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D.C. Firms Contributed Almost 1 Million Pro Bono Hours in 2018

August 20, 2019

Law firms in the District of Columbia devoted almost one million hours to pro bono service in 2018, setting a new record, according to the latest D.C. Bar Pro Bono Initiative Report, an annual survey conducted by the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. Sixty-three law firms reported performing 967,626 hours of pro bono service, a 5.5 percent increase over the total number of pro bono hours reported in 2017.  

D.C. law firms are not just engaging in more pro bono service than ever before but also are developing increasingly innovative activities to encourage lawyers to do more pro bono work and make legal help more accessible to members of the public who are unable to pay for legal services. For example, the D.C. office of King & Spalding LLP launched a new virtual clinic in 2018 to provide legal assistance to almost 200 Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program recipients on a real-time, expedited basis.

“Lawyers in D.C. are more dedicated to pro bono service than lawyers anywhere else in the country, and we thank the 8,850 D.C. attorneys who met their professional obligation to provide legal help to those unable to afford counsel,” said Rebecca K. Troth, executive director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. “In a city in which more than 80 percent of litigants in our local court appear without a lawyer by their side, there is much more we must do to ensure that inability to pay is not an obstacle to justice. We hope that even more lawyers will be inspired to serve low-income D.C. residents in need in the coming year.” 

Launched in 2001, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Initiative encourages signatory law firms in the District to devote a specific amount of time to pro bono legal services — 3 percent or 5 percent of the firms’ total client billable hours, or, alternatively, 60 hours or 100 hours per attorney at the firm. 

Additionally, signatory firms agree to report their progress annually to the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. The Pro Bono Center circulates a survey to all firms participating in the Initiative, analyzes survey responses, and aggregates the statistics in an annual report.