The Australian Pro Bono Centre has reported that signatories to its National Pro Bono Aspirational Target completed an average of 36.0 pro bono hours per lawyer in the year to 30 June 2016.
It says 2016 is the first time since 2011 that, as a group, signatories to the Aspirational Target have met the Target of at least 35 hours per lawyer per year. The 36 hour average in 2016 was up 8.3% on pro bono hours reported in 2015.
The Aspirational target is a voluntary target that law firms, incorporated legal practices, solicitors and barristers can adopt by signing a "Statement of Principles". Signatories agree to use their best efforts to provide at least 35 hours of pro bono legal services per lawyer per year. They report annually to the Centre on their performance against the Target.
The 2016 Performance Report shows that at 30 June 2016 the Target had 138 signatories, which was up by seven from 2015.
The 38 Large Law Firms (50 or more FTE lawyers) which reported in 2016 performed an average of 36.4 pro bono hours per lawyer, with 18 meeting or exceeding the target.
The 31 Small Law Firms (fewer than 50 FTE lawyers) which reported performed an average of 16.3 pro bono hours per lawyer, with 9 meeting or exceeding the target.
Pro Bono Centre CEO John Corker says with the Target now in its tenth year, the results show that its influence as a driver of pro bono performance continues to grow.
"In a tightening legal services market, it is a tribute to the dedication of these firms that they have maintained and grown their pro bono programmes despite today's competitive challenges," he says.