Pro bono popularity holds steady
By Richard Szabo
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Amid global economic turmoil and dwindling workflows, US lawyers are showing good spirit and using their spare time to do more pro bono work.
According to Dechert chairman Barton Winokur, at least seven of that firm's associates are expected do full-time pro bono work for about three to six months.
The associates have extra capacity due to a slowdown in structured finance work.
Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft has similarly increased pro bono hours, while Akin Gump partner Steven Schulman said his firm's annual pro bono hours rose from 69 to 85 hours per attorney in 2007-08.
In most parts of Asia, international firms chose to leave their pro bono work to their US headquarters. One of the few exceptions was Tokyo-based Paul Hastings partner Alexander Jampel, who said that there had been a steady flow of pro bono work.
"It has been consistent with previous years. We don't plan to make staff work solely on pro bono; we just want all attorneys to work on some matters. About half of our lawyers work on pro bono and most of the partners do it, too," he said.
The move has been welcomed by the Pro Bono Institute in Washington, DC, whose president, Esther Lardent, said the increase is a change from how some firms tended to discourage pro bono before the 2001 recession. Apparently, some firms stopped giving equal credit for pro bono time and increased billable hour quotas.
The Association of the Bar of the City of New York observed increased attendance for a pro bono training session in October. Instead of an expected attendance of 80, there were 245 guests.