Media Release


Law Firm Pro Bono Performance On the Rise

Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report reflects pro bono’s strength in large firms across the U.S. in 2017.

Washington, D.C. – The Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project has issued its Report on the 2017 Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® data. One hundred twenty-nine participating firms reported in 2017, performing a total of 4,988,525 hours of pro bono work – a slight increase over 2016. That 4.99 million figure is the largest since the inception of the Challenge in 1995.

The 2017 Pro Bono Institute Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge Report statistics examines the pro bono performance of firms that are signatories to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge during the 2017 calendar year. The Challenge is the industry 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 (or 60 or 100 hours per attorney) of their annual billable hours to pro bono activities as defined by the Challenge and report their performance to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project each year.

In 2017, many Challenge Initiative goals were met or even exceeded:

  • In 2017, one quarter of all Challenge firms had a greater than 20 percent increase in pro bono over 2016.
  • The total number of pro bono hours increased by approximately 311,100 hours, despite six fewer firms reporting.
  • The average number of pro bono hours rose to 66.26 hours per attorney, up from 62 hours per attorney – the highest level since 2009.
  • The 63.2 percent of Challenge signatories that commit at 3 percent and 58 percent of signatories that commit at 5 percent met their stated Challenge goal.
  • As a percentage of total paying client billable hours, pro bono hours increased from 3.63 percent to 3.94 percent, the second highest percentage in the history of the Challenge.
  • Combined attorney participation rate increased from 74.9 percent to 76.95 percent in 2017.

“Thank you, signatories, for leading the way. We are very pleased to see so many law firms meeting their Challenge goals in 2017,” said PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon. “These numbers show that law firms continue to devote meaningful time and effort to provide pro bono service to eligible clients. However, pro bono is an ongoing commitment and I look forward to firms meeting and exceeding their goals in 2018.”

The Challenge Report also lays out some directional recommendations for strengthening, rethinking, and revamping pro bono efforts at major law firms.

To view the full findings, including executive summary, data analysis, and future directions, 

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.