Index of Pro Bono 2022


We are pleased to present the fifth and most comprehensive iteration of the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global benchmark report mapping the scale and trends of the pro bono legal sector around the world.

Free and accurate information is increasingly being silenced, geo-political tensions are wreaking havoc on the global economy, the inequality gap is widening, and climate change is proving to be the greatest threat the world has ever faced. Drawing on data from 245 law firms of all sizes and representing more than 100,000 lawyers across 124 countries, this year’s Index tells a story of the resilience of pro bono during a period of unprecedented global crisis.

Fuelled by a desire to support their local communities and the sectors impacted most by these ongoing emergencies, legal professionals are stepping up to provide life-changing support to individuals and organisations. Globally, lawyers dedicated an average of 33 hours of their time to pro bono in the year, collectively totalling 3.5 million hours of free legal support to charities, non-profits, social enterprises, and individuals in need, advancing a wide range of issues from access to justice, sustainability and climate action to human rights, women and LGBTQ+ rights, and freedom of speech. An incredible 96 per cent of firms shared that their motivation for doing pro bono was to support the community, with more than a quarter of firms reporting an increase in pro bono activity as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the face of unprecedented uncertainty, we are encouraged to see firms continuing to commit to their pro bono practices, with 89 per cent reporting the presence of at least one element of pro bono infrastructure, such as policies, committees or dedicated staff. Lawyers from these firms clocked double the average hours of pro bono compared to firms without such investments. 61 per cent of firms had one or more staff in a pro bono role, and firms with such a role recorded triple the average pro bono hours compared to firms without.

The Index remains the only one of its kind- a truly global look at the pro bono sector that fills the gap in jurisdictions where such information is scant or non-existent. I believe using data as a tool allows us to understand better where the industry is going, set essential benchmarks, and build up support for the practice.

A huge thank you to the firms, from Azerbaijan to Venezuela, that took the time to submit a response and share the necessary data, without which this Index would not exist. I also want to thank the Thomson Reuters’s technology team, specifically the TR Labs team, who generously donated their time and expertise in user experience, data analysis and data visualisation, ensuring that the data published would be of the highest quality and that our readers would have an engaging experience on our newly improved website. I encourage readers of the Index to visit the website where users can now filter and compare findings of the Index using dynamic graphs and charts.

Special thanks to our partner firms, Allen and Overy, Ashurst, DLA Piper, Freshfields, and Hogan Lovells for their generous financial support these last three years, which helped make the Index possible. We hope this report will continue to be helpful to legal teams that provide pro bono legal assistance worldwide. We look forward to all your continuing support and input as we strive to create a society where pro bono legal assistance can continue to grow, empower communities and help drive change where it is most critically needed.

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

Carolina Henriquez-Schmitz

Director, TrustLaw


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[1] 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:

  • The average number of hours of pro bono per fee earner
  • The percentage of fee earners at a firm performing ten or more hours of pro bono

For purposes of the Index, Qualifying Pro Bono must meet the three criteria below:

  • Qualifying Work: legal advice, assistance, representation, and research, as well as drafting agreements, policy documents or legislative instruments – as long as it is done without financial return. In this report, we refer to it simply as "pro bono". It is distinct from legal aid, which usually refers to state-funded legal advice or representation for individuals who are unable to afford legal services.
  • Qualifying Fee Earner: any legal professional who performs fee earning work for clients. In this report we use the terms "fee earner" and "lawyer" interchangeably. Fee earner is a category that includes students and trainees, law clerks, paralegals, and other valued pro bono contributors within law firms. We use the plain language term "lawyer" for readability, especially in our executive summary, and as a stand-in for this wider range of professionals who support pro bono.
  • Qualifying Clients: people of limited means or organisations with a societal, environmental, humanitarian, cultural or community focus, as validated by the law firm, referral organisations or pro bono organisations.

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:

  • Why they do pro bono: the reasons behind the firm's pro bono practice.
  • Pro bono focus areas: whether firms prefer to work with certain types of pro bono clients and on certain types of pro bono matters.
  • Pro bono infrastructure and practice: who firms have hired in their practice, what responsibilities these personnel have, whether firms utilise pro bono policies such as pro bono eligibility criteria or oversight of pro bono by partners.
  • Incentivising and rewarding pro bono: the implementation of pro bono targets and consideration of pro bono in performance appraisals and in awarding compensation.
  • Diversity: if firms had a formal diversity commitment relating to their pro bono work and what the commitment includes.
  • COVID-19: if and what the impact of the pandemic was.

Data Analysis

Quantitative Analysis

This shows where and to what extent pro bono work was performed by lawyers. The quantitative questions asked were:

  • number of Qualifying Fee Earners as at 31 December 2021;
  • total Pro Bono Qualifying Hours;
  • number of Qualifying Fee Earners who recorded ten or more hours of Qualifying Pro Bono time; and
  • number of Qualifying Fee Earners who recorded any time on Qualifying Pro Bono matters.

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.[2] 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.

Qualitative Analysis

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:

  • Whether the firm has - pro bono policy, formal diversity commitment for pro bono work, pro bono committee, formal eligibility criteria in place;
  • Whether the firm has a partner at that has responsibility for or oversight of pro bono activities; and
  • Whether pro bono is factored into partners’ and fee earners’ appraisal and compensation.

Questions requiring multiselect answer:

  • Reasons for firms engaging in pro bono;
  • Type of pro bono employees engaged at the firm (pro bono coordinator or administrator, pro bono manager, or pro bono associate) and whether they worked exclusively on pro bono matters, or had additional responsibilities;
  • Firms source of pro bono clients, types of clients and pro bono focus areas;
  • Whether the firm has a pro bono target, and whether it is mandatory or aspirational, and factored into utilization targets;
  • Impact of COVID 19 on the firm’s pro bono activities over the chosen 12-month period;
  • Responsibilities of the pro bono committee;

Questions requiring open text answer:

  • Content of firm’s diversity commitment to pro bono includes and what form it takes;
  • Formal process to determine whether a matter or client is eligible for pro bono;
  • Firm’s top pro bono priorities or strategic areas of focus over the last/ and next 12 months?

Questions requiring numerical answer:

  • Number of full or part-time pro bono professionals in your pro bono practice under the categories of pro bono coordinators/administrators, pro bono managers, pro bono associates and pro bono partners;
  • Annual pro bono hours target per lawyer; and
  • How much money has the firm allocated to conducting its pro bono practice.

The submitted qualitative data was anonymised and aggregated then used to identify key industry trends and issues at a global, regional and jurisdictional level.

Global Analysis

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.[3] 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:

  1. Before analysis, the law firms were supplied with a copy of their submitted data to confirm the accuracy of the data.
  2. The data set was then checked for missing data and outliers by the Index project team.
  • After the preliminary review by the team, the data was intensively reviewed by a professional statistician.

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.

To see the questions that comprised the Index Survey, see here. The submissions guidance and FAQs are available here.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.