The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono survey collected data from 130 law firms, representing 64,500 lawyers in 75 countries, for the 2016 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono.
The survey found that 41.4 per cent of firms selected ‘immigration, refugees and asylum’ as a key focus area for pro bono work, up from 24 per cent last year.
“This is a humanitarian crisis that is exacerbated by complex legal frameworks,” said Nick Glicher, legal director at the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“These frameworks make it difficult for refugees to understand their rights to reunite with family members, find work or even access basic services. Pro bono lawyers have stepped in to provide vital support.”
Globally, fee earners completed an average of 39.2 hours of pro bono over the year. Fee earners at small firms (those with fewer than 50 fee earners) recorded the highest average: 41.7, followed by fee earners at large firms (more than 200 fee earners), averaging 35.1 hours, and lastly fee earners at medium-sized firms (50-199 fee earners), completing 27.7 hours on average.
Homing in on Australia, the survey found that fee earners completed an average of 40.8 hours of pro bono work each over the past year, slightly better than the global average and up from 28.9 hours in the year prior.
The percentage of fee earners doing 10 or more hours of pro bono also grew, from 36.2 per cent to 51.0 per cent.
Partners have significantly increased their pro bono contributions, completing an average of 16.2 hours this year, up from 12.8 the year before. The percentage of partners making time for pro bono work this year was 70.2 per cent, up from 49.4 per cent the year prior.
In Australia, the law firm with the highest average hours per fee earner (69 hours) and the highest percentage of fee earners doing 10 or more hours (100 per cent) over the last year was Chamberlains Law Firm.
Other firms that did well included Ashurst (an average of 49.79 hours per fee earner and 55.85 per cent completing over 10 hours), DLA Piper (an average of 48.55 hours per fee earner and 47.14 per cent completing over 10 hours) and K&L Gates (an average of 38.33 hours per fee earner and 60.63 per cent completing over 10 hours).
Close behind were Colin Biggers & Paisley (an average of 34.16 hours per fee earner and 45.83 per cent completing over 10 hours), Henry Davis York (an average of 27.02 hours per fee earner and 44.78 per cent completing over 10 hours) and Holding Redlich (an average of 25.27 hours per fee earner and 47.40 per cent completing over 10 hours).