Latest news – Pro bono record for Australian firms; Graduates acknowledge Allens; Employees value culture most of all

[Australasian Law Management Journal,General Management,Marketing & Business Development,People Management(HR),Strategy & Leadership] March 1, 2021

Firms report record number of pro bono hours

The Australian legal profession is performing more pro bono work than ever before, despite the turmoil caused by COVID-19.

According to the 7th National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, respondents in 2020 reported performing a record 457,216.4 hours of pro bono legal work, and the highest recorded average pro bono hours per lawyer.

The survey is conducted every two years among Australian firms with 50 or more lawyers. While areas for development remain, the impressive quantity and range of pro bono work being undertaken by large Australian firms is cause for optimism for the future of the sector.

The report indicates that the number of dedicated pro bono partners working at large firms across Australia has continued to rise, and the percentage of firms providing full billable hour credit to their lawyers for pro bono work has increased significantly. In addition, more firms than ever before are providing pro bono secondments to community legal centres and other community organisations.

“During the 12 years we have been conducting the survey, pro bono legal practice in Australia has continued to grow and mature,” says Gabriela Christian-Hare, CEO of the Australian Pro Bono Centre. “The pro bono community plays a crucial role in providing access to justice to vulnerable members of our community and the organisations that support them. Many survey respondent firms have rolled up their sleeves and overcome significant challenges in the past year to continue to run, and in many cases, expand their pro bono programs. Those with thriving practices enjoy strong partnership support and leadership, an engagement and willingness by staff across the firm to participate, and a clear dedication of time and resources to pro bono work.”

Large firms have continued to focus on assisting the most vulnerable members of our society, and the crucial not-for-profit and community organisations that support them. In 2020, firms continued to provide just under half of their pro bono legal work for individuals, supporting a range of clients including people who are financially vulnerable, refugees and asylum seekers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Graduates give Allens their seal of approval

Allens has placed second on the list of the Top 100 workplaces where graduates most want to work.

In the 2021 GradAustralia poll, Allens has emerged as the second-best graduate employer behind first-placed Google. Other law firms to rank highly in the survey are Clayton Utz, MinterEllison, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills and King & Wood Mallesons.

This year’s findings suggest that a new generation of graduates is prioritising the culture of a workplace and ease of career progression when looking for starter roles. Australia’s 2021 law graduates place a premium on “extremely good training”, support, a friendly working environment and resourcing, even if it means that they may be working long hours.

Allens soared up the list of preferred firms this year. GradAustralia says the “drastic shifts” in the list are due in part to a change in the methodology, which now incorporates employee reviews alongside search volume to measure the attractiveness of a company from the outside and from the inside. “Through this, the popularity and quality of employers are recognised, meaning that the winners of this year’s ranking truly prioritise the graduate experience,” it said.

Culture tops cash on jobs wish list

Workplace culture, job security and workplace flexibility have come in as the top-three most important things workers value for job satisfaction, according to the annual Robert Walters Salary Survey.

The report predicts that flexible working arrangements will become the key battleground between employees and employers in 2021, as businesses grapple with the shape of the post-COVID-19 workplace. There is a growing expectation gap between employers and employees on how they will be using the office in 2021 and beyond.

In the survey, 85 per cent of professionals indicated they want their current flexible working arrangements to continue, including 43 per cent who want to continue working remotely full-time. Business leaders, on the other hand, say they are focused on getting employees back to the office, seeing it as having a critical role to play in restarting the economy.

Six out of 10 business leaders said productivity was the driver for them not wanting to continue with flexible working arrangements. Logistical difficulties and dips in work quality were cited as other key barriers to continuing with fully flexible work environments. Another key finding was that remuneration is no longer the key driver of worker satisfaction.

Other key findings include:

  • remuneration has dropped to fourth place on the job priority list, with just 32 per cent of candidates saying that remuneration was most important for their personal job satisfaction, a significant decline from 92 per cent in 2020.
  • candidate confidence levels are high, with 60 per cent of surveyed professionals saying that they are confident about job opportunities in their sector for 2021 – just a 3 per cent drop on last year’s figure (2020: 63%).
  • job loyalty has plummeted, with just 19 per cent of those surveyed saying they were not planning on changing jobs in 2021 – compared with more than 50 per cent expressing that same sentiment last year.
  • almost half of those surveyed who were unemployed said it was due to a COVID-19 related redundancy.