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.