The 2022 Challenge Reports:
Pro Bono Progress Pauses
The Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge: Time to Rally
The 2022 PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report is out, revealing that 2021 was a year of decline for key metrics used to measure the performance of law firm pro bono programs. The 2022 Challenge Report examines the pro bono engagement by firms that are signatories to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge initiative during the 2021 calendar year, which presented great challenges to implementing pro bono in the face of the lingering pandemic, and enormous demand for pro bono to address needs stemming from a heightened interest in racial justice, COVID, and a myriad of other obstacles to access to justice. Signatories to the Challenge have committed to contribute three or five percent of their annual billable hours (or, at a few firms, 60 or 100 hours per attorney) to pro bono activities, as defined by the Challenge, and report their performance to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project each year.
Firms reported performing a total of 4,614,182 hours of pro bono work in 2021 – almost 15 percent less than 2020, despite three additional firms reporting.
Other key metrics included:
- Pro bono work amounted to 3.3 percent of all billable hours in 2021, versus 4.2 percent in 2020.
- The percentage of firms meeting their goal of devoting 3 percent of all billable hours to pro bono fell to 42 percent in 2021 from 62 percent in 2020.
- Average annual pro bono hours per attorney was down to 55.1 in 2021 from 69.2 in 2020.
- Attorney participation rates fell to 75 percent overall, compared to 77.7 percent for 2020. The partner participation rate declined from 69 percent in 2020 to 67 percent in 2021, while the associate participation rate went from 89 percent to 87 percent.
There are some bright spots:
- Highest percent of pro bono hours ever devoted to people of limited means – 74.3 percent hours, up from 71 percent in 2020 (which in itself equaled the previous record set in 2015).
- The percentage of firms meeting their goal of devoting 5 percent of all billable hours to pro bono grew to 64 percent in 2021 from 60 percent in 2020.
- 58.8 percent of responding firms devoted more hours to racial justice pro bono in 2021 than in 2020, and only one firm reported fewer hours devoted to racial justice.
- Law student participation rates also increased. Sixty-one percent of laws firms now involve at least 75 percent of their law student hires in pro bono, and thirty-nine percent reported that 100 percent of their law students were engage in pro bono.
- Reported law firm donations to legal services organizations providing free legal assistance to individual of limited means grew to $576,000 per law firm, an increase of more than 25 percent over 2020 and an all-time record high.
More Key Facts
- The total number of attorneys participating in pro bono at reporting law firms was nearly 62,831.
- 95.8 percent of responding firms provided pro bono legal services directly in response to the pandemic.
We thank and congratulate the Challenge signatories whose commitment to pro bono is positively reflected in this Report, and we look forward to firms digging in and demonstrating their continued commitment in 2022 as the legal industry responds to continuing crisis in access to justice. Read the full Report here. Interested in your firm becoming a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge signatory? FIND OUT HOW.
The 2022 Corporate Pro Bono Challenge Report: Stability in Challenging Times
The 2022 Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® Report is also out, reporting on in-house pro bono participation in 2021. The Corporate Pro Bono Challenge Report revealed that pro bono participation in calendar year 2021 plateaued and remained down from the pre-pandemic peak, in 2019. Signatories to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge commit to encourage and promote pro bono service by their lawyers and staff, with an aspirational goal that at least one-half of the department’s legal staff will support and participate, as appropriate, in pro bono service. CPBO Challenge signatories also encourage their outside law firms to become signatories to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge initiative. Signatories receive an annual survey to report their performance to PBI’s Corporate Pro Bono Project each year.
The average participation rate for U.S. in-house lawyers was 48 percent in 2021, compared to 49 percent in 2020, down for the second year in a row, compared to 59 percent in 2019. The percentage of responding departments that met the aspirational goal of at least 50 percent participation with regard to U.S. lawyers increased slightly to 48 percent in 2021, up from 44 percent in 2020, but down from 67 percent in 2019.
Despite lower average participation than in pre-pandemic times, legal departments reported engaging in a wide variety of impactful pro bono matters, in areas including housing, economic empowerment, criminal justice, immigration, domestic violence, unemployment, healthcare, and assistance for nonprofits and small businesses. Many departments reported providing pro bono in response to needs created by the COVID pandemic and in response to the amplified call for racial justice. While pro bono participation was at lower levels than pre-pandemic, CPBO is optimistic that road blocks to pro bono engagement will be overcome.
- Forty-eight percent of U.S. lawyers at responding departments participated in pro bono in 2021 (compared to 49 percent in 2020).
