Pro Bono Arm of BigLaw Needs an Injection (But Law’s Still Tops among Other Industries!)

Last year, AmLaw100 Firms enjoyed overall growth, but their free legal aid, provided to the poor by many corporate law firms, did not fare so well.  BigLaw attorneys were apparently extremely busy with the renewed influx of paying clientele. The American Lawyer came to this conclusion in its current (July 1, 2011) issue, devoted to pro bono efforts.

AmLaw’s A-list issue is known for tallying up the firms that rank highest in the nation in “feel-good” factors like pro bono involvement and how happy associates claim to be.  When AmLaw looked at the 100 highest-grossing firms, there was a 10.8% decline in the number of hours donated to charity by top law firms.  (By contrast, during the last ten years, there had been a steady increase in pro bono activity.)

It seems that associates–they do most of the pro bono work–having survived the recent recession, are suddenly finding themselves up to their eyeballs in (paid) projects.  This has apparently left no room for any other sort of work.  “The fact is that associates do the heavy pro bono lifting at big firms, and those [associates] who survived the recession layoffs found themselves loaded up with paid work in last year’s turnaround,” said AmLaw editor Robin Sparkman.

Despite the drop-off, it’s important to note, says the WSJ Law Blog, that law is still the number-one industry when it comes to performing such full-fledged volunteer or charity work for the community.   The fact remains that, if only during seasons when they are actually able to overextend themselves a bit, BigLaw’s heart is in the right place.  Unlike other professions, lawyers have adopted the Latin  phrase which means “for the good of [the people]” as their own, in their selfless and self-starting efforts to be of service.

Very admirable, and worth going back to, as soon as there is a  bit of a lull in their schedules.  Meanwhile, here are the firms that, according to AmLaw’s statistics, made the list of pro bono heavy hitters:   Hughes Hubbard; Munger, Tolles; Paul, Hastings; Gibson, Dunn; Debevoise; Latham & Watkins; Milbank, Tweed; Skadden, Arps; Davis Polk and Paul, Weiss.



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