Victorian law firms on the previous Legal Services Panel have donated more than $12 million in legal services to disadvantaged members of the community.
The value of pro bono work by the panel has increased by $7m, according to the panel’s 2007-08 annual report released by deputy premier and attorney-general, Rob Hulls.
“This result is even more impressive when you consider that firms on the Legal Services Panel were only obligated to provide $4.6 million in free legal services under their agreements with the Government,” Hulls said.
“This confirms the strong commitment to pro bono work among the legal profession in Victoria and the success of the Government’s panel arrangement.”
In 2007-08, the Legal Services Panel consisted of 34 private legal firms appointed to provide legal services to Government departments and certain agencies and authorities.
A new panel of 20 firms contracted to provide Government legal services for the next four years was appointed in May and will commenced on July 1.
The new panel comprises of 20 firms including Allens Arthur Robinson, Baker & McKenzie, Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Deacons, DLA Phillips Fox, FAL Lawyers, FOI Solutions, Freehills, Guild Lawyers, Herbert Geer, Holding Redlich, Lander & Rogers, Maddocks, Middletons, Minter Ellison, Moray & Agnew, Rigby Cooke and Russell Kennedy.
To make it on to the panel, applicant firms had to commit to providing pro bono legal services equivalent to between 5 and 15 per cent of their fees from government. Ninety per cent of th eappointed firms have committed to offering that top 15 per cent threshold, this compares to 45 per cent of firms tendering the top rate for the panel in 2002 -2008.
Hulls said firms appointed to the Legal Services Panel were also required to promote equal opportunity within the legal profession by monitoring the work allocated to female barristers.
“The Government continues to encourage firms to brief female barristers and our efforts are having an impact,” he said.
“WorkSafe, in particular, has increased its briefing of women from nine per cent in 2005-06 to 31 per cent in 2007-08.
“Women received 43 per cent of briefs overall but make up only 22 per cent of the total of barristers. Out of a total of about $10 million in fees from Government to barristers, women received 24 per cent.
Hulls said there were still very few female senior counsel at the bar, reflected in the smaller share of fees going to women. In 2008, the ratio of senior barristers for each junior barrister was one-to-five for men, but one-to-22 for women.