The 2016 edition of the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono benchmarking tool, was just released. The findings from the Index, which is designed to be a hub for information and trends in the pro bono sector, show that lawyers are consistently generous with their skills, expertise and resources.

Compiled with data collected from over 130 law firms, comprising over 64,500 lawyers in 75 jurisdictions, we’re proud to report that pro bono is thriving globally. Lawyers at respondent firms undertook more than 2.5 million hours of pro bono over the last year, which works out at just a fraction under 40 hours of pro bono per lawyer, per year.

Forty hours, a full working week, is a significant amount of time to devote to support non-profits, social enterprises, individuals in need and other pro bono clients. It is something the legal fraternity should be proud of.

The view of the Thomson Reuters Foundation is that information is key. All our activities are geared to ensure that organisations and individuals have the tools, data, connections and resources available to make informed decisions and have a positive impact in the communities in which they operate or live. Now in its third year, the Index was also born of this thinking.

Our vision is to provide vital information to firms from China to South Africa and around the world to help them understand how to shape and develop their pro bono practices to be successful and high impact, as well as to provide benchmarking data from a wide breath of jurisdictions to help lawyers better understand the context in which they work.

We know that firms have leveraged the information provided in the Index to advocate for additional resources to drive pro bono within their firms, to develop their own pro bono policies, and importantly, to garner ideas on how they can encourage their own lawyers to do more, and to do better.

The Index this year unearthed some fascinating findings. Not only were we able to highlight the rapid growth in Asia (where firms have seen year-on-year growth of around 40 percent in pro bono since the Index began), but also there was a marked increase in the number of firms that are working on projects and initiatives relating to immigration, refugees and asylum matters.

It is the latter finding that was of particular interest to me. Given the dislocation of large populations across the Middle East, the Sahel and elsewhere, it is clear law firms are adapting their pro bono programmes to tackle the challenges faced by refugees, their communities and the organisations that are supporting them – and they have done so with great success. But to be effective requires firms to really understand what resources they have available and how to deploy them, which in turn requires robust monitoring mechanisms.

This is where I see the Index playing a previously unforeseen role. We know that firms nascent to pro bono are, and in many cases for the first time, recording pro bono hours and making firm-wide decisions about the intent of their pro bono efforts on the back of the Index, and we commend the use of this information to respond to the changing needs of the world around them. Seeing lawyers, even those in commercial practice, stepping up to provide life-changing pro bono support with the backing of their firms is nothing short of admirable.

This post was written by Nicholas Glicher, director, Legal head of African Programmes, Thomson Reuters Foundation.


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