Every firm has a “culture”—a particular way of doing business, training lawyers, and providing legal services to clients. The firms that have folded pro bono legal work into this culture, not surprisingly, are the firms with the most successful pro bono programs. Several firms described to us their historically strong participation in pro bono legal work. These firms explained that talented lawyers who are interested in maintaining a pro bono practice are drawn to them. As one lawyer noted: “Our firm has a historic culture of public service, so like-minded attorneys want to come work here.”
Firms that do not benefit from a long history of involvement in pro
bono legal matters can take steps to change their pro bono culture.
Several firms shared with us the steps they had taken to strengthen
their pro bono programs to make pro bono work a core part of lawyers’
careers there. They emphasized that no single model of pro bono program
is going to work at every firm. Factors such as a firm’s governance
structure, attorney compensation structure, and substantive areas of
practice must all be considered in designing or expanding a pro bono
program. Some of the core characteristics of successful programs are
outlined in this paper. With steady, long-term, and visible commitment
to pro bono, it can become an integral part of any firm’s culture.