Leading Firms 2013

By evaluating the responses we were able to identify those paving the way in terms of their firm’s contribution, level of participation and efforts to institutionalise pro bono. Ten firms impressed with their level of dedication, ingenuity and enthusiasm earning a place in our list of leading firms.

Our list includes seven international firms who draw on vast resources of lawyers and offices to perform pro bono activities throughout the world. These firms include WilmerHale, White & Case, Vinson & Elkins, Sidley Austin, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Kirkland & Ellis and DLA Piper. In addition we recognise the achievements of Mexican firm Von Wobeser y Sierra which contributed five per cent of the firm’s total billed hours to pro bono in 2012, Kim & Chang in South Korea distinguished by their forward thinking approach to the delivery of pro bono services and Clayton Utz which recently achieved 35 hours per lawyer per year in all six of their Australian offices

Clayton Utz – The firm contributed an impressive total of 42,985 hours in its firm year 2013, representing four per cent of the firm’s total billed hours. Further achievements include reaching the National Pro Bono Resource Centre in Australia’s aspirational target of at least 35 hours per lawyer per year in all six of the firm’s Australian offices and being the first national firm in Australia in 2005 to appoint a full-time pro bono partner. The firm displays a strong level of commitment to pro bono across all levels of the firm with above 70 per cent engagement among partners, associates and trainees. Over the past 16 years the firm has delivered 429,204 hours of pro bono work – a record for any Australian firm. The pro bono practice is headed by David Hillard, a dedicated pro bono partner, and supported by a full-time pro bono senior associate and lawyer, as well as seven part-time pro bono coordinators across the firm’s six Australian offices. 

DLA Piper – In 2012, the firm donated a remarkable 191,800 hours to pro bono representing three per cent of its total billed hours. The firm has two full-time dedicated partners: Nicolas Patrick, who is head of pro bono and corporate responsibility in the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific, and Lisa Dewey in the US who serves as the director for New Perimeter. New Perimeter draws on the skills and talents of more than 4,200 DLA Piper lawyers globally and each year these lawyers dedicate between 13,000 and 15,000 hours at a value of $6-7 million. Established in 2005, New Perimeter is a non-profit organisation through which the firm provides pro bono work in less developed and post-conflict countries.

Kim & Chang – One of the largest law firms in South Korea, Kim & Chang is particularly forward thinking when it comes to the delivery of its pro bono services. Although the pro bono practice was officially established in 1999, in 2013 the firm launched ‘Kim & Chang Committee for Social Contribution’ to help encourage participation. The firm identified targets including performing two to three new pro bono projects each month. While the Korean Bar Association already requires individuals to provide 20 hours of pro bono per year, the firm targets 30 hours. The success of its practice can be seen in the firm’s figures, in 2012 – between 10 and 15,000 hours were spent on pro bono. Further evidence of the firm’s commitment can be seen in the firm’s online system through which applications for public interest litigation and legislative assistance can be submitted.

Kirkland & Ellis – The firm’s pro bono practice is led by a partner and a counsel and it was established in 2007. In 2012, the firm donated more than 40,000 hours representing four per cent of its total billed hours and participation at the firm is highly encouraging with more than 70 per cent of partners and associates engaging in activities. During the presidential election in 2012, lawyers in the Chicago, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco and DC offices monitored Election Day voting for Election Protection. In a particularly impressive feat, the New York office held its call centre just a week after Hurricane Sandy, helping to pick up calls from additional states when they had to drop out due to storm damage. Leading from the top the firm’s former chairman of the global management executive committee Thomas Yannucci is co-chair of the pro bono management committee and leads the pro bono programme alongside Marjorie Lindblom, of counsel to the firm.

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe – Orrick has had a strong tradition of pro bono work since its foundation. More than 40,000 hours were spent on pro bono in 2012 – four per cent of the firm’s total billed hours and above 70 per cent of the firm at partner, associate and trainee level are engaged in activities. The firm has two full-time lawyers, Rene Kathawala and Jill Rosenberg, who are charged with developing innovative and impactful pro bono opportunities for all lawyers and circulating them on a daily basis. One member of the management team has also made it her goal to ensure pro bono participation among partners. The firm has a cutting edge social sector finance team which works closely with stakeholders to facilitate the delivery of basic goods and services to underserved populations and helps ensure that double to triple bottom line investment objectives are met.

Sidley Austin – The firm’s pro bono practice continues to go from strength to strength and this year, under the leadership of Rebecca Troth, donated more than 40,000 hours representing 3.4 per cent of the firm’s total billed hours. 2012 also saw the firm launch its first global pro bono project, the Africa-Asia Agricultural Enterprise Pro Bono Program. As a signatory of the Pro Bono Institute’s Pro Bono Challenge, the firm aims to contribute three per cent of the firm’s total billable hours and has exceeded this goal for the past six years. The firm’s efforts to institutionalise pro bono are evident in the consideration of pro bono in determining compensation, evaluating associates’ performance and the equal treatment of pro bono and paid client work.

Vinson & Elkins – In 2012, V&E named Harry Reasoner, former managing partner, as pro bono chair. Setting an example from above, Reasoner is committed to encouraging lawyers to take part to make a difference to the lives of individuals and committees. The firm has a broad pro bono practice which includes asylum, reuniting mothers and children, assisting Holocaust victims in the US with obtaining reparations from the German government and representing veterans and active duty military personnel with legal problems. The firm asks that individual lawyers commit to at least 50 hours of pro bono work each year and in 2012, V&E spent a total of between 30,000 and 40,000 hours on pro bono matters – three per cent of the firm’s total billed hours in line with its commitment to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.

Von Wobeser y Sierra – The firm formalised its pro bono practice in 2007, the same year that it signed the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas. 2012 saw the firm donate approximately 2,000 hours - an impressive five per cent of the firm’s total billed hours. The firm asks each lawyer to donate 25 hours annually and an example of its work includes supporting the Mitz project with Mars, who donate excess packaging material to artisans who use traditional techniques to weave the packaging into bags and accessories which are then sold.

White & Case – In 2012, more than 220 lawyers from across 27 offices worldwide spent more than 5,500 hours on the firm’s anti-human trafficking and modern-day slavery initiative. As part of this project, more than 175 lawyers researched and summarised human trafficking case law in 163 countries to create a global online database for the UN office on drugs and crime. The firm has developed a sophisticated practice which is led by Ian Forrester QC, a senior partner in Brussels and supported by more than 100 partners who serve as pro bono leaders throughout the world to encourage, supervise and bring in pro bono matters for the firm. The firm contributed 88,000 hours in 2012.

WilmerHale – WilmerHale’s pro bono contribution is highly impressive. In 2012, it donated 129,979 pro bono hours. Participation is also inspiring with more than 70 per cent of partners and associates engaging in activities. The firm ensures pro bono participation by support and leadership from top level management which is backed up by a structured and well staffed pro bono team. Its highlights from 2012 include a significant victory on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when the First Circuit held the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and renewing its commitment to its eight philanthropic partners which includes Bread for the City in DC.


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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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