The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
April 28, 2016

Exercise Trackers and Pro Bono Motivators

fitnessWe were intrigued so see so many attendees at last month’s PBI Annual Conference wearing exercise trackers, and this observation got us thinking: these devices have changed lives. Why? No doubt many people had been walking a lot before they got their trackers, but they probably had no idea what they had accomplished. Now, they cannot let even one day (including one spent sitting in inspiring Conference sessions) go by in which they don’t reach their pre-set goals. We imagine attendees took repeated walks to see the cherry blossoms or even walked around their hotel rooms at night to reach their 10,000 step daily goals.

There is a deep connection between exercise trackers and the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®. The underlying message of the tracker is that when you count your steps; when you set high, but obtainable goals; when you periodically take stock of your actions, you will improve. In the same way, the Challenge is a pro bono motivator. Your firm sets specific goals:

  • A firm-wide commitment to provide 3 or 5 percent of your firm’s billable hours or 60 or 100 hours per attorney to pro bono work (at the level of your choosing).
  • A commitment that a majority of the firm’s pro bono time should consist of legal services to persons of limited means or to the organizations that serve them.
  • A commitment to use your best efforts to ensure that a majority of both partners and associates participate in pro bono activities.

Once a year, each Challenge Signatory completes a brief, confidential online survey about the firm’s pro bono performance. The annual reporting requirement acts as an accountability mechanism and an outcome measurement tool for firms and the Law Firm Pro Bono Project, and allows us to provide evidence-based guidance on emerging trends in law firm pro bono. We are currently reviewing the data submitted for calendar year 2015 and will be issuing our annual Report on the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® later this year. Law firms, like individuals trying to improve their fitness, are likely to accomplish more when they set goals and try to reach them, while keeping track of their achievements.

The Challenge has another parallel with exercise trackers: the devices are synced to a dashboard. Your performance information is communicated to your computer and you have a personal page where you can learn, at any moment, where you stand. Likewise, the Law Firm Project has created individualized dashboards for all Challenge Signatories. The dashboards track each firm’s historic pro bono data as reported to us. If you haven’t received your firm’s dashboard or would like another copy, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson. We encourage you to share your customized dashboard with others at your firm and to use the tool as a source of pride in your accomplishments and as an aspirational goal to work toward. Publicize your participation and your pledge of pro bono service inside the firm, to your corporate clients, and to the public interest groups with whom you work.

For firms that have not yet joined because of a concern that they cannot meet the Challenge goals, we encourage you to enroll and use this proven tracker to advance pro bono at your firm. There is no downside, as we do not publish disaggregated statistics, nor do we in any way identify individual firms as having met or not met their Challenge goal. Rather, we work closely with Challenge Signatories to provide individual consultative services and support to help them improve their pro bono performance. If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact us.

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