The OPIA Blog

Pro Bono work and the recession- a surprising uptick

One might think that with the declining profits of law firms, lawyers who are still employed would actually be dedicating more time to cases that are actually earning the firm money. According to some statistics quoted in this American Lawyer article, lawyers at some of the largest and even many small or mid-sized firms have greatly increased the amount of their pro bono hours over the years, particularly in times when firms are actually losing money. Quoting statistics that the journal has tracked over the years, the article states, “(B)y 2008, the average pro bono contribution by Am Law 100 lawyers had risen 87 percent, to 71.8. Lawyers at Second Hundred firms increased their average contributions from 29 hours in 1998 to 33.2 in 2008.” The article goes on to say that “(A)fter enjoying double-digit or near–double-digit growth through 2007, in 2008 Am Law 100 firms recorded their worst financial performance since the first Bush presidency. Second Hundred firms suffered as well. Yet the commitment to pro bono has increased substantially in the past five years.”

Why do you see this uptick? A lot of explanations are provided but law firms are seeing a new generation of lawyers, growing out of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, that are interested in doing public interest oriented work than in years past.