Pro Bono Leading Firms

There is a strong tradition of ensuring access to justice among the legal profession and this year’s survey responses once again highlight the commitment by law firms and their practitioners to giving back to their local communities. While all those who took part in the survey are making valued contributions, the following 10 firms stood out as examples of best practice.


Clayton Utz

Kirkland & Ellis

DLA Piper

Kim & Chang

Latham & Watkins

Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey Jr e Quiroga

Morrison & Foerster

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe   

Schulte Roth & Zabel

White & Case


  Number of full-time members in the pro bono team Total hours of pro bono in 2014 Average number of hours per fee-earner Number of lawyers recording 10 or more hours Does pro bono count towards billable hours? Level of partner engagement
Clayton Utz 3 34,102 48 448 (69%) yes above 70%
Dla Piper 14 202,500 69 2,584 (88%) yes 56 - 70%
Kim & Chang - 20,225 25 256 (32%) yes 26 - 40%
Kirkland & Ellis 4 117,106 82 - yes above 70%
Latham & Watkins 2 170,135 55 1458 (47%) yes above 70%
Mattos Filho - 3,711 8 65 (15%) yes 11 - 25%
Morrison & Foerster 5 97,684 93 631 (72%) yes above 70%
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe 2 70,929 71 729 (72%) yes above 70%
Schulte Roth & Zabe 3 18,062 51 - yes 26 -40%
White & Case 6 75,156 40 995 (44%) yes 41 - 55%



Clayton Utz is first in class when it comes to pro bono in Australia. The practice was established in 1997 and continues to go from strength to strength with the firm completing 34,102 hours of pro bono assistance in 2014. Buy-in across the firm is one of its greatest strengths: engagement levels from partners to trainees is above 70 per cent and 488 lawyers completed 10 or more pro bono hours in 2014. In order to achieve these incredible figures and institutionalise the practice, the firm has implemented a 40-hour pro bono key performance indicator which lawyers must meet in order to be eligible for a bonus or promotion to senior associate and partner.


DLA Piper has one of the largest pro bono practices of our respondents, with 14 full-time lawyers. Its sheer size in terms of headcount and network of offices enables the firm to take on pro bono projects of significant scale. In 2014, the firm dedicated 202,500 hours to pro bono matters, including its continued partnership with UNICEF on improving child justice worldwide; to date, lawyers at the firm have spent over 9,000 hours tackling child rights issues. In ensuring the institutionalisation of the practice DLA Piper factors pro bono participation into appraisals and performance reviews, as well as compensation determination for all lawyers, including its partners. 


Kim & Chang’s pro bono practice had another strong year in 2014, with a total of 20,225.5 hours devoted to pro bono matters and 256 of the firm’s 800 lawyers recording 10 hours or more of pro bono time. Highlights of the firm’s work include revising legal terminologies of the physically disabled to enhance the legal system for social minorities. The firm worked with Special Olympics Korea and the Korea Differently Abled Federation in its first joint project, which resulted in the South Korean cabinet accepting Kim & Chang’s proposal of the revisions concerning 14 ordinances including Consumption Tax Act. 


Kirkland & Ellis’ commitment to pro bono starts at the top. The former chair of the firm’s global management executive committee is the co-chair of the pro bono management committee and the leader of the pro bono programme. The firm spent a total of 117,106 hours on pro bono matters in 2014 with engagement levels above 70 per cent, encompassing partners down to trainees joining the firm. Not only are partners engaged, they also supervise all matters. The firm’s proudest achievement in the last year includes two LGBT victories, one of which saw Kirkland work with Lambda Legal to represent couples arguing that Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. A district court granted summary judgment and on 4 September 2014 the US Court of Appeals for the seventh circuit affirmed the decision. After the Supreme Court denied Indiana’s petition for writ of certiorari, same-sex couples began marrying in October.


