Australian Pro Bono Centre

16th Performance Report of the National Pro Bono Target

16th Performance Report of the National Pro Bono Target
Published on 20 September 2023 The Report sets out the progress of the Australian legal profession in delivering pro bono services across the country, as measured against a range of indicators including pro bono hours undertaken and the number of lawyers covered by the Target on an annual basis.

The FY2023 results show that Australia’s world-leading pro bono benchmarking program has helped to drive significant increases in the amount of pro bono assistance delivered by Australian lawyers. In FY2023 signatories to the Centre’s Target completed a record 700,910 hours of pro bono work, reflecting a substantial increase of 8.58% since FY2022.  

Target signatories reported undertaking an average of 38.3 hours of pro bono legal services per lawyer in FY2023, exceeding the Target of 35 hours. This is the second highest average reported in the last decade.  

The last year also saw a substantial increase in the number of lawyers covered by the Target from 17,463 in FY2022 to a record 18,731 lawyers in FY2023. In FY2023 the number of lawyers working in large firms (with 50 or more lawyers) grew by 1,090 to a total of 16,274 lawyers covered by the Target, with this group delivering an average of 37 pro bono hours per lawyer in FY2023, an increase from 36.6 in FY2022. There has also been a significant increase in large law firms meeting the Target - 47% of large law firms met or exceeded the Target in FY2023 compared to 39% in FY2022.

Solicitors and barristers volunteering in a personal capacity reported an outstanding average of 102
pro bono hours in FY2023, continuing to build on the 100.7 hours reported by this cohort in FY2022. Small law firms (with fewer than 50 lawyers) reported strong growth with average pro bono hours per lawyer reaching 50.22, up from 42.3 hours in FY2022.  
Overall, 52.8% of Target signatories met their respective Targets in FY2023, up from 47.3% in FY2022. This includes the newer category of in-house legal team signatories, introduced 3 years ago, who aspire to a Target of 20 hours per lawyer per year. Overall, there has been a modest increase in the size of the Target signatory cohort. As at 30 June 2023 there were 286 Target signatories compared to 280 signatories as at 30 June 2022. 
For the first time Target signatories were asked how many individuals performed dedicated pro bono roles, namely how many lawyers were engaged with an expectation of spending at least 50% of their ordinary working hours on pro bono matters. Signatories were also asked about the seniority level of those roles. A total of 179 dedicated pro bono roles were reported by signatories in FY2023. Notably, and reflecting the growth in structured pro bono legal practices in Australia, Target signatories reported 28 dedicated pro bono roles at the Partner/Principal level.