To mark 100 years of women in law in Australia, we asked three inspirational women legal practitioners – Leah Cameron, Nicky Friedman, Geetha Nair, and Hannah Rose – ‘what needs to change in the legal profession so that more women can thrive professionally and personally?’
Ella Alexander, Pro Bono Senior Associate at Makinson d’Apice Lawyers, shares her experience of pro bono lawyering on the front line of the refugee crisis on the Greek Island of Lesvos, where over 11,000 asylum seekers are stranded awaiting the outcome of their applications for refugee status.
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).
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.
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
NATIONAL PRO BONO TARGET REMAINS AT 35 HOURS PER LAWYER PER ANNUM BUT NOW INCLUDES WORK FOR SOCIAL ENTERPRISES
CHANGES TO APPLY FROM 1 JULY 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:
- The target will remain at 35 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer per annum.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
For further information or comment please contact John Corker on 02 9385 7371 or 0402474628.
Jo Renkin, Head of Pro Bono and Community Engagement at Lander & Rogers, chats about the pro bono program at her firm. Watch this video to meet Jo and hear her insights!
To round off our series of interviews with Target Signatories, for this edition we caught up with 2017 Law Society President’s Award nominee, Joanne Sharah. Each year the Law Society presents the Award to a member of its Pro Bono Scheme in recognition of the outstanding pro bono work they have done through the Scheme.
Joanne is principal of Sharah and Associates, a small firm based in Sydney’s inner west.
For this next instalment of our series on Foundation Signatories of the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target, we spoke with Dean Bainbridge about his small firm’s pro bono work.
Should “low-bono” work count as “pro bono”? Should “pro bono” include work done for clients operating for profit?
These important questions and others around the definition of “pro bono legal services” are open for public discussion in National Pro Bono Aspirational Target: The Target at Ten Years, a paper released by the Centre to mark a decade of the Target.
Congratulations to the pro bono team at Arnold Bloch Leibler on winning the 2017 Lawyers Weekly Pro Bono Program of the Year Award. We asked ABL public interest law partner Peter Seidel to tell us about the firm’s pro bono program. This article kicks off a new series of Q&A pieces focusing on some of the outstanding pro bono programs run by National Pro Bono Aspirational Target signatories, as part of the Target’s ten-year anniversary celebrations. ABL are a Foundation Signatory to the Target.
The Victorian Government has expressed support for nearly all of recommendations from the Victorian Access to Justice Review (the Review), commissioned by the Victorian Labor Government in 2015 and undertaken by the Department of Justice and Regulation.
In July 2016, the New South Wales (NSW) Government included pro bono conditions in its new whole-of-government NSW Legal Services Panel arrangements. Firms will in July 2017 for the first time be reporting on their pro bono work in NSW – a direct result of these new NSW tender rules.