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Law Firms Contribute 4.45 Million Hours of Pro Bono Service in 2010

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For Immediate Release
June 27, 2011

Contact: Christina Gordon
Phone: 202.729.6696
E-mail: cgordon@probonoinst.org

Washington, D.C. – The Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project released its data and analysis of the pro bono practices of large law firms today. The report examines the pro bono activities of firms which are Signatories to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® for the 2010 calendar year. For that year, attorneys from 138 firms completed more than 4.45 million hours of pro bono service, the third highest year on record.

While overall hours decreased in 2010, Challenge firms increased their proportion of service to persons of limited means, donating nearly 2.84 million hours or 64 percent, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year.

“What we are seeing is that pro bono, while institutionalized in firms, is facing challenges due to decreased headcounts and heavier workloads,” said Esther F. Lardent, president and CEO of the Pro Bono Institute. “This year is still the third highest ever, so while troubling, the bottom has not dropped out and we are cautiously optimistic that pro bono will continue to be a very high priority at firms.”

The Challenge is the gold standard for pro bono participation in large law firms (those with 50 or more attorneys). Challenge Signatory firms have committed to contribute 3 or 5 percent of their annual billable hours to pro bono and report their numbers to PBI each year.

Despite the dip, some firms saw substantial gains in their hours this year. For instance, Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP reported 129,275 hours pro bono hours, a substantial increase over the previous year. Of the total pro bono hours, 89,696 hours were provided to the poor or disadvantaged, also an increase over the firm’s 2009 hours.

“The economic downturn has certainly impacted firms across the country, but times are even tougher for our pro bono clients,” said Steven H. Davis, chairman of Dewey & LeBoeuf. “Pro bono is a valuable resource to the attorneys at our firm. Since our lawyers are even busier, we must look for new and creative ways to identify meaningful, rewarding, and challenging pro bono matters that will, in turn, help our attorneys – from junior associates to seasoned partners – develop professionally.”

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP also had a strong year in 2010, far exceeding their Challenge goal for the second year in a row.

“We have increased our focus on pro bono, despite the changes and administrative challenges we’ve faced due to the recession,” Greg Nitzkowski, managing partner of Paul Hastings noted. “Our firm has worked hard to send the message to all of our attorneys that pro bono is a core value of this firm in good times and in bad.”

The PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Project has been tracking pro bono participation at large law firms since 1995. For video analysis from Esther Lardent, please click here. For a full copy of the report, please click here.

About the Law Firm Pro Bono Project 
The Law Firm Pro Bono Project is the only global effort designed to support and enhance the pro bono culture and performance of major law firms in the United States and around the world. The Project’s goal is to fully integrate pro bono into the practice, philosophy, and culture of firms so that large law firms provide the institutional support, infrastructure, and encouragement essential to fostering a climate supportive of pro bono service and promoting partner and associate participation.

About the Pro Bono Institute
Established in 1996, PBI is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to explore and identify new approaches to the poor and disadvantaged unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. PBI identifies and develops innovative programs and undertakes rigorous evaluations to ensure that these new approaches are workable and effective.