The best firms for pro bono 2018
MANY firms scoring highly in our pro bono survey are those with a legacy of focusing on litigation – for example, Jenner & Block (1st) Kramer Levin (2nd), Patterson Belknap (3rd), Gibson Dunn (4th), Munger (6th) and Gibbons (11th). This reflects common feedback we hear that pro bono is more readily available to junior litigators than their transactional counterparts. This is a underlying trend, but to get to the top of this table, firms have to be doing something rather special. Jenner holds its position at the top of this table, and that should be no surprise, if you listen to their associates: “What’s most important about Jenner’s culture is the pro bono. Everyone here has this unwavering dedication to giving back to the community.”
The advertising litigators at Kramer Levin (2nd) picked up on an important point: that their firm “both encourages and – more importantly – doesn't discourage doing pro bono.” The firm has an annual pro bono award, longstanding links to domestic abuse charity Her Justice, and offers a four-month pro bono secondment to Brooklyn Legal Services.
“It gives me an opportunity to take a lead role, so it's really rewarding,” said one Patterson Belknap associate of their pro bono experience. “It's really me doing most of the work and then a partner has an overview of the case. It’s much more hands on, because I'm doing everything.” Gibson Dunn is also a firm which “puts its money where its mouth is” on pro bono, associates said. Juniors at the firm told us they’d been working on asylum cases resulting from President Trump’s travel ban as well as international matters for Lawyers Without Borders.
Firms with a more transactional focus are often outshone in the pro bono stakes, but several do feature in our pro bono top ten. “It’s okay to take on pro bono and partners don’t view it as lesser work,” an associate at Cleary (5th) told us. “They accommodate it as though it were billable, although of course if there are deadlines you sometimes have to prioritize.” Meanwhile an associate at White & Case (placed 7th) praised the efforts of the firm’s global pro bono manager: “I emailed him about trying to meet my pro bono hours and he called me within five minutes to discuss.” The best firms for pro bono recognize the valuable experience it can give juniors, encourage associates to undertake pro bono, value it equally to billable work, and allow young attorneys to pursue those pro bono matters which interest them the most.
We asked associates to rate their firm for how interesting the pro bono work is, whether pro bono helped build their skills, how committed the firm is to pro bono, and whether there is any pressure to NOT do pro bono. The firms listed are those demonstrating strong performance.