Dear Friends of Pro Bono Institute:
Last year taught us more about adversity and resilience than we ever expected. We’ve altered where we work and how we provide services to those in need of legal help. Our commitment to access to justice has intensified, faced with medical crises, economic uncertainty, political conflict, and systemic racism.
In PBI’s Year in Review, PBI presents a compilation of resources from 2020, with the aim of strengthening pro bono efforts at law firms and legal departments. And as we look to the future, we invite you to join us as we strive to make even greater progress in our fight for access to justice for all. 
Eve Runyon
President & CEO
Pro Bono Institute

PBI Statement of Solidarity

We mourn the unconscionable and senseless killing of George Floyd, and so many other Black lives this year, and every year, at the hands of those professing to protect and serve. We acknowledge the brutality and racism that too many of our brothers, sisters, and siblings have had to endure all our lives. We all grieve the loss and feel the pain, anger, frustration, and worry as our country faces a crossroads of despair and determination, of darkness and light. We must join together now to address and defeat systemic and institutional racism.

I can’t breathe is a literal and figurative cry of suffering that so many unheard, unseen American people and communities of color have had to swallow – their needs, their dignity, their very breath ­– in order to survive in a world that devalues their minds and souls, and their very lives.

In this era of COVID-19, which had already laid bare the systemic racial inequality in the U.S. and around the world, we felt we were almost at the breaking point. Then we realized that the pandemic, as horrendous as it continues to be, is only another tangible manifestation of the injustices that Black and Brown Americans are forced to endure.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

So we at PBI join with you as you rededicate yourselves to intensify the fight for justice for George Floyd, for breath for underserved and marginalized people everywhere, and for access to justice and equality for all.

COVID-19 Pro Bono Resource Center and Podcast Series

To assist the pro bono community working for access to justice through the challenging conditions of the global pandemic, PBI created a COVID-19 Pro Bono Resource Center. Additionally, a special podcast series was developed—The Challenge of COVID-19: Legal Community in Action.

A First: The PBI Virtual Conference

In response to the pandemic, PBI pivoted to its first-ever Virtual Conference to keep providing the important content and resources of our Annual Conference.

The Virtual Conference spanned the entire month of June and featured dynamic keynote speakers addressing racial equality and voter suppression issues. Many sessions are still available through West LegalEdcenter and offer CLE credit. For example, check out The Poverty Penalty: the Criminalization of Poverty through Driver’s License Suspension, or Using Media in Your Cases: Perspectives from the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.

Fighting for Justice

To provide programming that resonates with PBI stakeholders, the Annual Dinner evolved into the virtual 2020 Fighting for Justice Series, consisting of the Awards Gala, Racial Justice Forum, and General Counsel Roundtables.

Awards Gala

On October 1, PBI presented the 2020 John H. Pickering Award and 2020 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Awards during the premiere of its Awards Gala.

Racial Justice Forum
The PBI 2020 Fighting for Justice Series continued to engage PBI stakeholders in thought-provoking racial justice issues through panel discussions.
Watch Now…
Racial Justice and Intersectionality: 
Perspectives from Black and Latina Women in Corporate America

The Business Community’s Role in Championing Racial Justice

General Counsel Roundtables
The General Counsel Roundtables offered intimate networking sessions for 2020 Fighting for Justice Series sponsors at the Pro Bono Benefactor level ($15,000) and above. Fifteen general counsel and chief legal officers hosted sessions with more than 100 participants from law firms and in-house legal departments.

Global Survey Wraps in Early 2020

The fourth version of the Global Pro Bono Survey, created in partnership with Latham & Watkins*† and PBI, was completed in early 2020. The survey makes information about global pro bono legal services more accessible, and is part of an ongoing effort to promote and stimulate the growth of pro bono representation globally. It serves as an introductory resource for those seeking to engage or learn more about the culture and provision of pro bono in their own country or other countries.

Tracking the Role of Pro Bono Partners

Released in February, ‘The Nature and Prevalence of Pro Bono Partner Roles Globally’, produced by law firm DLA Piper*† with the Australian Pro Bono Centre, Pro Bono Institute, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, traces the rise of the pro bono partner role around the world.

The 2020 Law Firm Challenge® Report: 5 Million Hours, Again

The 2020 PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report showed another healthy year for pro bono programs. The report looks at the pro bono performance of firms that are signatories to the PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge initiative during the 2019 calendar year. Firms reported performing a total of 4,993,398 hours of pro bono work in 2019, a result on par with record-breaking 2018, despite one less firm reporting. This is only the second time signatories have collectively hit the 5 million hours mark since the implementation of the Challenge in 1995.

Deferred Associates Survey

With law firms paring back associate hours in a variety of ways in response to the pandemic, while the need for pro bono legal assistance is growing, the PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Project® initiative launched an investigation as to whether the time is ripe for revival of deferred and loaned associates programs.

The 2020 CPBO Challenge® Report

The 2020 CPBO Challenge® Report: In-House Pro Bono Rising to Meet the Challenge examines the pro bono performance of Corporate Pro Bono Challenge signatories that provided responses to an annual survey regarding their departments’ pro bono participation rates in calendar year 2019.

2020 Benchmarking Report: An Overview of In-House Pro Bono

The 2020 Benchmarking Report summarizes the responses of 55 legal departments, including Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories and additional legal departments that participate in PBI Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) programs. This report, along with past Benchmarking Reports, provides unique insight into trends in corporate pro bono. Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories, 2020 Benchmarking Report respondents, and Law Firm Pro Bono Project members receive a free copy of the report. Others can purchase the report by contacting


PBI Presents Compassionate Release Program to Pro Bono Leaders
In the fall, PBI held Zoom sessions with pro bono leaders from PBI Corporate Pro Bono® (CPBO) and Law Firm Pro Bono Project® initiatives. The event featured a presentation by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) regarding their compassionate release programs. Their need for attorney volunteers skyrocketed due to COVID-19’s devastating impact on our nation’s jail and prison populations.
The program described the nature of the NACDL pro bono opportunities for attorney volunteers. Opportunities include representation of pre-screened inmates who are seeking compassionate release, particularly where they are at high risk due to age, health considerations, etc. NACDL has three compassionate release programs. About 50 law firm and in-house representatives participated in the Zoom program.
Interested in learning more about getting involved with NACDL’s Compassionate Release programs? Visit their website by clicking here.
CPBO Facilitates Nonpartisan
Election Protection Pro Bono
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, CPBO offered resources and programing to legal departments interested in new ways to engage in pro bono through a racial lens. This programming included two special presentations for CPBO Challenge® signatories and other interested departments to hear from Nancy Anderson, Esq., Director of Legal Mobilization and Pro Bono for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), about  LCCRUL’s national nonpartisan election protection work. More than 125 pro bono leaders from more than 60 departments signed up for these presentations. After the 2020 election, LCCRUL reported that in-house counsel staffed thousands of election protection shifts. CPBO looks forward to developing new racial justice programming in 2021.

2020 PBEye Blogs

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project member
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory