LawFuel.co.nz – Last week’s suggestion that law firm’s receiving government legal work should be required to fulfil a set, pro bono commitment has done little to rattle the major law firms, who are proud of their current pro bono commitments.
Although pro bono work has been something that has been substantially a US law firm practice for many years, it has nevertheless grown signficatnly among New Zealand law firms with Russell McVeagh, for instance, saying their pro bono work last year exceeded $1 million.
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson is considering requiring law firms with Government contracts to provide free pro bono legal work for groups such as charities as a condition of their contract for providing legal services to government. This follows a call from Law Society president John Marshall for the Government to consider getting big law firms to do more pro bono work.See: href=”http://www.lawfuel.co.nz/features/show-feature.asp?FeatureID=196″>Pro Bono Article Here
Law firms are quick to point out that they currently undertake a wide range of pro bono work, assisting community groups, charitable organisations and work at local level within their communities. DLA Phillips Fox, for instance, has instituted a pro bono programme that sees the firm contributing three per cent of ots work and with its lawyers aiming for a target of 50 hours a year of pro bono work.
In New Zealand, Chapman Tripp was the first to set up a formal pro bono programme in 2003 and now has about 50 clients. Bell Gully and Russell McVeagh have also since set up structured programmes.
Chapman Tripp instituted one of the first, formal pro bono programmes among the New Zealand legal community and although Chief Executive Alastair Carruthers won’t disclose the financial contribution made through the firm’s pro bono work as the firm keeps its finances private, but he does say it is something the firm takes seriously and wants to do.