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The 2022 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono is the most extensive version of our legal benchmarking survey yet. We saw a significant increase in the number of firms and jurisdictions that participated in the survey this year, and we continue to see strong commitment to pro bono around the world despite the unprecedented global and regional crises in recent years. We received 245 responses from firms in 124 jurisdictions representing 107,563 lawyers.
Given the challenges of last few years, the legal profession has displayed laudable determination to continue offering pro bono services. More than half of lawyers engaged in pro bono with 40 percent of them dedicating ten or more hours of their time to pro bono work.
The 107,563 lawyers at responding firms provided more than 3.6 million hours of pro bono support to non-profits, social enterprises and individuals, with lawyers dedicating an average of 33 hours to pro bono work over the year.
The law firms that participate in the survey vary widely in size and we look at firms across three categories of Large, Medium-sized, and Small. We continue to see a link between the size of the firm and the average amount of pro bono work performed by their lawyers. Lawyers at Large Firms put in an average of 33.3 hours of pro bono work during the year, while those at Medium-sized and Small Firms put in 20.4 and 21.7 hours, respectively.
For further analysis of pro bono and firm size, please see here.
As in previous years, we asked firms why they do pro bono, for whom, and what was its focus. To keep up with changing times, we asked about two new focus areas: COVID-19, and data and digital rights. The most selected area remains access to justice, with 59 percent of responding firm reporting that they provide pro bono in this area, followed closely by immigration, refugees, and asylum at 42 percent and human rights at 40 percent. Registered charities and non-profits continue to be the preferred pro bono clients among law firms, with 87 percent of responding firms offering pro bono services to this group, while 69 percent offered pro bono assistance to individuals and 64 percent to social enterprises.
For further analysis of pro bono clients and focus areas, please see here.
Why does the firm do pro bono?
Does the firm prefer to work with certain types of pro bono clients?
How does the firm source pro bono work?
Is there a particular focus to the firm's pro bono work?
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Among responding firms, 89 percent had an element of pro bono infrastructure. That is, they either had a formal pro bono policy, had a pro bono committee, and/or hired someone to work part-time or full-time in their pro bono practice. Fee earners from firms with at least one element of infrastructure, such as a pro bono policy, reported an average of 32 hours of pro bono compared to an average of 13.5 hours by fee earners from firms without any such elements. Fee earners from firms with all elements of infrastructure present recorded an average of 32 hours of pro bono.
64 percent of firms reported that they had a pro bono policy, and 90 percent of such policies declared a firm’s attitude and intent toward pro bono. Fee earners working at firms with a pro bono policy in place recorded more than 2.5 times more pro bono hours than fee earners working at firms without a policy.
For the first time in the Index’s history, we examined in more depth the human resources invested in firms’ pro bono practices. 61 percent of firms hired at least one part-time or full-time employee in their pro bono practice. Of the total number of pro bono employees reported by firms, 7 percent were pro bono coordinators or administrators, 3 percent were pro bono managers, 49 percent were pro bono associates, 11 percent were pro bono partners and 30 percent had titles that fell outside the options provided. Firms with at least one part-time or full-time employee in their pro bono practice reported an average of 35.2 hours of pro bono compared to 12.8 hours reported by fee earners working at firms without one. This sizeable difference suggests that the presence of an employee dedicated to pro bono, full-time, or part-time, can play a significant role in strengthening the practice of pro bono in a firm.
Pro bono committees are also linked to a higher average number of pro bono hours. 59 percent of firms indicated they have a committee and fee earners from these firms performed an average of 33 hours of pro bono compared to 26.2 hours on average reported by fee earners working at firms without one. 40 percent of lawyers at firms with a committee performed more than ten hours of pro bono compared to 32 percent of lawyers at the firms without one.
For further analysis of pro bono infrastructure, please see here.
What does the pro bono policy cover?
How many employees in the firm's pro bono practice are: Pro bono Coordinators/Administrators, Pro bono Managers, Pro bono Associates, Pro bono Partners?
What are the responsibilities of the pro bono committee?
Setting targets and compensating lawyers for pro bono are powerful tools to encourage lawyers to engage more in the practice. 78 percent of firms reported that they factor pro bono hours into lawyers’ performance appraisals. Significantly, lawyers from those firms performed more than three times the amount of pro bono compared to
lawyers working in firms where it was not a factor.
A sizeable number of firms (52 percent) go further by specifically considering pro bono work in compensation decisions. Unlike in 2020, we saw a positive relationship between such policies and overall engagement—40 percent of lawyers from firms that factored pro bono work into compensation decisions performed ten or more hours of pro bono, compared to only 24 percent of lawyers from firms that did not.
42 percent of firms set a pro bono target. It is still relatively uncommon for firms to impose a mandatory target for pro bono. 7 percent of all responding firms indicated the target was mandatory, compared with 35 percent that reported having an aspirational target. We see a sizeable positive correlation between pro bono targets and engagement. Lawyers at firms with a mandatory or aspirational target reported an average of 44.2 hours per lawyer compared to 23 hours from firms that did not. 48 percent of lawyers at firms with a target reported performing an average of ten or more pro bono hours compared to 32 percent from firms that did not.
For further analysis of incentivising and rewarding pro bono, please see here.
How does the firm factor annual fee-earning hours or utilisation targets for lawyers?
The COVID-19 pandemic shook the globe, and the legal sector was not exempt. The impact of the pandemic on pro
bono was variable, with some firms reporting an increase in pro bono activity (22 percent) and others reporting a decrease (20 percent). 18 percent of firms saw a change in their pro bono priorities and 19 percent of firms shared that COVID-19 was a primary focus area in their pro bono work during the selected reporting period.
At a regional level, firms in the Americas reported the highest increase in pro bono activity because of the pandemic (29 percent), while firms in Africa and the Middle East saw the biggest decrease in pro bono activities at 26 percent. Firms in Australia were impacted the least by COVID-19 (28 percent) while firms in the United States reported the highest rate in change of their pro bono priorities at 28 percent.
For further analysis of the impact of COVID-19, please see here.
Impact of Covid-19
This year, we asked firms if they had a formal diversity commitment in relation to their pro bono work. We did not offer a singular definition of a diversity commitment and, as such, this concept can capture diversity in relation to the pro bono clients the firm supports, the make-up of their pro bono teams, funding or support for diversity initiatives or otherwise. 30 percent of firms indicated that they had a formal diversity commitment with Large Firms reporting such commitments at the highest rate. Half of firms in Australia reported having a diversity commitment, followed by the Americas at 41 percent, and then the United States at 40 percent.
For further analysis of diversity commitment, please see here.