The Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative is a unique, aspirational pro bono standard. Developed by law firm leaders and corporate general counsel, the Challenge articulates a single standard for one key segment of the legal profession – the world’s largest law firms. Major law firms that become Signatories to the Challenge acknowledge their institutional, firm-wide commitment to provide pro bono legal services to low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families and nonprofit groups. To help firms honor this commitment, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project assists firms in creating a supportive environment that promotes pro bono service. The Challenge definition of pro bono has become an industry standard, utilized not only by major law firms but by the legal media in reporting the pro bono contributions of large firms.
Only large law firms, with 50 or more lawyers, are eligible to become Challenge Signatory Firms. When compared to other aspirational pro bono standards, such as ethics rules and state and local bar association goals, the Challenge is unique in several aspects:
- It is national and even global in scope, in recognition of the national and international practice of large law firms and the multiple offices in different jurisdictions maintained by many of these firms.
- It consciously targets one important segment of the bar – large law firms – and is tailored to the specific concerns, resources, structure, and role of that segment.
- It offers a progressive and ambitious performance standard – i.e., a target of either five or three percent of each firm’s total billable hours – in addition to the hours-per-attorney standard commonly used in articulating pro bono goals. (While firms do have the option to select an alternative goal of 100 or 60 hours per attorney, virtually all Signatory firms have elected to use the preferred percentage goals.) By promoting a percentage goal, the Challenge ties pro bono to firm productivity and profitability.
- It calls for an institutional commitment, rather than an individual lawyer commitment, in recognition of the fact that the policies and practices of large law firms are key to the ability and willingness of firm lawyers to undertake pro bono work.
- It creates goals, not only with respect to the amount of pro bono work to be undertaken, but also with regard to the structural and policy elements that are essential for the creation and maintenance of a pro bono-friendly law firm culture.
- It links Challenge firms to extensive technical assistance resources at the Law Firm Pro Bono Project.
- It includes an accountability mechanism and an outcome measurement tool through its annual reporting requirement.
For more information, read the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Statement of Principles and Commentary and What Counts.
Please note that the Challenge is copyrighted by the Pro Bono Institute. Unauthorized use, reproduction, adaptation, or alteration of the Challenge without prior written approval from the Institute is not permitted. For additional information, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Director Tammy Taylor.