Law firms remain committed to pro bono amid global crises

by The Foundation
Thursday, 9 February 2023 10:26 GMT

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of the 2022 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono.

The Index is the fifth edition of the Foundation’s survey mapping the global scale and trends of the pro bono legal sector, and the most comprehensive to date. It highlights successful pro bono programmes and provides benchmarks on pro bono participation, offering law firms a unique resource to build and improve their pro bono practices.

Throughout 2022, devastating global crises caused unprecedented disruption to people, communities and businesses. Existing crises like climate change, the suppression of free and fair media and the widening inequality gap have been exacerbated, while the consequences of geopolitical tensions have introduced new challenges for the world to contend with. Despite this, the Index found that law firms’ commitment to the practice of legal pro bono has remained strong, assisting charities, non-profits, social enterprises and individuals in need.

The 2022 Index revealed that 3.5 million hours of pro bono were completed globally by more than 100,000 lawyers across 124 countries. They advised on a range of issues such as access to justice, sustainability and climate action to human rights, women and LGBT+ rights, and freedom of speech.

The Index remains the only one of its kind – a truly global look at the pro bono sector that fills the gap in jurisdictions where information on the scale and practice of pro bono is scant or non-existent. I believe using data as a tool allows us to understand better where the industry is going, set essential benchmarks, and build up support for the practice,” said Carolina Henriquez-Schmitz, Director of TrustLaw, Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Law firms with dedicated pro bono structures report better engagement

Data from the Index highlighted the value of establishing a dedicated pro bono infrastructure. 89 per cent of surveyed firms reported the presence of pro bono structures such as policies, committees or dedicated staff. Fee earners at these firms clocked double the average hours of pro bono compared to firms without such investments. 61 per cent of firms had one or more staff in a pro bono role, and firms with such a role recorded triple the average pro bono hours compared to firms without.

An incredible 96 per cent of firms reported that their motivation for doing pro bono was to support their local communities, while over a quarter reported an increase in pro bono activity as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This demonstrates the resilience of pro bono in the midst of global crises and shows that legal professionals are stepping up to provide life-changing support to the people and organisations most impacted.

“It is inspiring to see the resilience of the pro bono sector in the face of the severe disruption caused by ongoing global crises. Legal support can be prohibitively expensive for NGOs, charities and social enterprises; free legal aid enables them to dedicate more resources to delivering their vital work. The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s TrustLaw network connects the legal community to such organisations, helping our members to make tangible commitments to social change and contributing to strengthening free, fair and informed societies,” said Antonio Zappulla, CEO, Thomson Reuters Foundation.

TrustLaw is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service, which connects high-impact NGOs and social enterprises working to create social and environmental change with leading law firms and corporate legal teams to provide them with free legal assistance. Since 2010, the pro bono service has facilitated over 7,000 legal projects across 175 countries – empowering thousands of organisations to achieve greater impact.

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