The D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services has surveyed law firms over a three-year period to learn what percentage of lawyers have met the 1998 Judicial Conference Pro Bono Resolution standard of devoting at least 50 hours each year to pro bono legal work. A small but growing number of law firms report that at least 40 percent of their lawyers had met this threshold with most firms reporting roughly 25 percent or fewer of their lawyers having performed this minimum amount of pro bono legal work. In 2003 and 2004, Chief Judges Douglas H. Ginsburg and Thomas F. Hogan hosted the 40 at 50: Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast, for firms at which at least 40 percent of all lawyers have met the 50-hour goal. In 2003, seven firms attended and in 2004, 12 firms qualified to attend.
The chief judges have challenged the legal community to increase to 18 the number of firms that will qualify to attend in 2005. In order to assist law firms in their efforts to evaluate and enhance their pro bono programs, the Standing Committee undertook this ‘Best Practices’ project to learn from the qualifying 40 at 50 why such a relatively small group of law firms have been so successful in encouraging and supporting pro bono legal work by so many of their lawyers.