find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
Survey doesn’t aim to name and shame

Survey doesn’t aim to name and shame

The head of Australia’s foremost pro bono body said a major survey on the performance of Australia’s large law firms was anonymous to encourage more pro bono work.

The final report of the National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey was released by the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (NPBRC) today (25 January).

Thirty-six of the 51 firms with more than 50 lawyers participated in the survey, including the nine largest national firms.

An interim report released last October found that, for the 2012 financial year, the average number of pro bono hours per lawyer per year had increased when compared to the last survey two years ago (from 29 hours per lawyer per annum in 2010 to 29.9 hours in 2012).

The interim report also found that the nine firm respondents with more than 450 lawyers did an average of 38 hours of pro bono work per lawyer. That compared to an average of 20.4 hours for mid-tier firms (250 to 450 lawyers) and 15.7 hours for small firms (50 to 250 lawyers).

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, the director of the NPBRC, John Corker (pictured), defended his organisation’s decision not to release individual firm statistics. By contrast, the Federal Government’s Legal Services Expenditure Report for 2011-12, released in December, did list the amount of pro bono hours performed by law firms that are on the Government’s multi-use list.

Twenty-three of the 36 respondents to the NPBRC report are on the multi-use list.

“We have always taken the view that it is better to encourage rather than to name and shame because, ultimately, this [pro bono work] is a voluntary activity,” said Corker. “We publicly release the names of firms that have signed up to the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target [of 35 hours of pro bono work per lawyer per year], but the results of signatories are not published.

“We think that is the best way to encourage pro bono.”

According to the Federal Government’s report, DLA Piper is the best-performing large law firm, with an average of 56.5 hours of pro bono work per lawyer in 2011-12. Other large law firms that did more than 40 hours of pro bono work per lawyer in 2011-12 included Gilbert + Tobin, Ashurst, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Baker & McKenzie and Allens.

Large firms that did less than 20 hours of pro bono work per lawyer included Allen & Overy, Gadens, Herbert Geer, HWL Ebsworth, Piper Alderman and Sparke Helmore.

A number of firms did not record their pro bono hours.

Merging values
The NPBRC report featured 10 firms that have merged or joined with another firm in the last two years.

Four respondents reported that the merger had no effect on their firm’s pro bono program. However, one firm expressed concerns at the “dilution of firm values following [the] merger”.

Of the 12 firms in the survey with offices overseas, 10 of them reported that the Australian office does more pro bono work when compared to international offices.

There was evidence in the report that a more competitive large law firm market and the recent dip in transactional work did adversely affect firms’ pro bono commitment.

Several firms named “lack of capacity as the firm becomes more leanly staffed” and “being busy with fee-paying clients” as threats to its pro bono program.

Partner and management support was cited as the most important factor in the success of a pro bono program. DLA Piper, Clayton Utz and Ashurst, three of the best-performing firms, all have dedicated pro bono partners.

“It is almost essential that you have one or two pro bono champions within the partnership or the senior management of the firm,” said Corker, who said a firm’s choice about whether to appoint a pro bono partner depended on the maturity of a firm’s pro bono program.

“If you are down the other end of the development pathway then partner input is vital, but that can be as a member of an internal pro bono committee.

“It still needs that sort of leadership within the firm to take it forward.”

Forty per cent of the firms surveyed said that the National Aspirational Target was not relevant to their firm’s pro bono program, and more than 60 per cent of pro bono work by large law firms was for organisations rather than individuals.

Four of the top five areas of law and practice were most pro bono services were provided; governance, deductible gift recipient applications, commercial agreements and incorporations, were only relevant to organisations.

The next NPBRC report is due in 2014.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Survey doesn’t aim to name and shame
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
Marriage equality flag
Aug 17 2017
ALHR backs High Court challenge to marriage equality postal vote
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has voiced its support for a constitutional challenge to ...
Give advice
Aug 17 2017
A-G issues advice on judiciary’s public presence
Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis QC has offered his advice on the public presence of jud...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...