- The average pro bono participation rate for U.S. legal staff increased slightly: 32 percent of U.S. legal staff participated in pro bono in 2021 (compared to 26 percent of U.S. legal staff in 2020).
- Forty-eight percent of responding departments met the goal of at least 50 percent pro bono participation by U.S. lawyers in 2021 compared to 44 percent in 2020).
- The percentage of responding departments that met the goal of at least 50 percent participation by U.S. staff also ticked up slightly to 22 percent in 2021 (compared to 17 percent in 2020).
CPBO thanks the Chief Legal Officers and General Counsel who have signed their departments on to the Challenge and those who have sustained their department’s commitment to pro bono, as well as the dedicated in-house pro bono leaders and committed volunteers.
We are thrilled to announce that the Minnesota Collaborative Justice Project (MNCJP) has launched a new website at https://www.mncjreentry.org/.
The Minnesota Collaborative Justice Project brings together diverse stakeholders to collectively serve the needs of some of the most vulnerable in our society by implementing an agreed-upon and measurable plan to address a persistent societal challenge – the successful reentry of individuals released from federal and state correctional facilities.
The new-and-improved website includes several exciting features:
- Detailed pages on MNCJP’s work: Reentry Planning, Access to Services, and Policy and Advocacy;
- Information on volunteer opportunities and how to get involved;
- Resources for MNCJP Civil Legal Needs Initiative pro bono volunteers;
- Upcoming events;
- News and updates, including legislative reforms affecting reentry;
- Informative and promotional videos; and,
- Highlights on Strategic and Community Partners and how to become a Steering Committee member.
MNCJP assists individuals in reentry planning through Project Connect, which offers programming to individuals while they are incarcerated. Project Connect works to address the uncertainty, difficulties, and barriers that come with leaving the familiarity of a prison routine. The Project focuses on situating individuals within a stable halfway house environment and building their capacity to enter the world of employment through helping incarcerated people visualize and anticipate life after prison; developing both long-term cognitive skills and day-to-day practical skills; and creating a tangible, written action plan that is central for post-release life.
Through MNCJP’s Civil Legal Needs Initiative, partners provide pro bono legal assistance to help individuals navigate post-prison civil legal matters, which can create barriers to their successful reentry. Attorneys and other legal professionals can help formerly incarcerated people access identification, obtain driver’s licenses, and address debt. Other areas of focus include housing, transportation, employment, and family reunification.
MNCJP’s Policy & Advocacy work has recently focused on issues that would significantly improve reentry, including providing identification cards for released inmates, and allowing released individuals whose MN licenses have been suspended to obtain a limited license, which will allow them to work and obtain other basic needs.
If you would like to support MNCJP or if you are in Minnesota and would like to become involved in the Civil Legal Needs Initiative or Policy & Advocacy efforts, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PBI 2022 Annual Conference featured both in-person and virtual programs filled with sessions to help you support or start your pro bono programs. The great news? Sessions offering CLE credit are now online via Thomson Reuters West LegalEdcenter® (WLEC). They will be available until October 31, 2022 to PBI Conference attendees at no cost. For the code to access the videos for free, contact email@example.com and provide your Annual Conference confirmation code. Those who did not attend our Annual Conference can access the videos for a fee.
PBI 2022 SOCIAL IMPACT SUMMIT
More and more, organizations of all types and sizes are being asked to navigate the complexities and uncertainties of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and promote their corporate purpose. This includes articulating and implementing an organization’s responsibility for and role in advancing positive societal change.
The PBI Social Impact Summit will convene leaders from law firms, companies, and other key stakeholders to analyze the “S” in Environmental, Social, and Governance standards and to determine how access to justice and pro bono can play a critical role in amplifying an organization’s commitment to measurable social impact.
The Summit features a half-day Town Hall forum on Thursday, September 29, followed by a networking Reception that evening. Workshops on Friday, September 30 will continue the conversation. Find out more on the PBI Social Impact Summit web site!
Metrics pose a perennial challenge for tracking in-house legal departments’ pro bono programs. To assist departments, PBI’s Corporate Pro Bono project (CPBO) recently published the Corporate Pro Bono Metrics Guide as part of its continuing development of effective tools for measurement and assessment of in-house pro bono.
Metrics can enable a pro bono program to convey the value and importance of pro bono to volunteers, the institutions for which they work, and the individuals and communities being served. Regular and ongoing assessments of in-house pro bono practice provide a way to evaluate and improve the legal services delivered as well as the pro bono program itself. Read more about the whys and how-tos of metrics in our latest blog.
