Posted by: johnocunningham | July 25, 2011

Good Legal Deeds Worthy of Notice

I recently read on PR Newswire that 138 of the nation’s largest firms are enlisted in the Law Firm Pro Bono project of the Pro Bono Institute, and that those firms have donated more than 4.4 million hours of legal service to the indigent in the past year. If you figure a moderate average billing rate of $250 per hour per large firm lawyer, that is a contribution of more than $1 billion of time !

That got me to thinking about just how many lawyers contribute pro bono work nationwide and how much time they give.  I searched, and sure enough I found a 2009 ABA report on Pro Bono work, which indicates that 90 percent of the nation’s lawyers devote a portion of their time to pro bono service (for the indigent or for local non-profits and charities).

The report also indicates that each lawyer commits an average of more than 40 hours per year to pro bono work.  Given that there are more than 1.2 million licensed lawyers in the U.S., the estimated total of pro bono hours worked each year by the profession would be more than 40 million hours. Using the same estimate of $250 per hour per lawyer, one could reasonably estimate the total value of legal time donated per year at more than $10 billion.

Lawyers are a great target for humor and even ridicule, but they deserve a bit of thanks for this work, and I see precious little coverage of it in the mainstream media. The occupation of law is demanding, competitive and highly pressurized.  The fact that so many lawyers (90 percent) take time to ply their trade for NOTHING in order to serve the greater good is worth noting; and I think it is worth writing about !


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