Commonwealth Legal Services Expenditure Report 2016-2017: government expenditure up, but pro bono down

The Commonwealth has just released their annual legal services expenditure report for 2016-2017 reporting total legal services expenditure of $825.51m (up 4.2%), and 502,619 hours of pro bono legal work done by reporting firms (down 9.5% on 2015-16 results).

LSMUL gone but Commonwealth commitment to pro bono conditions continues

The Commonwealth Government’s Legal Services Multi-Use List (LSMUL) of firms authorised to provide legal services to the Commonwealth ceased on 1 July 2018 and with it some of the conditions that formally encouraged firms to undertake pro bono legal work.

Pro Bono Legal Work and Corporate Social Responsibility – An Evening for In-house Corporate Lawyers

On 22 August 2018, the Australian Pro Bono Centre (Centre) and Law Society of NSW hosted a forum to engage and support in-house corporate lawyers to do pro bono legal work.

MEDIA RELEASE: Review of community legal centres recognises importance of resourcing to leverage pro bono support

Wednesday 1 August 2018


The Australian Pro Bono Centre welcomes the announcement today by the NSW Government of new funding for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in NSW based on the recommendations of the 2017 Review of NSW Community Legal Centre Services led by Mr Alan Cameron AO (Review Report) also released today.

The Centre particularly welcomes the findings in the Review Report that:

  • CLCs need adequate resources to harness, co-ordinate and supervise pro bono and volunteer support;
  • students, volunteers and pro bono partnerships make a significant contribution to the CLC sector; and
  • this multiplies the value of government funding and increases the benefits of legal assistance services experienced by individuals and the community.

“For CLCs to take full advantage of the available pro bono support, they often need to provide coordination, training, supervision and other support. This cost is often underestimated and unrecognised,” said John Corker, CEO of the Australian Pro Bono Centre.

The Centre’s work has shown that good coordination and training are vital components of a successful pro bono relationship, whether with an individual volunteer or a law firm. There can be a considerable cost associated with managing such relationships, particularly for larger projects.

“With many firms being reliant on their ability to partner with CLCs to deliver their pro bono services, it’s important to have a formal recognition of the cost to firms and CLCs of establishing and maintaining these partnerships,” Mr Corker said.

Unmet legal need

Importantly the Review Report highlights gaps in service delivery, particularly in rural, regional and remote areas of NSW, and a need for more legal assistance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, children and young people, and people with disabilities.

According to the Review Report the areas of law seen as most pressing in terms of unmet need are in the areas of child care and protection, housing, credit and debt, domestic violence and consumer law.



Media contact

For further information or comment please contact John Corker on 02 9385 7371 or 0402474628.

Download this media release as a PDF document.

National Pro Bono Target remains at 35 hours per lawyer per annum but now includes work for social enterprises

The final report of the tenth anniversary review of the National Pro Bono Target (as it will now be called) was released last week concluding a year-long consultation process with members of the Target signatory community. Changes to the Target took effect on 1 July 2018.


Wednesday 27 June 2018



The final report of the tenth anniversary review of the National Pro Bono Target (as it will now be called) was released today concluding a year-long consultation process with members of the Target signatory community.

“The word ‘aspirational’ has been dropped from the Target’s title, but by its very nature the Target remains aspirational,” said John Corker, CEO of the Australian Pro Bono Centre, the independent organisation that manages the Target.

“The review has allowed the Target to be updated to reflect contemporary pro bono legal practice and maintain its place as an industry standard and beacon for pro bono legal practice in Australia,” he said.

The key outcomes of the Review are that from 1 July 2018:

  1. The target will remain at 35 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer per annum.
  2. The Target’s definition of ‘pro bono legal services’ will now allow work undertaken for social enterprises to count towards total target hours, reflecting growth in this area of pro bono legal practice.
  3. The Centre will issue new guidance notes to help firms assess whether legal work for a charity, other not-for-profit organisation or social enterprise should be undertaken on a pro bono basis.
  4. The meaning of legal work undertaken for a ‘substantially reduced fee’ will also be clarified through guidance notes, with firms that undertake this ‘low bono’ work being required to report it separately from work undertaken for no fee.
  5. The metric for measuring pro bono legal work for the purposes of the Target will remain as hours per lawyer per annum, with the Centre undertaking further work about how best to evaluate and communicate the impact of this work.
  6. The Centre will adopt administrative changes in the way it works with some signatories on a case-by-case basis to provide more active support to signatories that are not reaching the target and to help them build a framework for reaching the target within a set timeframe.
  7. The Centre will continue to advocate and work with governments to assist them to integrate the Target into their legal services tender arrangements and therefore encourage further pro bono growth.

“The review has been extremely worthwhile. It has facilitated a fruitful discussion within the signatory community about key definitional issues and facilitated the Centre to revisit the strengths and limitations of the Target scheme,” said John Corker.

