 20 hours.
Q. Can the work of paralegals and other support staff be included?
A. No. Signatories have the option of separately reporting paralegal hours where the work performed is of a legal nature and would otherwise be charged to the client if it were a commercial matter, but this should not be included when calculating total pro bono hours or pro bono hours per lawyer per year for the purposes of reporting.
Q. Why is general community service work through corporate social responsibility programs and sitting on the board of community legal centres (or other community organisation) excluded from the definition of “pro bono legal services”?
A. While the Centre encourages in-house lawyers to contribute by sitting on boards and by being involved in general community service work, whether through corporate social responsibility programs or otherwise, these activities do not fall within the definition of “pro bono legal services” for the purposes of the Target.
This definition was developed by the Centre in 2006 in consultation with a number of law firms with long-established pro bono practices. It carefully maintains a distinction between pro bono legal work and broader community service or corporate social responsibility work to ensure that the Target remains focused on encouraging the legal work that lawyers are uniquely qualified to undertake and removing barriers to justice.
Q. Where can I find out more information about what type of work can be counted towards the Target?
A. Please refer to the Guidance Notes.
Meeting the Target
Q. How do in-house lawyer signatories report against the Target?
A. Each year signatories are asked to self-report the number of hours of pro bono legal work they have performed. A standard form is used to ensure the integrity of the measurement process. The Centre encourages signatories to make their own assessment of whether they have met the Target based on the definition of “pro bono legal services”and the Guidance Notes.
Q. What happens if a signatory does not meet the Target?
A. There are no adverse consequences for signatories which do not meet the Target. The Centre’s Annual Performance Report on the Target is prepared in a de-identified form. Neither in-house legal teams nor individual in-house lawyers are or will be named in the Report. The Centre does encourage signatories to seek the assistance of the Centre to develop plans to help them meet and exceed the Target.
For examples of previous years’ annual reports on performance against the Target please refer to National Pro Bono Target.
Q. If you do not think you are going to meet the Target, is there any point in signing up?
A. Yes. Demonstrating that your in-house legal team (or you individually) aspires to meet the Target by signing up to it, even if your team doesn’t immediately achieve the 20 hours per lawyer, publicly indicates that you recognise the importance of pro bono legal work and share a commitment with other lawyers to do it.
Q. Where can I find assistance to help me or my in-house legal team to meet the Target?
A. The Centre provides a free consultancy service on how to structure and manage a pro bono program and is aware of many current opportunities that exist to undertake pro bono legal work in each state and territory of Australia. Please contact the Centre for more information. Please also visit Current Pro Bono Opportunities in the Pro Bono Portal – In-house Lawyers and Legal Teams.