Pro Bono in Australia

by John Corker, National Pro Bono Resource Centre | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 22 May 2015 13:32 GMT

Sydney Opera House. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne TW/PN/DH

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Australia has developed a strong pro bono culture amongst its larger law firms marked by the strong collegiate culture amongst its pro bono coordinators. Over the long term pro bono growth has always been up. 

The latest results from the TrustLaw Index for Australia (28.9 pro bono hours per fee earner) are broadly consistent with those obtained in Australia’s National Pro Bono Resource Centre (NPBRC) biennial survey (2014) of law firms with more than 50 lawyers.  That survey indicated a figure of 31.7 hours per lawyer, an increase from the 29.9 hours reported in 2012 and 29 hours in 2010. 

Whilst the TrustLaw Index indicates a significant drop in performance from 2013 (44.7 hours) I suggest that this is best explained by the small sample size in 2013 (4 firms).  The Trust Law Index in 2014 is based on a sample size of 8 firms, as against the NPBRC sample size of 41 firms.

In Australia, there is increasing globalization of the legal market putting pressure on the pro bono culture, particularly on firms that have merged or joined with US or UK firms.  In some firms, this has led to significant growth (those merging with US firms) but other Australian firms joining with UK firms have had significant internal debates about what constitutes reasonable resource allocation to the pro bono program.

Nevertheless the Australian pro bono movement is alive and well and through its strong collegiate spirit is as keen as ever to share its knowledge and experience. 

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