Hot Off the Presses: 2012 Challenge Report

PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project just released its annual Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report, which examines the pro bono activities of firms that are Signatories to the Challenge.  The Report includes a wealth of information, including good news!  One hundred thirty-three firms reported performing more than 4.3 million hours of pro bono service in 2012.

A few additional highlights include:

 Hours per Attorney Increase
Average pro bono hours per attorney increased modestly in 2012 to 62.2 hours per attorney, from 61.24 hours per attorney in 2011.

 Participation Remains Stable
In 2012, the overall number of firm attorneys actively engaged in pro bono was essentially stable, despite reductions in law firm attorney head count.  Although associate involvement experienced a slight decline, partner and counsel participation increased.

• Firms Improve Performance
Despite a difficult economic climate, many firms – almost half of those reporting – improved their pro bono performance in 2012.

• Service to Persons of Limited Means
For the first time since the Challenge was implemented, we, unfortunately, could not include reliable data on the hours and percentage of total pro bono time dedicated to persons of limited means and the organizations that serve them, due to insufficient and/or inaccurate reporting.  Firms must ensure that the information and data they are compiling about their pro bono performance is as accurate, consistent, and reliable as possible.  Solid data is critical.  We use that information to identify new opportunities, successes, and obstacles to pro bono service.  We will be working closely with law firms in 2013 on how to – simply and efficiently – collect and report their pro bono data regarding service to persons of limited means so that they – and we – can take pro bono to the next level to help those most in need.

PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent recently described law firm pro bono performance in 2012 as “steady state”:

What the [individual law firm] reports reflect in terms of both quantifiable data and more qualitative information about law firm pro bono efforts is that despite a fragile economic recovery, major shifts in demographics and client demand, and great uncertainty about future directions, major law firms are maintaining their pro bono commitment, culture, and infrastructure.

Check out the complete Challenge Report including analysis of the data and detailed charts, including regional breakdowns!

We encourage firms to use their status as Signatories as a rallying cry and points of pride and distinction. Publicize your participation and your pledge of pro bono service inside and outside the firm, to your clients, and to the public interest groups with whom you work.  Making a public commitment to the Challenge heightens awareness of pro bono at the firm, increases attorney participation, engages firm leadership, and sets a clear and shared goal for success.

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 tool 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 firms 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 Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson.

Many thanks to Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP and Corporate Pro Bono Project Assistant Eric Florenz for their generous assistance in preparing this year’s Report.