Commonwealth Government Legal Services Multi-Use List (LSMUL)
The introduction of ‘pro bono conditions’ in relation to the Commonwealth Government’s multi-use list has been a significant factor contributing to the growth in law firm pro bono in Australia.
The Commonwealth Government implemented reforms to the Commonwealth’s procurement of legal services on 1 July 2008. The reforms sought to further the efficient resolution of disputes as well as to provide greater transparency and competition in the Commonwealth legal services market. The reforms were implemented by amendments to the Legal Services Directions 2005 (Directions) made by the Attorney-General under section 55ZF of the Judiciary Act1903 (Cth).
The pro bono provisions
The reforms introduced ‘pro bono conditions’ which required Commonwealth agencies, departments and statutory authorities (together agencies) to take into account a firm’s pro bono commitment when making their decision as to whether or not to engage that firm (see clause 5 of Appendix F to the Directions).
The operation of these pro bono conditions was broadened with the introduction of the Commonwealth LSMUL arrangements that commenced operation on 1 June 2012. The LSMUL is administered by the Office of Legal Services Coordination (OLSC). As of 1 June 2013, most Commonwealth agencies are required to purchase legal services under these arrangements.
All firms which apply to be listed on one of the LSMUL panels must comply with the LSMUL conditions regardless of whether they are engaged by the government to undertake legal work.
Section 14 of ‘Part 1- Important Information and Guidance for Applicants’ of the Application for Inclusion (on the LSMUL) provides that as part of the application process all firms must:
confirm that they subscribe to the National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s (as the Centre was formerly known) Aspirational Target; or
nominate a target value of Pro Bono Work over a financial year.
From 1 July 2014, firms with 50 or more lawyers are required to become signatories to the Target and will no longer be able to nominate their own target value of Pro Bono Work.