Leading Firms 2014
Many among the legal profession strongly appreciate their responsibility to ensure access to justice; the responses to this year’s survey once again highlight the commitment of practitioners and law firms to serving their local communities. While all firms who responded to the survey are making valued contributions, some stood out for their innovation and as examples of best practice.
We have shortlisted 10 firms who are paving the way in terms of their approach to the practice of pro bono, and who have achieved senior buy-in across the organisation, generated significant change and selected projects that leverage the skills of lawyers at the firm. We also considered whether the firm had established a pro bono culture and compared the number of hours dedicated to pro bono to the firm’s total billable hours for the same year.
Arnold & Porter
The practice is coordinated by Marsha Tucker and all pro bono hours count as “billable equivalent” up to 15 per cent of the lawyer’s total time. The firm dedicated 105,996 hours to pro bono matters in 2013: an incredible 9 per cent of its total billed hours. This represents the activities of more than 70 per cent of partners, associates and trainees at the firm. During the past year, the firm won two ground-breaking voting rights cases, successfully challenging voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which require voters to present an official government identification card or paper before they can vote. The firm actively encourages all lawyers to work on at least one pro bono matter every year, accounting for 15 per cent of their time. On top of this Arnold & Porter has a committee composed of 24 members to ensure the smooth running of the practice.
2013 saw DLA Piper devote 207,000 hours of pro bono advice to charities, individuals, social enterprises, UN agencies and NGOs. The practice uses the firm’s extensive network and global coverage to take on projects of significant scale. Through its non-profit organisation New Perimeter, it is able to deliver pro bono projects in developing and post-conflict countries. All matters are partner-led or supervised and there is no limit on the number of pro bono hours that count towards a lawyer’s billable target. In 2013 the firm launched a ground-breaking partnership with UNICEF, focused on improving justice for children throughout the world. DLA Piper’s commitment to UNICEF will be to the value of £3 million in legal advice over the next three years, as well as £1 million in corporate donations and fundraising. Through the partnership, DLA Piper lawyers are providing support to UNICEF national committees as they promote law and policy reform to improve the treatment of children who come into contact with the law. The practice is led by two full-time pro bono partners, Nicolas Patrick and Elizabeth Dewey.
ENSafrica’s pro bono practice was established in 2005 in Cape Town, followed by a Johannesburg practice in 2008. In 2013 the firm dedicated 14,691 hours to pro bono, equivalent to 12 per cent of its total billed hours. Participation is high across the board: over 70 per cent of the firm is engaged at partner, associate and trainee level. While there is already a high target of 24 hours per lawyer per year set by the relevant professional bodies, the firm has its own target of 32 hours for each individual, from the chairman down to junior professionals. Compliance with the policy is taken into account during appraisals and when making promotion and compensation decisions. Each quarter a report is compiled and circulated to partners describing the pro bono work that has been undertaken. The firm’s proudest achievement of 2013 is the launch of its Pro Bono Business Centre next to its office in Alexandra, Gauteng. The centre is a hub for business people and entrepreneurs and offers free internet access, meeting and training rooms, business advice by appointment and networking opportunities.
Fischer Behar Chen Well Orion & Co
A full-service firm founded in Israel in 1958, FBC is a dynamic and forward-thinking firm in its approach to delivering legal services; its pro bono practice is no exception. The practice dates back to the firm’s inception and it is currently coordinated by partner Talya Solomon. All pro bono hours are treated as if they were billable, and between 57–70 per cent of trainees, associates and partners are engaged in the work. One of the firm’s standout assignments is its support of Social Finance Israel, a financial intermediary that provides social and financial returns to investors. SFI issues social-financial products such as social impact bonds, in order to raise new capital for the most effective not-for-profit organisations in Israel. SFI recently appeared before the G8 taskforce with a blueprint for tackling type-2 diabetes using social impact bonds. The work is a great example of the firm’s skill at using the talents of its practitioners to support the community.
