How much pro bono are in-house lawyers undertaking?
The Australian Pro Bono Centre has revealed how many pro bono hours were undertaken in the last financial year by law departments and individual in-house counsel.
The Australian Pro Bono Centre (APBC) has released its 15th Annual Performance Report, detailing the volume of hours worked by signatories across the last financial year.
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Just over two years ago, the target was opened to law departments. Completing such pro bono work, Ms Christian-Hare told Lawyers Weekly, is an “incredible opportunity” for in-house lawyers looking to expand their horizons.
This was the first year that APBC reported on the hours completed by those in-house, with an initial target set of 20 hours per lawyer per annum.
In the 2022 financial year, 10 in-house teams reported on the pro bono hours of 69 FTE lawyers, with 623 hours being completed. On average, teams reported nine pro bono hours being completed per lawyer, on average, this year.
Individual in-house lawyers reported better numbers: 12 individuals reported a total of 533 pro bono hours, with those individuals completing an average of 49.8 hours of pro bono work in FY22.
More broadly, the report showed that, in FY22, Australian lawyers, barristers, law firms and in-house teams completed a “record total” of 645,509 hours of pro bono work, a 0.55 per cent increase on the 641,966 hours of pro bono legal work in the 2021 financial year, as well as that completed in FY20.
The volume of pro bono hours completed by Australia’s legal profession has exploded since FY18, at which time the profession completed 414,844 hours of such service.
Target signatories reported undertaking 37 hours of pro bono services per lawyer in FY22, on average, exceeding the target of 35 hours. This was slightly down from last year’s average figure of 39.7 hours per lawyer, but this is attributable, APBC deduced, to the rise in the number of lawyers covered by the target this year compared to last: 17,463, up from 16,435.
Almost half (47.3 per cent) of signatories met their respective targets in FY22, up from last year’s figure of 45.3 per cent.
The report also noted that there are now 280 signatories to the target, up from 270 last year, for an increase of 6.3 per cent.
Speaking about the findings, APBC chief executive Gabriela Christian-Hare said that the Target community has “continued to broaden and adapt to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, as well as the community organisations that support them”.
“Amidst climatic and political challenges across the globe, the centre has seen an outstanding pro bono response,” she said.
“The profession has continued to support a wide range of clients but has dedicated additional time and resources to assist those affected by the pandemic, a range of natural disasters, and to respond to the plight of Afghan refugees and the invasion of Ukraine.”