Now that Thanksgiving Day is over, don’t get out of the spirit just yet because Christmas and the New Year is right around the corner, a time of year when many people reflect on what they have to be thankful for, as well as what they can contribute to better the lives of others. In the run-up to the holiday, Robert Half Legal released some telling data about how lawyers are giving back through pro bono work.
The data shows that attorneys in general have gotten more generous with their time and energy over the last few years as far as pro bono is concerned. The legal staffing agency broke the numbers down for CorpCounsel.com to show that in-house lawyers are no exception to the rule.
“Pro bono is so important, and legal professionals are responding to help meet the increased demand for legal pro bono work,” Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal told CorpCounsel.com.
Of the 175 corporate counsel interviewed by phone by the agency, 25 percent said they increased either slightly or significantly the number of hours they work on a pro bono or volunteer basis over the last five years. This is somewhat lower than the overall percentage of lawyers doing slightly or a lot more pro bono—33 percent—but corporate departments are still clocking a fair amount of hours.
For in-house counsel, the average number of pro bono hours reported annually was 41, and some 32 percent dedicate 50 or more hours of their time each year to pro bono service. Some 5 percent are huge contributors, devoting 200 hours or more of their time to pro bono work.
| M. Joseph Miller II. President & Founder|
Trial By Peers,
formerly the Clark County Youth Law Foundation.
"Over 20 years of volunteering &
doing for the community as best I can"
In August, the American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted a resolution that might help even more in-house attorneys give back through pro bono. The resolution requests that in-house lawyers be allowed to do pro bono in the jurisdiction where they are employed, even if they are not licensed to practice law there. Currently, all jurisdictions allow in-house counsel to practice where they are unlicensed in the context of employment with a company, but not all jurisdictions allow them to do pro bono work where they are unlicensed.
Volkert said that in his experience, candidates for legal jobs are certainly attracted to companies or law firms with more pro bono clout, and especially those with full-fledged pro bono programs. “They want to know about the pro bono environment,” he said. “Many legal job applicants value a strong pro bono culture within a corporate legal department or within a law firm, depending on which they’re pursuing.”
The Robert Half data revealed that for in-house lawyers specifically, and lawyers overall, the greatest motivation for doing pro bono was “helping others.” This was followed by “developing skills or legal expertise” and “enhancing professional reputation or career.”
Besides being a win-win for the in-house attorney and the pro bono client, offering a pro bono program can have other benefits for the law department, explained Volkert. “It can really put a name out there for an in-house legal department for giving back to the community,” he said. It’s also a way of getting in-house attorneys to collaborate and work closely together.
Pro bono can also improve bonds between in-house attorneys and their outside counsel, Volkert added. A small legal department can take on a bigger project than they might have otherwise if they let the law firms of their choice get in on it.
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