The pro bono efforts of major US law firms held steady in 2009 despite the continued pressures of the economic downturn, according to the Pro Bono Institute’s 2009 Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge Report.
In 2009, 134 of the nation’s law firms performed 4,867,820 hours of pro bono work, an increase of nearly 24,000 hours from 2008. The total translates to nearly $2 billion in free legal services, or the equivalent of 3,100 full time lawyers – almost the same as the number of full time salaried legal services attorneys in the U.S.
Institute CEO Esther Lardent says the Institute was hoping to just hold i own on pro bono contributions this year, but to see growth like this is astounding.
The increase occurred despite economic pressures, declining revenues, and a decrease in the number of participating attorneys – some of whom were among the more than 5,600 lawyers laid off at large firms last year. There was also a marked increase in the number of participating partners, with 19,934 participating in 2009 compared to 19,111 in 2008.
Charitable giving to Not for Profit groups that provide free legal services to persons of limited means was also up among firms. Sixty-six firms reported that in 2009 they donated $27,609,877 to legal services organizations, up $1,991,205 from 2008.
While there was a slight decrease in the number of individuals served, hours for NFP organisations went up. Pro bono firms offer services to individuals and community groups as part of the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.
The US Law Firm Pro Bono Project is designed to support and enhance the pro bono culture and performance of major law firms. The Project's goal is to fully integrate pro bono into the practice, philosophy, and culture of firms.
Established in 1996, PBI is a Not for Profit organisation with a mandate to explore and identify new approaches to the poor and disadvantaged unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems.
The full report is available here: http://www.probonoinst.org/pdfs/2009%20Challenge%20Summary%20FINAL.pdf