TrustLaw Index Shows Pro Bono is Thriving Globally with Small Firms Leading the Way

Topics: Access to Justice, Corporate Legal, Government, Law Firms, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Pro Bono, Surveys

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Pro bono is thriving, according to the results of the third TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global benchmark mapping the scale and trends of the pro bono legal sector internationally.

Over the last 12 months, respondents donated over 2.5 million hours of free legal support, according to the Index. On average, lawyers invested about one week (39.2 hours) per year of their time assisting charities, non-profits, social enterprises and individuals in need of legal services, free of charge. Interestingly, small law firms performed the highest number pro bono hours, averaging 41.7 hours per lawyer each year.

The Index compiled data collected from more than 130 law firms — both large and small — representing 64,500 lawyers in 75 countries and providing a snapshot of the resources mobilized by the industry in support of social causes, while also monitoring the growth of the sector globally.

High levels of pro bono hours were not just coming from lawyers in the U.K., U.S. and Australia, which are traditionally known as the leading pro bono markets; in fact, 2015 saw a spike of pro bono hours for firms in South Africa and China, which reported higher average hours than any other countries, with the exception of the U.S.

In particular, China’s lawyers clocked an astonishing 37 hours of pro bono work on average annually – similar to what’s seen in well-established markets such as Australia, and even above the hours recorded in England and Wales. China is definitely the country to watch. Its pro bono growth is remarkable: up 211% since the TrustLaw Index began in 2014.

The Index also indicates how lawyers have consistently proven themselves to be incredibly generous with their skills, expertise and resources.

Overall, Asia saw an unprecedented increase of 40% year-on-year in pro bono hours performed since 2014.

The Index also indicates how lawyers have consistently proven themselves to be incredibly generous with their skills, expertise and resources. It also shows the adaptability of the pro bono sector and the capacity to spot new needs and act accordingly.

For example, one of the most fascinating aspects of the report is in fact to note how lawyers responded to the international refugee crisis by increasing pro bono support globally. The survey reports that the category “Immigration, Refugees and Asylum” was selected as a key focus area for pro bono work by 41.4% of firms — a substantial increase compared to the previous two years (24% and 28%, respectively).

The core mission of TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service, is to spread the practice of pro bono worldwide to drive social change. Today, TrustLaw operates in more than 170 countries, bringing together more than 580 top law firms and in-house counsel teams with 2,600 of the best social impact organizations around the world. In less than six years, TrustLaw has connected more than 2,300 legal teams with high-impact NGOs and social entrepreneurs.

You can download a copy of the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono here.