The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
June 22, 2011

Coming Soon: Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report

The Pro Bono Institute will be releasing its report on the 2010 pro bono performance of Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory Firms next week. With 138 of the nation’s largest law firms reporting their pro bono statistics for last year to the Pro Bono Institute, we are able to provide an accurate picture of the law firm pro bono landscape. This year’s numbers offer an interesting perspective on how large firms are institutionalizing pro bono in firm culture.

Each year PBI’s report examines the hours of pro bono performed by attorneys in large law firms, the level of participation by partners and associates, service to persons of limited means and organizations serving those of limited means, and charitable giving to legal services organizations, among other topics. The PBEye is anxious to see how firms have fared in light of the global economic crisis, reduced headcounts, associate anxiety, and an uneven recovery admid other concerns that have faced firms since 2008. Historically, we know that pro bono has been impacted in the years following a downturn in the economy, but that it remains a critical part of firm culture.

We got a glimpse in to what may be included in the 2010 report when the Law Firm Pro Bono Project conducted a mid-year survey of firms’ 2010 numbers. At that time, we learned that some firms were experiencing a dip in pro bono participation, while others remained steady or increased. In 2009, 134 of the nation’s law firms performed 4,867,820 hours of pro bono work, which amounted to an increase of nearly 24,000 hours from 2008. That year, firms donated 2,962,028 hours of pro bono service to individuals of limited means or organizations serving them, more than 60 percent of total pro bono hours, as compared to 3,761,722 hours (77 percent of total pro bono hours) in 2008. This decline in providing service to individuals of limited means was likely a result of the deep cuts at public interest organizations and the resulting impact on those organizations’ abilities to screen clients and effectively utilize pro bono resources. Both 2008 and 2009 were record-breaking years for pro bono service, demonstrating that even when times are tough, attorneys are committed to pitching in for the greater good.

Stay tuned for the complete 2010 results coming soon in the full report, next week.  To view the 2009 Challenge Report, click here.

How has your firm fared? Share your thoughts on pro bono hours and participation in the comments below.