Survey shows 8% drop in pro-bono work from top US firms

July 1, 2011 The American Lawyer has published the results of a new survey, reporting that average pro bono hours for lawyers at the top 200 US firms dropped 8 percent in 2010 to their lowest level in three years, reversing a decade of steady growth.

The survey observed that the overall percentage of lawyers that did more than 20 hours of pro bono work fell 5.2 per cent.

Four firms saw their total pro bono hours fall by more than half last year: Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle; Gordon & Rees; Holme Roberts & Owen; and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

"Pro bono typically doesn't drop during recessions, but past cycles have shown that the transition out of an economic downturn, as we're experiencing now, is a challenging time for charitable legal work," says Pro Bono Institute president Esther Lardent. "Often what happens [is that] firms are still so nervous from the downturn that they don't staff up to meet the pickup in client demand, and when you have limited resources, fee-paying work takes priority. You also have to consider that redundancy programs have largely focused on junior asso¬ciates, which impacts pro bono, as most of the work is geared toward younger lawyers."

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