Press Release

The American Lawyer Finds Big Firms’ Pro Bono Still at Recession Levels; Notable New Initiatives Include Support for Arab Spring, Detroit Revival

The American Lawyer Finds Big Firms’ Pro Bono Still at Recession Levels; Notable New Initiatives Include Support for Arab Spring, Detroit Revival

NEW YORK – July 1, 2013 – Large law firms’ pro bono contributions remain stuck at recession levels, according to a report in ALM’s The American Lawyer‘s July issue and online at, though creative new initiatives like providing legal support for the Arab Spring movement and for Detroit’s revival can still be found.

Overall pro bono hours performed by Am Law 200 firms, the nation’s largest, actually fell slightly last year to 4,856,093 from 4,892,939 in 2011, as average hours per lawyer declined to 53.9 from 54.3. At least this represents a plateau compared to the prior year’s sharp drop of 5.1 percent in total hours and 3.9 percent in hours per lawyer. Slight gains were registered in 2012 in the average percentage of lawyers performing 20 or more hours of pro bono work, up 0.4 percent to 44 percent, and in the number of firms increasing their pro bono scores, 88 compared to 72 in 2011.

The American Lawyer devotes special attention to two new initiatives. In one, lawyers from firms like Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Covington & Burling, Jones Day, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe have reached out to new regimes and political movements spawned by the Arab Spring to advise on matters ranging from new constitutional and legal frameworks to International Criminal Court proceedings and tracking of overseas assets of previous regimes. The other feature, “Cleanup Crew,” follows the efforts of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn partner Joseph Sgroi to help a Detroit nonprofit clear the city’s many abandoned lots, a key but legally complicated step in its turnaround effort.

According to The American Lawyer‘s pro bono ranking system, which combines average pro bono hours per lawyer with the percentage of lawyers working at least 20 hours, Hughes Hubbard & Reed was the nation’s pro bono leader, followed by Jenner & Block; Paul Hastings;  Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler; Dechert; Arnold & Porter; Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi; Covington & Burling; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. All of the Am Law 200’s pro bono efforts are charted.

Jenner led the pack in average pro bono hours per lawyer with 161.1, followed by Hughes Hubbard with 144.5 and Patterson Belknap with 130.3. The top firms in percentage of lawyers performing at least 20 hours of pro bono were Paul Hastings with 98.0 percent, Hughes Hubbard with 97.9 percent, and Dechert with 97.4 percent; all others were under 90 percent. Fried Frank was most improved in its overall pro bono rank, rising 61 places compared to last year to rank Number 9; Irell & Manella rose 55 places to Number 55, while Armstong Teasdale and Brown Rudnick each rose 31 places to Number 102 and 61 respectively.

Full pro bono survey data are available for purchase in searchable, sortable Excel format from ALM Legal Intelligence at

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