THE NATIONAL Pro Bono Resource Centre (NPBRC) has launched the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target, and is seeking signatories from individual lawyers as well as law firms and barristers’ chambers.
The target is a voluntary commitment to aspire to 35 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer, per year.
Allens Arthur Robinson, Arnold Bloch Leibler, Blake Dawson Waldron, Clayton Utz and Gilbert + Tobin are among the law firms that have already signed up.
NPBRC director, John Corker, hopes the initiative will raise awareness of the importance of pro bono work.
“It’s about raising the profile across the profession of the professional obligation to undertake pro bono to help others that are the poor and disadvantaged who wouldn’t otherwise get access to legal services. That’s an important part of being a lawyer,” Corker said.
The target of 35 hours and the Statement of Principles were developed in consultation with law firms and law societies and are based on a similar model in the US — although the target there is 50 hours per lawyer, per year.
“[The 35 hours] is simply supposed to reflect the amount of work that many lawyers are already doing. It just gives it more visibility,” Corker said.
The target has come about after years of discussion over whether a target for pro bono work should be introduced, during which time a minimum target has been advocated by groups including the Law Society of NSW, the Law Institute of Victoria and the Australian Law Reform Commission.
The NPBRC will report annually on the number of lawyers, law firms and barristers chambers that have signed up to the Statement of Principles and those that have met the target, but without identifying any of the signatories.
The Law Council of Australia has indicated that individual barristers and solicitors should make up their own mind as to whether they are signatories to the principles and individuals are encouraged to sign up, even if their firm or chambers has already done so.