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What is best practice in Pro Bono

The Australian Pro Bono Centre released a new guide to best practice in the provision of pro bono legal services by large and mid-size law firms in Australia.

Chair of the Centre, Phillip Cornwell, a partner at law firm Allens said, “Structured pro bono legal practice in large and mid-size law firms has become more complex, sophisticated and diverse in recent years.  It’s still evolving.”

“The Centre decided to review these different approaches and to try to articulate what is best practice so as to share the knowledge nationally and internationally.  The resulting Best Practice Guide draws on the experience of leading Australian practitioners and will be a useful tool for law firms to help them develop, and better manage, their pro bono programs and practice”, he said.

The ten key elements of the Best Practice Guide are:

  1. A strong social justice and pro bono culture supported by management
  2. A dedicated pro bono leader
  3. Broad awareness of the pro bono program within the firm
  4. Broad engagement of staff and appropriate training
  5. A pro bono policy and strategic plan
  6. Performance of pro bono legal work to the same standard as commercial work
  7. Adequate crediting and recognition of pro bono legal work within the firm
  8. Setting a firm-wide pro bono target and budget
  9. Strong and deep relationships with community partners
  10. A strategic risk management plan including accurate record keeping and a regular evaluation process.

The guide is supported by examples of best practice from individual firms and also quantitative data so as to provide benchmarks and to illustrate the Australian context.

Chief Executive Officer of the Centre, John Corker said, “Australia has a pro bono culture of which we can be proud.  The guide aims to catch some of what makes it unique and effective.  This is a tool that can be used for planning by pro bono teams in firms, and should also be useful for advocacy to law firm management. We hope that it is a document that generates discussion within firms and evolves and develops over time.”