Please submit your suggestions for session topics, speakers, or other ideas you may have by August 19. All proposals must be submitted using our online form. If you have more than one great idea, submit them using multiple forms. If you have any questions about submitting a proposal, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has given rise to many legal needs for those in Ukraine and Ukrainian nationals unable to return their country. In this episode, Nihad Mansour, Assistant Director, Law Firm Pro Bono Project® interviews Lauren Worsek, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG). Hear more about L4GG’s pro bono program offering assistance to thousands of Ukrainians and how law firms and corporations can get involved. Listen here.
PBI and CPBO staff traveled to Minneapolis for the American Bar Association (ABA) and National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) Equal Justice Conference (EJC) in May 2022.
Eve Runyon, President & CEO of PBI, moderated a panel on Collaborative Justice: Improving Reentry Outcomes. She was joined by Shannon Elkins, Assistant Federal Defender, Defender Services Office Training Division, Rocky DeYoung of Montage Reentry Solutions, and Jim Volling, a partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath. This session discussed the Minnesota Collaborative Justice Project, which seeks to dramatically improve the experiences and outcomes of formerly incarcerated individuals reentering the community. The case study addressed how diverse stakeholders can work together toward successful reentry, including through the MNCJP’s unique pro bono program addressing civil legal needs of Federal Reentry Court participants.
The program outlined a variety of ways to get involved in reentry, including:
- Reentry Planning: Equipping incarcerated individuals with skills and resources critical to navigating the initial months of the reentry process.
- Access to Services: Increasing access to employment, housing, and legal services, to promote fuller lives for those returning to the community.
- Policy and Advocacy: Advocating for changes to policies, rules, and legislation that create system-wide barriers to successful reentry
The session included brainstorming about whether developments in reentry planning at the federal level can be applied at the state and county levels. Discussions that germinated during this program will continue in the coming months. To learn more about reentry and the Minnesota Collaborative Justice Project, contact email@example.com.
Alyssa Saunders, Director of Corporate Pro Bono, led a discussion on Building Up In-House Pro Bono Partnerships and Opportunities. Expert in-house panelists included Christy Kane, Senior Pro Bono Counsel, Entergy**; Alyson Cauchy, Corporate Counsel and Pro Bono Co-Chair, U.S. Bank National Association**; and Jeff Proulx, Director Counsel for Target Corporation** and Co-Chair of Target’s Pro Bono Committee. This session examined how legal departments engage in pro bono, including in partnership with legal services organizations and law firms. Participants, who were largely from legal aid organizations, engaged in discussion with the panelists and developed strategies for engaging in-house lawyers and legal staff to work more effectively together on pro bono.
Some of the bits of advice on effective pro bono collaborations included:
- Ask yourself: Is it a brainstorm, or a pitch? Approaching an in-house leader with a fully baked idea for a pro bono engagement is often preferred over an open-ended question, “how can we work together?”
- Pitch pro bono opportunities that align with a company’s philanthropy goals, DEI goals, or ESG goals. This will help the legal department gain corporate support for participation in the matter.
- Break down a longer-term matter into bite-size pieces. Although it may mean more work for the legal services organization up front, it is likely to result in more engagement and higher rate of involvement by the in-house volunteers.
- Seize the moment. In-house pro bono opportunities are often driven by what is going on in the world as much as employee passions and community needs. For example, election protection and assisting refugees were well-received pro bono opportunities for in-house volunteers.
- Make training, resources, and mentorship a part of your program. This helps in-house volunteers venture more confidently into a new area of law, and helps your program become more sustainable through increased knowledge and engagement.
To learn more about pitching, developing, and engaging in-house pro bono, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The third annual Financial Institution Pro Bono Day (FIPBD) was the biggest yet and provided pro bono services across the globe. FIPBD was organized by Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO®), a project of Pro Bono Institute® (PBI), to spotlight the severe gap in legal services for underserved individuals and promote in-house pro bono collaboration in partnership with law firms and legal services organizations.
On the day of service, April 28, 2022, more than 1100 in-house volunteers from 35 financial institutions participated. The FIPBD partners organized both virtual and in-person pro bono events that addressed diverse issues ranging from homelessness to transgender name changes, to life planning for veterans, to green card assistance for domestic violence survivors, to advancing racial justice and serving communities of color, and many more. The volunteers served over 1000 clients, with an expectation that many more clients will receive services as a result of trainings that were held as part of FIPBD. At several events, volunteers developed new resources for a nonprofit or NGO that will use the resources to serve additional beneficiaries.
FIPBD was originally conceived as an opportunity for legal departments in a common industry to collaborate on pro bono, and the goal was to include institutions throughout the United States and globally. This year, CPBO saw incredible volunteer engagement at two global multi-institution events. We spoke with the event organizers about their keys to successful FIPBD planning.
