Evaluating a Law Firm's Commitment to Pro Bono
The best way to learn about a firm's commitment to pro bono is by talking with other attorneys at the firm — both partners and associates. While you may decide not to ask about pro bono during your on-grounds interview, you can find out more about the firm’s pro bono commitment in its on-grounds hospitality suite or during your call-back interview. Be sure to ask for a copy of the firm’s written pro bono policy.
1. How is the firm's pro bono program structured?
- Is there a full-time coordinator? (if so, ask to talk to this person)
- Is the coordinator an attorney?
- Is the coordinator a partner or are partners involved in the supervision of pro bono cases?
- How are pro bono cases brought into the firm?
- Does the firm work routinely with specific nonprofits?
- Who screens/assigns the cases?
- What types of pro bono matters does the firm accept? (impact, class actions or solely individual matters?)
- Do individual attorneys have any discretion in bringing in their own pro bono cases?
- Do attorneys in all of the firm’s offices participate?
- Does the firm provide training and supervision for pro bono matters?
- Does the firm provide support staff for pro bono cases?
2. How does the firm encourage pro bono work?
- Are attorneys required or encouraged to perform a minimum number of pro bono hours annually?
- Do pro bono hours count toward the firm’s billable hour requirement?
- Is there a cap on the number of pro bono hours that count as billable?
- Are pro bono hours considered as part of the bonus/promotion performance review?
- Do summer associates participate in pro bono, and, if so, are they evaluated on such work?
- Are pro bono cases treated the same as billable cases when work is distributed?
- How many of the lawyers who recently made partner did substantial pro bono work?
- Does the firm sponsor any public interest fellowship or externship programs, and, if so, what types?
- How many lawyers in the firm did pro bono and how many hours per lawyer?
3. Is the firm a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge?
- Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge (The Challenge requires the firm to commit 3-5 percent of their total billable hours to pro bono.)
- Has the firm met the challenge’s goals in the last 2-3 years?
4. Where does the firm rank in the Am Law 100 or Am Law 200 pro bono charts and has it been recognized by any legal services providers for its pro bono contributions?
- American Lawyer
- Has the firm won any other pro bono awards?
5. What does the firm say about their pro bono program on their website or in their annual report?
- Is the description substantive or more firm marketing?
6. Does the firm offer summer associates the option to split their summer?
Additional Information about Law Firm Pro Bono:
- ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service
- ABA Model Rule 6.1 Voluntary Pro Bono Publico Service
- Chambers Associate
- Corporate Pro Bono
- NALP Directory
- Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge
- The Path to Pro Bono
- The Vault Guide to Law Firm Pro Bono Programs