The changes and new guidance notes will make the Target more fit for purpose to support pro bono growth in the future.

“Despite a number of firms now having internal targets of 50 hours per lawyer per annum, the target of 35 hours remains a realistic benchmark, with around half of Target signatories reporting more, and half fewer, than the 35-hour standard,” Corker said.

The National Pro Bono Target: Final Report (June 2018) and Summary of Changes are available on the Centre’s website.


The Australian Pro Bono Centre is an independent centre of expertise that aims to grow the capacity of the Australian legal profession to provide pro bono legal services that are focused on increasing access to justice for socially disadvantaged and/or marginalised persons and furthering the public interest.

The National Pro Bono Target is a voluntary target that Australian law firms, incorporated legal practices, individual solicitors (including in-house corporate and government lawyers) and barristers are encouraged to adopt by becoming signatories and by signing a Statement of Principles.

Signatories to the Target agree to use their best efforts to provide at least 35 hours of pro bono legal services per lawyer per year, adhere to the Statement of Principles and report annually to the Centre on whether they have met the target in the previous year.

The National Pro Bono Target was established in 2007. With four new law firms signing up in 2018 (at the time of distributing this release), the Target now covers over 12,000 full-time equivalent lawyers. Since its establishment, 2.86 million hours of pro bono work by Australian lawyers has been reported against the Target.

Target signatories are involved in a range of focus areas, including: helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; people suffering homelessness; severe poverty; those affected by a cognitive impairment, mental illness or other disability; those affected by family violence or elder abuse; those lacking access to education; those in regional, rural and remote communities; and asylum seekers and refugees. Others prioritise women, youth or charities in their pro bono programs.

Reporting by firms for the 2017/2018 year is due in July 2018.


Media contact

For further information or comment please contact John Corker on 02 9385 7371 or 0402474628.

Download this media release as a PDF document.

Pro Bono beyond law: encouraging pro bono among engineers

The pro bono ethic that is so central to the legal profession is beginning to take root in other professions. The Centre’s Head of Policy & Strategy, Gabriela Christian-Hare, spoke recently at a think tank organised by Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and Engineers Australia. Read EWB’s reflections following the event.

Centres partners with UNSW Law on new Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession project on unbundling legal services

As part of UNSW Law and the Law Society of NSW’s Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Stream, the Centre is excited to be working with Professor Michael Legg on a new project about the unbundling of legal services.

1,375 hours of pro bono performed under the Centre’s PI scheme

Corporate, government and volunteer lawyers performed 1,375 hours of pro bono legal work under the Centre’s National PI Insurance Scheme in the second half of 2017. The hours were performed by 108 lawyers and 8 paralegals involved in 72 projects. In this article, we highlight the work of the Multicultural Services Centre of Western Australia.

Meet our Semester 1, 2018 interns!

Emma Ting and Joyce Cheung are final-year law students at UNSW and they’re our interns this semester! Meet them here.

Introducing Trent Wallace

Welcome to Trent Wallace, our newest Secondee Policy and Project Officer. Trent comes to us from Australian Government Solicitor (AGS).

Meet the Centre’s Office Administrator

Ju Hi Jin joined our team in late November. You may already have spoken with her over the phone or corresponded with her via email, so we thought we’d share a little bit more about our new(ish) Office Administrator.

Conversations With Corporates: Why pro bono?

In-house lawyers are a significant part of the legal landscape. Our conversations with corporate counsel have revealed some common themes. When it comes to pro bono, in-house corporate lawyers and their employers can both meaningfully contribute to, and greatly benefit from, doing pro bono. Gabriela Christian-Hare, our Head of Strategy & Policy, shares some of these insights in this article.

Centre launches pro bono guide for in-house corporate lawyers

On 3 August 2017 the Centre launched Pro Bono Legal Work – A Guide for In-house Corporate Lawyers at an event at the Law Society of New South Wales. This resource is available free of charge on the Centre’s website. The Guide was launched by Brian Salter, Group General Counsel, AMP Limited, and Chairperson, ACC Australia GCC 100 who said: “the golden thread of modern contemporary legal practice is the opportunity to participate in pro-bono.”

MEDIA RELEASE: Pro Bono Centre Applauds Pro Bono Lawyers

In the face of attacks from Minister Peter Dutton on private law firms acting pro bono for asylum seekers and refugees, the Australian Pro Bono Centre has defended the commitment of lawyers who undertake pro bono legal work in Australia.

Meet the interns

The Centre is pleased to have Trilby Donald and Chris Johannes join us as interns this semester. Read their profiles here.

Nominate now for the 2017 Pro Bono Partnership Award

Nominations for the 2017 Law & Justice Foundation Justice Awards are still open – but closing soon, at 5pm on Friday 7 July.

Centre welcomes new staff

We’re delighted to welcome three new staff members: Gabriela (Head of Policy and Strategy), Hsu-Ann (Communications & IT Coordinator) and Kirstan (Officer Administrator)