Monday, 19 October 2009

Australia’s National Pro Bono Aspirational Target

Australia’s National Pro Bono Resource Centre, an independent organization that promotes pro bono legal services in Australia, recently released its second annual report summarizing the number of pro hours undertaken by signatories to its aspirational annual target of 35 hours of pro bono per lawyer. Signatories and pro bono hours increased substantially over last year, with the Centre reporting the number of lawyer signatories up from 2900 last year to 5700 this year and pro bono work up from 113, 356 hours to 180,771.5 hours. Reports indicated that the success of the Centre’s initiative was helped by the Australian government’s decision to take account of whether its firm or lawyer vendors had signed on to the target. However, the total number of signatories to the aspirational target is still only about 11% of the country’s lawyers.

The Centre’s initiative and individual attorneys' pro bono work is commendable. There is always the lingering question, though: Are aspirational targets enough?

Posted by
Patrice Dziire
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

1 comment:

  1. The experience of the Aspirational Target in Australia is that it has been influential by itself in lifting the performance of some firms but more so when made a factor to be taken into account by government agencies when purchasing legal services from the private sector. Those firms that are key providers of legal services to government have 'felt obliged' to become Target signatories and for some to expand their pro bono programs to meet the target. For other firms it has made little difference as they were already committed although it has facilitated even some of those firms to set higher internal targets.

    The State of Victoria had the first scheme that makes pro bono performance an enforceable condition of doing business with government. The more recent Australian government scheme has made it only a factor to be taken into account on the basis that this is more consistent with the voluntarist ethic of pro bono. Further information about the government schemes in Australia can be provided on request.