Kim & Chang
Kim & Chang’s committee for social contribution has steered the way in Korea for the organisation and delivery of pro bono legal services. The firm has committed to providing legal advice to 30 NGOs and groups, including Save the Children and the Korea Differently Abled Federation/Special Olympics Committee. All 423 Korean lawyers met the Korean Bar Association’s requirement of 20 hours of pro bono work in 2013, and 101 lawyers met the firm’s 30-hour target. All pro bono hours are treated as though billable and for each project the firm puts together a team of partners, associates and industry experts to meet the nature and complexity of the matter. In 2013, the firm helped provide a proposal of legislation aimed at compensating South Korean companies that had invested in Gaesong Industrial Complex, a joint industrial park between North Korea (where it is located) and South Korea. These companies suffered losses after North Korea barred South Korean workers from entering the compound as political tensions between the countries escalated. The proposal is currently being considered as an important guideline by the National Assembly, Ministry of Unification and Ministry of Justice.
Kirkland & Ellis
The firm’s commitment to pro bono can be traced back to partner Hammond Chaffetz, one of four founding lawyers of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in 1969. Kirkland formalised its practice in 2007 and hired a firm-wide manager in 2008. In 2013, it contributed more than 95,000 hours to pro bono matters, equivalent to 4 per cent of its total billed hours. The firm sets a target of 3 per cent of billable hours for the firm and an individual target of 20 hours per year for lawyers. Participation in the practice is high – more than 70 per cent of partners, associates and trainees engage in activities – and the practice is organised by a committee who meets four times a year. The firm achieved a landmark victory on behalf of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education in its lawsuit against the state of Maryland for its failure to completely dismantle its formerly segregated system of higher education.
Latham & Watkins
Latham’s pro bono practice was established in 1934 and the firm is committed to devoting at least three per cent of its total billed hours to pro bono, which equates to approximately 60 hours per lawyer per year. Between 56 and 70 per cent of partners are engaged in activities and in 2013, the firm contributed an impressive total of 190,000 hours. The firm has also been working on expanding the global footprint of its pro bono practice and 29,400 hours were devoted to matters outside of the US in 2013 – up from 1,200 hours in 2002. A primary focus of the firm is anti-human trafficking work and in 213, approximately 230 lawyers from 20 of the firm’s offices in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East logged 12,100 hours in this field.
Morrison & Foerster
The practice is run by three full-time pro bono counsel and one senior coordinator. There is no limit to the number of pro bono hours that count towards lawyers’ billable targets. The firm’s commitment to pro bono can be traced back to its work in 1916 assisting in the creation of the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco but the past year has seen commitment taken to a new level by adopting a formal expectation that every lawyer provide an average of at least 25 hours of pro bono services per year. Participation at the firm is high, at over 70 per cent for trainees, associates and partners and the firm is committed to meeting a target of 5 per cent of the firm’s billable hours in the US. Furthermore, every matter is supervised by a partner or senior counsel. In 2013, the firm won the first ever ruling that Title IX requires “clear and affirmative assent” by parents before their children can be placed in single-sex programmes at public schools receiving federal funding.
Norton Rose Fulbright
Given Norton Rose Fulbright’s extensive global network, the pro bono practice is coordinated by a dedicated team of partners and associates throughout the world. Participation at the firm is high, with senior partners and leaders of the firm actively engaged in matters. In order to sustain a pro bono culture the firm encourages the participation of lawyers from entering the firm, for example it ensures that all trainees in the EMEA region participate in the rotas for its sponsored law centres, and throughout their career. The firm’s proudest achievements of 2013 include setting a nationwide child transgender precedent in the US and assisting Aspire Food in Canada which is focused on solving the global food crisis.
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe
Our 2013 pro bono firm of the year, Orrick continues to impress with its firm-wide dedication to pro bono services. Each individual is expected to meet a target of 20 hours per year and pro bono work by partners is considered when determining compensation. The firm’s impact finance practice is market-leading, and its pro bono clients range from not-for-profit organisations and start-up social enterprises to large-scale funds and government entities seeking a social and/or environmental impact alongside financial returns in their business and investing activities. In the past year the firm has also taken on public policy work from its Hong Kong office and provided assistance on law reform issues to Nobel laureate and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Rule of Law.