The practice is run by two full-time staff, and the firm is committed to devoting at least 3 per cent of its billable hours to pro bono each year. In 2014 Latham & Watkins spent 170,135 hours on pro bono matters, exceeding its firm-wide target. A key area of focus for the practice is anti-human trafficking; it is currently representing 47 plaintiffs in the largest human trafficking civil action in US history. The firm continues to broaden its pro bono footprint across its network and has active practices in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the US.


In 2014, the firm devoted 3,711 hours to pro bono matters, exceeding its target of 3,000 hours. Despite pro bono participation not being factored into performance review or compensation, many of the firm’s lawyers are heavily engaged with 65 lawyers recording at least 10 hours or more. Mattos Filho has been involved in an interesting project in 2014, working with Yunus Social Business in Brazil focused on accelerating, incubating and financing local entrepreneurs to build sustainable solutions with social impact. The project was created and is led by Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.


Engagement levels at Morrison & Foerster are exemplary, with more than 70 per cent of partners and associates involved in the practice. The firm recorded 97,684 hours of pro bono work in 2014; of its 1,049 lawyers, 641 recorded at least 10 hours. The past year saw the firm successfully negotiate a $2.075 million settlement for seven former foster children in their lawsuit against Clark County, Nevada. Morrison & Foerster and the National Center for Youth Law won a 2012 ninth circuit decision reinstating the case, following a 2010 federal district court decision that had dismissed it. Despite government defendants continuing to attempt to get the case dismissed, settlement talks began in 2014 following extensive discovery and an agreement was reached just after the end of 2014. The litigation resulted in an important legal precedent, which held that foster children have a constitutional right to safety and proper medical care while in government custody.


Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe’s pro bono practice was established in 2005 and consists of two full-time members. The firm’s dedication to pro bono runs through all levels of the firm, and more than 70 per cent of partners, associates and trainees take part in pro bono activities. In 2014, the firm spent 70,929 hours on pro bono and, most impressively, all of its fee earners in the US recorded 10 or more hours. Outside the US, lawyers at the firm’s offices in Africa, Asia and Europe are all heavily involved in pro bono work. In 2014, the firm helped to close a five-year $10 million credit facility for the Pledge Guarantee for Health and the Calvert Foundation to accelerate delivery of life-saving health supplies in the developing world. The credit facility is available to non-profit borrowers and can be used in nearly any country in the world.


The firm’s pro bono practice was established in 1969 and has a tradition of representing non-profit organisations serving the poor in New York, the US and internationally. Schulte Roth & Zabel currently serves around 75 non-profit clients in this outside general counsel role and in 2014 devoted 18,062 hours to pro bono matters. The past year saw the firm achieve a landmark victory in New York, in a historic agreement establishing that the state will take responsibility for ensuring that lawyers will be present at first appearances and arraignments. The case, Hurrell-Harring v New York 15 NY 3d 8, saw the firm serve alongside the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation as co-counsel and creates statewide eligibility standards for the appointment of counsel.


In the US, 524 of the firm’s 712 fee-earners recorded 10 or more hours of pro bono. Further afield, the firm’s offices in Europe, the Middle East, South Africa and Asia also made a significant contribution to the firm’s total hours in 2014 –representing 25,200 hours of its 75,156-hour total. To promote participation the firm factors a lawyer’s pro bono activity into compensation determination and performance reviews. White & Case’s proudest moment in the past year was collaborating with Bhutan to create its first law school. The firm’s involvement began in 2009, at the request of the King of Bhutan, when the firm undertook a three-month study of the landscape for legal education. In mid-2014 the curriculum for the five-year programme was crafted, and in February 2015 the King signed a royal charter for the law school. The school is expected to open in autumn 2017, and will help guarantee the rule of law as Bhutan consolidates its democratic transition.

Back to top

Copyright © 2019 Law Business Research Ltd. All rights reserved. |

87 Lancaster Road, London, W11 1QQ, UK | Tel: +44 20 7908 1180 / Fax: +44 207 229 6910 |

Law Business Research Ltd

87 Lancaster Road, London
W11 1QQ, UK