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WWL Pro Bono Survey 2017: Leading Firms

While conducting this year’s Pro Bono survey, one of the most evident things for us was the strong commitment from all of the firms towards building a better society and securing access to legal representation for the most vulnerable in their respective communities. While all the firms that participated in our survey are making valued contributions, the following 10 stood out as examples of best practice:

  • Barbosa, Müssnich e Aragão
  • Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
  • Kim & Chang
  • Lee & Ko
  • Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados
  • Pérez Bustamante & Ponce
  • Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie
  • Von Wobeser y Sierra
  • Wakhariya & Wakhariya
  • Yulchon


Barbosa, Müssnich e Aragão

Brazilian firm Barbosa, Müssnich e Aragão only established its pro bono practice in 2015 but since then has achieved great things. A signatory to both the Instituto Pro Bono Brasil and the Pro Bono Declaration for the Americas, the practice is coordinated by a committee made up of both partners and associates, and all of its initiatives are supervised by a partner. The firm also has a multi-disciplinary team that helps entrepreneurs with issues setting up businesses in Brazil and is partnered with ASHOKA, whose works helps social entrepreneurs in Brazil. Inside the firm, BMA Inspiração presents awards to the top five lawyers who are most engaged in pro bono work.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Leading US firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher began life on the West Coast but now has an international reach with a highly active pro bono practice. They support hundreds of not-for-profit organisations including museums and theatres, human and civil rights organisations including the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and educational and healthcare organisations including planned parenthood initiatives and the Institute of Cancer Research. The firm’s Frank Wheat Award is given annually to solicitors who get significant results for their pro bono activities and serve as an inspiration to others. Pro Bono voordinator Katie Marquart won the award in 2010 and has since received accolades for her work relating to a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 2,000 autistic children in Los Angeles, whose state-funded treatment had been wrongfully terminated.

Kim & Chang

Leading Korean law firm Kim & Chang has stacked up 15,160 pro bono hours in 2015, the largest amount by far of the firms who submitted data. In total, 287 of its lawyers recorded 10 or more hours of pro bono work and on average each fee-earner accrued 19 hours. The firm provides legal assistance to the Overseas Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation, allowing them locate and preserve Korean artefacts discovered overseas, and to the Korea Differently Abled Federation, where they conducted a comparative analysis on the regulation of care for the disabled in numerous jurisdictions and analysed legislation for the benefit of the Federation’s work. One of the standout aspects of its pro bono team is its collaborative nature and the level of skill demonstrated by its members. The committee is comprised of six attorneys and includes a former Justice of the Constitutional Court of Korea and a former executive director of UNICEF Korea.

Lee & Ko

Lee & Ko dedicated 5,709 hours to pro bono work in 2015 and 103 lawyers have recorded more than 10 hours, an impressive number for the firm’s size. Also impressive is the level of partner engagement – approximately one-third of Lee & Ko’s partners are engaged in pro bono activities. The total value of qualifying pro bono assistance generated by the firm in 2015 was US$3 million. The practice is well established. Created in 2000, its impressive initiatives include legal counselling to single parents, sponsoring schools in remote areas and participating in public legal education programmes in order to provide legal education for the public.

Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados

Mattos Filho is a leading Brazilian law firm with a pro bono practice that began in 1999. Since then, it has provided free legal advice to over 150 organisations working in the third sector and has provided legal knowledge for the development of Brazilian society. The firm’s total value of qualifying pro bono assistance in 2015 was over $3.2 million reais. Mattos Filho was also part of the committee that lobbied the Brazilian Bar Association to lift restrictions on free legal services to individuals. It successfully negotiated the alteration of regulations, which formerly allowed only state-approved lawyers to act for individuals in pro bono cases, so that any party could offer such representation. It also provided legal assistance to the non-profit initiative, One Million Solar Panels by 2030, and is a signatory to the Pro Bono for the Americas Declaration.

Pérez Bustamante & Ponce

Ecuadorian firm Pérez Bustamante & Ponce has nine full-time members in its pro bono team, the largest number by a margin of the firms in our research. It also has one of the longest-serving pro bono practices, which was established 1987. In 2015 alone, the firm has provided assistance to six NGOs including Operation Smile Foundation Ecuador, which conducts medical operations across Ecuador relating to cleft conditions, the TASE Foundation, which helps individuals with the effects of Alzheimer’s and Enseña Ecuador, part of the Teach For All global initiative. The firm’s Fundación Fabián Ponce Ordóñez, created to provide pro bono services to the Quitenian community, turns 30 next year.

Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie

Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie’s pro bono practice is in the ascendant; it was established in 2015 but has already made a notable impact. The firm took on five new pro bono clients in 2015 and is the Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation’s Member firm for Nigeria. It is also a signatory to TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono programme designed to create a network between NGOs, social enterprises and legal teams offering pro bono services in order to allow lawyers to aid these organisations on a large scale.

Von Wobeser y Sierra

Mexican firm Von Wobeser y Sierra sees its fee earners achieve an average of 32 pro bono hours each, well beyond the minimum 20 set as a target by the firm. It has an impressive level of partner engagement, with an average of 48 per cent involved in pro bono activities. Its associates demonstrate an even higher level – more than 70 per cent of them participate. Von Wobeser y Sierra was named a Pro Bono Leading Light by Latin Lawyer from 2012 to 2016 and it continues to demonstrate its commitment to providing such advice. It is signatory to Barra Mexicana, TrustLaw and the Vance Centre.

Wakhariya & Wakhariya

Indian firm Wakhariya & Wakhariya has an impressive pro bono practice for a firm of its size. The practice was established 18 years ago and in 2015 its three fee earners clocked up 600 hours between them. The total value of the firm’s qualifying pro bono assistance is US$300,000, a commendable figure given its headcount. It demonstrates a strong belief in giving back to its community in Maharashtra, and focuses on transactional and institutional support for NGOs and child custody, among others.

Yulchon

Yulchon is the youngest of South Korea’s “Big Five”, but demonstrates a pro bono practice that can rival more established firms. It accumulated 5,782 hours of pro bono work in 2015, the second-highest in our research. Levels of partner engagement currently stand at just below half and all pro bono matters are led by a partner and overseen by the committee. The firm is signatory to numerous pro bono organisations including the Korean Society of Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities (KSRPD) and the Seoul Sports Association for the Disabled. It also spearheaded a scholarship programme for students from developing countries to study at the Yulchon-Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS) and recently expanded the number of participants from three to six.

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