Index of Pro Bono 2014


At the Thomson Reuters Foundation we understand and use the power of data. Our experience with the perception polls conducted in the past three years has taught us that when data is gathered and analyzed by experts, it can illustrate scenarios as vividly as photojournalism. And when data is crunched with the aim to shed light on issues not commonly known or discussed, the impact is immediate.

This is precisely the reason why we have embarked on this new project, the first annual TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono. The index is the very first of its kind on a global scale. It looks at both trends and data on pro bono legal assistance on a country-by-country basis. While information on the scale of pro bono is readily available in markets like the US, England, and Australia, it is scant or nonexistent in most jurisdictions around the world, in spite of the increasing amount of pro bono work being done. The TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono fills that void.

The mission of TrustLaw, the Foundation's global legal service that I created in 2010, is to spread the practice of pro bono worldwide. Every day we witness increasing demand for pro bono projects and our network continues to expand to countries which traditionally haven’t embraced pro bono, from Saudi Arabia to the Fiji Islands to the Palestinian Territories and mainland China. Every week we forge new connections and we witness the phenomenal work done by lawyers who commit their time to help NGOs and social enterprises free of charge.

But my team also hears from these lawyers the challenges they face in trying to build and grow this type of work: a lack of benchmarks is one of the most common. Having good data on pro bono structures, staffing and benchmarks for their specific country is vital to building internal support to resource many of these programs and to get them off the ground. Like us, they know that what's measured matters, and we produced this index with those dedicated individuals and firms in mind.

The index was designed after months of consultation with some of the firms that have traditionally been at the forefront of pro bono as well as those who are stepping into the arena as newcomers. Through this thorough consultation we mapped the scope and methodology of the research, which was then distributed as widely as possible within the international legal community - even outside the TrustLaw network - in order to capture the widest most accurate data.

This is of course a starting point. By mapping the growth of pro bono, both in terms of geographical distribution, but also in terms of actual value and impact, we believe we have given the industry a key tool to expand on. I look forward to our first update, in a year's time, to assess the year-on-year trends and to ponder on the lesson that can be grasped from it. Our hope is that as the years progress we will have a strong body of evidence to showcase the growing field of pro bono around the world.

Our huge thanks to all the firms big and small, from Guatemala to Ghana that kindly took their time to submit the necessary data without which this index would not exist. We look forward to all your continuing support and input as we strive to create a society where pro bono legal assistance can be facilitated and fully acknowledged for its huge social impact.


Firms all over the world were asked to provide information on how they organise their pro bono practice and how much pro bono they do in the different countries and jurisdictions they operate in. 103 firms in 69 countries provided us with information about how they structure their practice, and of those, 80 submitted very detailed data about how much pro bono their lawyers are doing, wherever they are in the world. The range of firms that have responded to the call for information, encompassing both some of the largest firms in the world as well as many local firms with domestic practices, affords a genuine snapshot of the industry.

The index examines recurring factors that are the building blocks in developing a successful practice, represented by one simple metric that of how much pro bono is being done as a benchmark. Given the vast cultural and contextual differences around the world*, average pro bono hours per fee-earner in each jurisdiction is being used as the key metric to draw comparisons. It is patently clear that this is just one measure of a successful practice, and that this metric does not take into account the impact of the work being done. In spite of that, the creation of a robust database that quantifies the pro bono hours and engagement within firms, along with analysis of the pro bono infrastructure within those firms, will help foster the development of the sector, and will also feed into the discussion around measuring impact of pro bono work.

No matter where firms are, lawyers face very similar challenges in trying to grow their pro bono practices. However, the work itself can be very different in different jurisdictions. As such, while the amount of pro bono being done has been tracked, comparisons are not intended to be drawn between all countries. Rather, data relating to the amount of pro bono done has been grouped into regions, excluding jurisdictions known for the high degree of infrastructure of pro bono (namely England and Wales, the US and Australia), based on where the lawyers are located. Where there is sufficient data to warrant doing so, distinct country indices have also been created. In providing the data in this way, benchmarks of how much is being done have been generated, thereby helping firms understand how much they are doing compared with other lawyers working in the same context.

Over time the index will become a hub for information about trends in the pro bono sector. Through the layers of data gathered each year, the index will be able to monitor trends, not only in terms of how much pro bono is being done, but also any evolution in the way practices are managed. When external pressures, either within or outside the legal profession, shape and exert influence over the pro bono ecosystem, the index will reflect this; through the index, the pro bono sector will be able to see how and why. If the strength and development of the pro bono sector begins to alter the attitudes of law firms themselves, again that will be reflected in future iterations of this index.

For detailed information regarding the questions that comprised the index, please see here.

For a full PDF of the findings of the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, please click here.

*For more on the context of pro bono around the world, please see the Latham and Watkins Survey of Pro Bono Practices and Opportunities.