Rising Pro Bono Hours Reflect Legal Industry’s Changing Face via Law360

Posted on 08-02-2016 by
Tags: ROL , LIT , Pro Bono , Cares

The article below has been republished in full courtesy of Law360, written by Melissa Maleske . 

Law360, Chicago (July 27, 2016, 8:38 PM ET) -- Lawyers work an average of 64 hours of pro bono work annually, up eight hours from two years ago, according to a new survey, and the consultancy behind the report says it might be a case of law firms responding to shifts in attorney expectations and evolving in the long shadow of the last financial crisis.

Robert Half Legal interviewed 350 law firm attorneys in the U.S. and Canada to find that nearly a third of lawyers donate 80 or more hours to pro bono or volunteer service annually — up 7 points since the legal staffing and consulting provider last conducted the survey in 2014 — including 9 percent who donate 200-plus hours each year and 20 percent who donate 100 to 199 hours a year.

Robert Half’s executive director Charles Volkert chalks up some of the rise to shifting generational priorities.

“I think some of the trends we’ve been hearing about were confirmed in these survey results: The Millennial generation and an increased focus by law firms over the last number of years on the importance of pro bono work, giving back to the communities and being involved in community legal work," Volkert said.

Employee morale and a competitive hiring market are two big factors that make pro bono good business. Law firms know that today’s lawyers are more likely to see a strong firm pro bono culture as a draw, so some firms are putting a sharp focus on pro bono as a method of recruiting and retaining employees. Volkert says the new generation of candidates want to see it, and they also want to feel supported by their firms in their charitable activities. Pro bono can also expose young lawyers to practice areas they otherwise might never have seen firsthand and help them enhance their skill sets, he says.

“I think firms are looking for additional lawyers, maybe to free up time or at least to have that culture internally where they’re promoting the pro bono work,” Volkert said.

Meanwhile, the ongoing need for low-cost and pro bono legal services is not likely to flag, he says, especially as legal fees continue to mount.

While pro bono hours may be up overall, some results indicate a decline in certain segments. Namely, 16 percent of lawyers said they work less than 10 hours a week, up from just 8 percent in 2014. That could just be a function of the economy picking back up, the demand for talent returning and workloads increasing.

“I don’t think that number is pointing to a lack of desire, but it may just be a lack of time and ability to give back as much as they wanted to,” he said.

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