The TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono is a global survey of pro bono practice and the amount of pro bono generated by law firms worldwide and highlights key trends of the sector. The Index aims to provide a benchmark that maps the global scale and trends of the pro bono legal sector. In its fifth iteration since first launching in 2014, it continues to be an invaluable resource in helping law firms understand the global pro bono landscape, benchmark their pro bono practice, and identify tools to build a robust and impactful pro bono practice.
The study is based on a survey of a global, non-representative sample of 245 law firms and in-house legal teams of varying size, area of specialisation or volume of pro bono work in 124 jurisdictions. 225 of these firms submitted detailed numerical data on pro bono hours.
We use a mixed methods research design, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative research methods in the study. The data was collected through a self-administered survey conducted online. Targeted email outreach was done to 419 firms, both large international law firms and smaller domestic teams, in-house legal teams and individual lawyers that had participated in any of the four previous iterations of the Index irrespective of size, area of specialisation and volume of pro bono work. A general call for participation was also sent out to our TrustLaw network of more than 1,000 law firms and in house legal teams.
The survey launched on 31 January 2022, and firms had eight weeks to participate. The pro bono landscape has evolved immensely since the Index first launched in 2014. To account for those changes, a thorough review of the survey was conducted. Based on feedback we received from key stakeholders, some changes were made to this year's survey, including adding questions on pro bono diversity commitments, the impact of COVID-19 and how firms sourced pro bono work.
The diverse group of responding law firms reflects the image of the global legal pro bono landscape. To ensure the broad data set could be analysed to produce relevant findings, the submissions were guided by defined parameters on the key indicators, including a definition of qualifying pro bono work, fee earners and clients in the Index submission guide accessible here. These parameters consider the variations in the practice of pro bono globally and help to consolidate the collected data to present a unified and comparable approach to pro bono.
The metrics used to calculate the level of pro bono engagement over the 12-month self-selected period by a firm are:
For purposes of the Index, Qualifying Pro Bono must meet the three criteria below:
You will find additional guidelines that set out the criteria under which we define pro bono work and personnel here.
We also collected data on partners working at these firms, although we do not use it as a metric to measure a successful practice to attribute that information to individual firms.
In addition, the firms shared qualitative information on:
This shows where and to what extent pro bono work was performed by lawyers. The quantitative questions asked were:
After analysis, the output from this data was the average number of hours of pro bono per fee earner and the percentage of fee earners doing ten or more hours of pro bono in the self-selected 12-month period. This data was then disaggregated by region and jurisdiction.
This year, we used a simple average approach to calculate the average pro bono hours, the average percentage of lawyers that performed ten or more hours of pro bono and the average percentage of lawyers that performed any pro bono work. In previous years, the calculation was done by calculating the average of firm averages. This change allows for a clearer picture of average pro bono hours among individual lawyers and helps to avoid weighing the pro bono contributions of some firms more over others. Given the change in calculation method, we have not included comparisons of average pro bono hours for individual fee earners and partners between this report and the 2020 Index. We will resume these average hours comparisons in future reports using 2022 as our benchmark.
Data was collected from 23 questions whose answers were a mix of yes and no, multiple choice, open-ended and numerical. These were broadly categorised as below:
Questions requiring Yes/No answer:
Questions requiring multiselect answer:
Questions requiring open text answer:
Questions requiring numerical answer:
The submitted qualitative data was anonymised and aggregated then used to identify key industry trends and issues at a global, regional and jurisdictional level.
The first section of the Index provides a global examination of the pro bono practice by assessing the size, pro bono clients, thematic focus areas, infrastructure, and incentives of the submitting law firms. This analysis focuses on the size of the law firm irrespective of the jurisdiction in which it operates. The hypothesis that frames this analysis is that pro bono lawyers face similar challenges in the practice of pro bono regardless of size or location. Firms can improve their pro bono practice by implementing pro bono techniques and approaches tried successfully elsewhere.
Regional and Country-level Analysis
We recognise the impact that local context has on the amount and type of pro bono work undertaken by firms, including social, regulatory, and economic factors. For this reason, background context accompanies our data analysis on factors shaping pro bono for countries where more than four law firms submitted their data.
Traditionally to apply a longitudinal approach, the Index compares country-level data with previous data to analyse similar data and identify any significant differences in the composition of respondents. However, due to changes in computation of the average hours of pro bono per lawyer in the 2022 Index referenced above we do not provide comparisons to 2020 data for average pro bono hours at the regional and country level.
The Index divides responding firms into three groups based on headcount throughout the analysis:
✓ Small Firms: Firms that have a total headcount of 0 – 49 fee earners
✓ Medium-sized Firms: Firms that have 50 – 199 fee earners
✓ Large Firms: Firms that have 200+ fee earners
The Index uses the number of fee earners as a streamlined proxy for a firm's resources and capabilities. Categorising firms this way allows the Index to investigate whether and to what extent a firm's resources affect pro bono engagement levels as well as how firms of assorted sizes devote resources to pro bono practice.
Data Quality Assurance
The participating firms submitted data on their pro bono practice for a self-selected 12-month period beginning either in 2020 or 2021 in a self-administered survey. We deployed a three-tier process to ensure data quality:
The data was then analysed by a data scientist and was audited to flag any anomalies. All anomalies identified at the various stages were addressed by referral to the submitting firms for correction and resubmission.
 In-house legal team refers to a team of lawyers that carry out legal work directly for their employer, as opposed to law firm or private practice lawyers who earn money for their firm by working on behalf of multiple clients. When we refer to “firms” and “law firms” throughout the text, it includes in-house legal teams, and we are using the blanket terms for simplicity.
 Firms were allowed to report on data from a 12-month self-selected period which starts in 2020 or 2021 which included the calendar year or the firm's fiscal year.
 We acknowledge that this is an imprecise proxy and that what is ‘small’ or ‘medium’ in some jurisdictions might be ‘large’ in other markets and vice versa.