Evaluating Law Firm Pro Bono

Evaluating Law Firm Pro Bono

To evaluate the strength of a law firm’s commitment to pro bono ask partners and associates about:

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 the firm encourages 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?
  • How many lawyers in the firm did pro bono and how many hours per lawyer?

3. If the firm is a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge

  • ABA’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 the firm ranks in the Am Law 100 or Am Law 200 pro bono charts and whether it has won any pro bono awards

5. What the firm says about its pro bono program on its website or in its annual report. Ask for a copy of their written pro bono policy. 

  • Is the information provided specific and substantive or more of a general marketing piece?

6. If the firm sponsors split public interest summers

Additional Information About Law Firm Pro Bono:

Shanthi Rajagopalan

Shanthi Rajagopalan '18

"Within the past year, I was given the opportunity to do pro bono work with a prosecutor's office in my hometown. I also became involved with the Innocence Project at the Law School."