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Firms Keep Up Good Work, Even in Bad Times

AmlawPB100shd_275 Fears that a down economy would mean a downturn in pro bono work by the nation's largest law firms appear to be unfounded. To the contrary, the annual Pro Bono Report from The American Lawyer finds that the nation's 200 highest grossing firms devoted more hours to pro bono this year than ever before. Nearly half the lawyers at these firms committed at least 20 hours to pro bono and, on average, these lawyers spent more than 60 hours on pro bono matters.

History would suggest this uptick in pro bono is an anomaly. American Lawyer reporter David Bario writes that in past periods of economic upheaval -- both in recessions and booms -- firms have cut back on pro bono. This time, however, firms show no signs of easing up on their good deeds. This is welcome news, but news that begs for an explanation. Bario offers this:

Pro bono specialists at firms, nonprofits, and academia point to several factors. The institutionalization of pro bono at both firms and nonprofits has continued, spurred in part by the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge and by our A-List rankings. A younger generation of lawyers at top firms expect pro bono work to be a central part of their careers. And the cataclysms of 9/11 and Katrina and upheavals over Guantánamo and the environment brought new lawyers into the pro bono ranks.

Who's to complain? Meanwhile, this year's Pro Bono Report includes the first-ever Am Law Pro Bono 100, an in-depth look at the pro bono work of the top pro bono firms that ranks them and then tells the story of one particular cause each firm worked on in 2008. To rank the firms, The American Lawyer scored them half on the average pro bono hours per lawyer and half on the percentage of lawyers who perform more than 20 hours of pro bono.

At the head of the list is Jenner & Block, followed in the top five by Latham & Watkins, Arnold & Porter, Dechert and Hughes Hubbard. Full coverage of the Pro Bono Report and the Pro Bono 100 includes reports on some of the noteworthy matters firms handled along with complete rankings and a description of the methodology used in compiling them.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 1, 2009 at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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