There is no uniform definition for what constitutes pro bono work. This flyer, developed by UQ law students participating in the Public Interest Research Clinic at QPILCH, describes the various definitions of pro bono work adopted by different agencies. It also provides a snapshot of the nature and diversity of pro bono legal services in Australia.

The UQ Pro Bono Centre has adopted the definition used by the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target and National Survey for the purposes of its activities. This definition is accessible on the National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s website.

Pro bono means the provision of legal services which will enhance access to justice for disadvantaged or marginalised persons or organisations and/or promote the public interest.
  1. The provision of legal assistance for free or at a substantially reduced fee to:—
    1. individuals who can demonstrate a need for legal assistance but cannot access the legal system without incurring significant financial hardship; or
    2. individuals or organisations whose matter raises an issue of public interest which would not otherwise be pursued; or
    3. charities or other non-profit organisations which work on behalf of low income or disadvantaged members of the community or for the public good;
  2. Conducting law reform and policy work on issues affecting low income or disadvantaged members of the community, or on issues of public interest;
  3. Participating in the provision of free community legal education on issues affecting low income or disadvantaged members of the community or on issues of public interest; or
  4. Providing a lawyer on secondment at a community organisation (including a community legal organisation) or at a referral service provider such as a Public Interest Law Clearing House.

The following is NOT regarded as pro bono work for the purposes of this statement:

  1. Giving legal assistance to any person for free or at a reduced fee without reference to whether he/she can afford it or whether it raises an issue of public interest.
  2. Free first consultations with clients who are otherwise billed at a firm’s normal rates;
  3. Contingency fee arrangements or other speculative work which is undertaken with a commercial expectation of a fee;
  4. The sponsorship of cultural and sporting events, work undertaken for business development and other marketing opportunities; or
  5. Time spent by lawyers sitting on the board of a community organisation (including a community legal organisation) or a charity.