In London, the In-House Pro Bono Group and Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP organized an all-day, in-person event in which nearly 100 in-house volunteers from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup**, Credit Suisse, Barclays Bank PLC**, BNY Mellon, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America** participated.
The event was organized by Deborah Smith of Goldman Sachs, and Robert Powell of Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP. The participating organizations are involved in the “In-House Pro Bono Group” in the UK, where Deborah serves on the steering committee. Deborah thought that FIPBD was a perfect way to bring the group together for the first time in-person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She recalled reaching out to Rob about the idea, saying, “I called Rob and the next thing I know he had sent over a massive spreadsheet of things we could do and said that he booked the law society for us, and it took off from there.”
The morning sessions supported Dress for Success Greater London for women who are long-term unemployed and have faced difficult circumstances. The aim was to equip the women with the skills and confidence to re-enter the workplace and secure meaningful employment. The afternoon sessions supported UnLtd. Social Enterprise Support for innovative social entrepreneurs to meet, connect and network with lawyers and professionals to seek guidance and grow their enterprise. Both morning and afternoon sessions were extremely successful, supporting over 60 clients in total through “topic tasters” like governance, trading subsidiaries, managing volunteers, and through an onsite legal clinic.
The event was not only beneficial for the clients served, but also for the participating volunteers. Deborah and Rob implemented strategies to increase volunteer engagement and reduce barriers to participation. They hosted the event at the historic Reading Room at the Law Society in the heart of London. The location was easily accessible, while the history and beauty of the Reading Room provided extra incentive for volunteers to attend. The event was also broken up into one hour time blocks, which made the time-commitment less daunting to busy attorneys. Volunteers were allowed to stay for as many time blocks as their schedule allowed. Deborah said there were several attorneys who signed up to volunteer for a morning session and were enjoying their experience so much that they ended up staying on all day!
Volunteers were given several networking opportunities throughout the day, which is another great way to increase attendance. Goldman and Weil Gotshal provided lunch for both in-house volunteers and clients, and networking drinks for the volunteers at the conclusion of the day. This can give the event a more festive feel and is a nice thank-you to volunteers for participating. Phillip Springford, a volunteer from Goldman Sachs expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the day of service, saying, “It was a fantastic opportunity for people interested in pro bono to get involved with. Rob and Deborah organized it very well, which made a huge difference.”
In a similar vein, Julia Gilfillan at Accenture** and Erica Blau at American International Group, Inc. (AIG)** partnered with Baker McKenzie* to provide multiple virtual opportunities that engaged volunteers around the globe: three Justice-in-Action sprints garnered 190 volunteers from Accenture**, AIG**, American Express, Aon Corporation**, and JPMorgan Chase.
The three opportunities focused on human rights issues, a topic that AIG and Accenture in-house volunteers have historically been interested in and were offered in time zones accommodating both North America/Latin America and EMEA volunteers. The accessibility of these projects was intentional; Julia noted that AIG and Accenture wanted to make it feasible to volunteer in any location.
Additionally, both felt it was important to focus on a “the more, the merrier” mentality for the events. This meant sharing the events early and often with more than just AIG and Accenture’s internal departments. Julia and Erica focused on leveraging relationships with previous pro bono partners and contacts with whom they had worked before in other contexts and sending multiple reminders about participating both via email and at planning meetings.
When creating teams for the projects, Erica and Julia paired in-house volunteers across institutions. This allowed for networking opportunities through the volunteering itself and points to a broader trend of the importance of partnering with outside institutions. Erica noted that in-house legal departments are in a unique position to team up and provide meaningful and impactful pro bono work. There is power in numbers!
Both groups are already looking forward to making the #FIPBD2023 event bigger and better, with a hopeful eye on even more in-person opportunities. We are, too.
If you would like to learn more about all of the projects and programs that took place on FIPBD2022, take a moment and get inspired.
Save the date for Thursday, April 27, 2023. If you would like assistance planning your FIPBD events, please reach out to CPBO at email@example.com.
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
Gotham Hall | 1356 Broadway (at 36th Street), New York
Join PBI for our annual event that brings together law firms, in-house legal departments, and others dedicated to advancing justice to recognize exceptional pro bono achievements and inspire innovations in the delivery of pro bono legal services.
PBI will present the:
2022 John H. Pickering Award
honoring a law firm for its outstanding commitment to pro bono legal services
2022 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award
honoring innovative pro bono collaborations of in-house legal departments with law firms and public interest organizations
For more information or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please contact:
Danny Reed, Director of Development
firstname.lastname@example.org | 202.729.6691
* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member