Law firms urged to set pro bono hours target
The time has come for a debate on whether firms should set ‘aspirational’ targets for the number of pro bono hours worked by their lawyers and staff, the attorney general’s pro bono envoy has suggested.
Michael Napier QC, who is also senior partner at national firm Irwin Mitchell, told the Gazette that working pro bono should not be compulsory - but suggested that setting aspirational hours would be a ‘legitimate encouragement’.
The US and Australia are already putting the idea in to practice, he said, and England and Wales should be ready to try it too.
Napier said the move would not be ‘a huge step beyond where we are now’ as many firms are already committed to encouraging pro bono activities.
Napier’s firm has a policy of encouraging its lawyers and staff to do 14 hours of pro bono work a year. City firm CMS Cameron McKenna this year launched a scheme to encourage 50 hours a year, roughly one hour a week. CMS senior partner Dick Tyler said: ‘Corporate social responsibility is firmly embedded into the culture of the firm and we wanted to be clear that our commitment as a firm was a real one.’
Tyler said the idea is to acknowledge contributions and encourage the whole firm to participate, with performance recognised as part of the appraisal process.