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 firms who took part in the survey are making valued contributions, the following 10 firms stood out as examples of best practice.
|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 & Zabel||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 its pro bono practice 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 its 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 compensation determination for all lawyers, including its partners.
It’s been another strong year for Kim & Chang’s pro bono practice, 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 ]revisions concerning 14 ordinances (including the Consumption Tax Act).
Kirkland & Ellis’ commitment to pro bono starts at the top. The former chairman of the firm’s global management executive committee, Thomas Yannucci, 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 achievements of the last year include 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, couples began marrying in October.
The practice is run by two full-time members 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 counteracting human trafficking, and Latham & Watkins is currently representing 47 of the 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. 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, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
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; and 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 (Las Vegas) 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 which previously dismissed it. Despite the 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 of the US, lawyers in the firm’s offices in Africa, Asia and Europe are all heavily involved. In 2014, the firm helped to close a five-year $10 million credit facility for Pledge Guarantee for Health and 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. Hurrell-Harring v New York 15 NY 3d 8 saw the firm serve alongside the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation as co-counsel; the case created statewide eligibility standards for the appointment of counsel.
Across White & Case’s US offices, 524 fee-earners (out of a total of 712) recorded 10 or more hours of pro bono. 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 the overall 75,156 total. To promote participation, each lawyer’s pro bono activity is factored into compensation determination and performance reviews. White & Case’s proudest moment in the last year was collaborating with Bhutan to create the country’s first law school. The firm’s involvement began back 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 a 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.