Pro Bono Participation Rising

July 31, 2014

During 2013 the 61 law firms in the District of Columbia that participated in the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Initiative contributed a total of 880,145 pro bono hours among 10,020 full-time equivalent attorneys, with each attorney contributing an average of 88 hours.

The “D.C. Bar Pro Bono Initiative Report” shows that the total pro bono hours contributed by the 61 law firms in 2013 increased by more than 7 percent when compared with the previous year. Additionally, 59 of the participating firms reported that they credit nonpartner attorneys’ pro bono hours toward billable-hours requirements and bonuses, with 35 of the reporting firms providing partner attorneys with billable credit. (See the full report.)

“The numbers show that pro bono participation is on the rise by every measure,” said James Sandman, chair of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee and president of the Legal Services Corporation. “[The numbers] reflect the depth of the pro bono culture in our bar, which I believe leads the country in service to those who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer.”

Under the Pro Bono Initiative, participating firms pledge to provide pro bono legal services at specified levels. Firms agree to an annual commitment of either 3 percent or 5 percent of total client billable hours. These standards were created by and are used with permission from the Pro Bono Institute and are modeled on the institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.

Beginning in 2001 with 41 of the District’s largest law firms participating, the initiative has since grown and encourages firms to establish programs for attorneys to provide pro bono legal services without sacrificing billable hours. Throughout the year, participating firms track their progress and report it to the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program to provide statistics on pro bono service in the District.