Pro bono | A targeted change; Welcome Social Enterprises!
20 August 2018
From 1 July 2018, important changes came into effect for the National Pro Bono Target (the Target), the main one being that work undertaken for social enterprises can now be included by firms when counting their total pro bono hours.
The Target is a voluntary and aspirational target of at least 35 hours of pro bono legal services per lawyer per year that can be signed up to by the legal profession, managed by independent organisation the Australian Pro Bono Centre (APBC). The changes flowed from the final report of the tenth anniversary review of the Target (Final Report) by APBC after a 12 month consultation with its members.
Mr John Corker, CEO of APBC, said: “The review has allowed the Target to be updated to reflect contemporary pro bono legal practice and maintain its place as an industry standard and beacon for pro bono legal practice in Australia.”
The word ‘aspirational’ has been removed from the Target’s title, as by its nature, the Target remains aspirational. Significantly:
The Target will remain 35 hours per lawyer per annum. In this regard, APBC noted in its Final Report that in FY2017, 51 Target signatories (48.6% of those who reported) met or exceeded the Target and 54 did not (51.4%), thus 35 hours continues to provide an effective benchmark of pro bono performance in Australia;
The Target’s definition of ‘pro bono legal services’ will now allow work undertaken for social enterprises to count towards total target hours, reflecting growth in this area of pro bono legal practice. Outlined in the APBC’s guidance notes, key characteristics of ‘social enterprises’ include that they operate as a business seeking to generate revenue and have a primary social, humanitarian, cultural or environmental mission. For further detail, see: https://www.probonocentre.org.au/provide-pro-bono/target/guidance-notes/
The APBC will issue new guidance notes to help firms assess whether legal work for a charity, other not-for-profit organisation or social enterprise should be undertaken on a pro bono basis.
The meaning of legal work undertaken for a ‘substantially reduced fee’ will also be clarified through guidance notes, with firms that undertake this ‘low bono’ work being required to report it separately from work undertaken for no fee.
The metric for measuring pro bono legal work for the purposes of the Target will remain as hours per lawyer per annum, with APBC undertaking further work about how best to evaluate and communicate the impact of this work.
APBC will adopt administrative changes in the way it works with some signatories on a case-by-case basis to provide more active support to signatories that are not reaching the target and to help them build a framework for reaching the target within a set timeframe.
APBC will continue to advocate and work with governments to assist them to integrate the Target into their legal services tender arrangements and therefore encourage further pro bono growth.
Gadens is a signatory to the Target and is a finalist in the ‘Pro Bono Program of the Year’ category at the 2018 Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards. Gadens is committed to working and partnering with others to help make a positive impact on some of the most significant issues facing our society, including across priority areas of Homelessness, Indigenous Australians, Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Women and children in need and Mental health.
The changes provide some much needed clarity and guidance on the nature of Pro Bono work which meet the Target definitions. In particular, Gadens regularly works with a number of charitable and other Not-For-Profit organisations across a variety of practice areas and welcomes the inclusion of social enterprises, as it will allow those clients greater access to pro bono legal services.
For more information, contact:
Senior Associate & Pro Bono Coordinator
Tel: +61 3 9252 7735
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