‘Significant’ increase in pro bono partners over 20-year period

26 February 2020 By Jerome Doraisamy
Gabriela Christian-Hare

According to new research, there has been a marked increase in the number of dedicated global pro bono partners in law firms, underlining the growing recognition of the value of such roles in the broader partnership.

A new report — produced by DLA Piper in conjunction with the Australian Pro Bono Centre, the Pro Bono Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Thomson Reuters Foundation — has found a significant increase in the appointment of pro bono partners over the last 20 years.

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According to the report, titled The Nature and Prevalence of Pro Bono Partner Roles Globally, there were only six dedicated pro bono partners globally in the 1990s, whereas as of last year, there were 66 examples of dedicated pro bono partners in more than 55 law firms.

This illustrates, the report’s authors noted in a statement, “the importance of this role in demonstrating a firm’s commitment to providing pro bono work and access to justice, its desire to show leadership and best practice in this area and a growing recognition of the value such roles bring to the broader partnership”.

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Moreover, the report revealed that senior and experienced pro bono lawyers in BigLaw firms offer pro bono work “on a wide range of issues from supporting vulnerable or low-income individuals on housing and immigration issues — either directly or through the non-profit organisations that support those in need — to advising UN agencies, chief justices and prime ministers in developing countries”.

Speaking about the findings, DLA Piper partner Nicolas Patrick said that the nature of pro bono work has evolved “enormously” over the past decade.

“Pro bono practices are much larger and often operate across multiple jurisdictions. The work is increasingly complex, frequently connected to humanitarian emergencies and almost always requires strategic engagement with a range of stakeholders,” he said.

“The growth in pro bono partner roles directly reflects these trends.”

Australian Pro Bono Centre CEO Gabriela Christian-Hare added: “Strong coordination and senior leadership support are critical to the success of any pro bono practice. The appointment of a dedicated pro bono partner sends a strong message from senior management that pro bono legal work is highly valued, respected and prioritised.”

She concluded: “This report signals a growing recognition among firms that such an investment also supports the sustainability of a practice and helps to deeply enmesh pro bono practice in the culture and strategic direction of a firm.”

‘Significant’ increase in pro bono partners over 20-year period
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