Esquire Survey Finds: Nine Out of Ten Attorneys Provide Pro Bono Services

But only 35 percent say their firm reinforces the ABA 50-hour pro bono standard

Atlanta, GA, Oct. 24, 2017 – Attorneys don’t get enough credit for doing the right thing. As hard as they work, as noble as their intentions, the jokes, stereotypes, and unflattering opinions persist.

Here’s just one example of attorneys doing the right thing: nine out of ten attorneys did pro bono work last year. Two out of five did more than 51 hours. And more than one-third of the latter did 100 hours or more.

That’s what Esquire Deposition Solutions, LLC (, discovered in a survey of more than 150 litigators for the weeklong National Pro Bono Celebration, which started yesterday.

“Given our commitment to equal access to legal representation, we wanted to look deeper at the pro bono landscape,” said Avi Stadler, Esquire’s general counsel. “Our survey shows that law firms’ and individual lawyers’ commitment to pro bono service is quite strong. That said, we can all do more, and I am proud that Esquire is contributing to this with its corporate social responsibility program.”

The Esquire Pro Bono 2017 Survey found that:

  • 89 percent of attorneys provided pro bono services last year.
  • 42 percent provided 51 hours or more.
  • Of those, 37 percent provided 100 hours or more.

And why did attorneys do it?

“It’s the right thing to do,” was the choice of 90 percent of respondents.

For younger attorneys, however, litigation experience was an important reason for doing pro bono. It was cited by one in four attorneys with one to four years of experience.

The expectation

The American Bar Association’s Model Rule 6.1 says every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay and should aspire to do at least 50 hours of pro bono work per year.

In spotlighting pro bono this week, the ABA is urging the legal community to plan and participate in events assisting homeless youth. It notes “the increasing need for pro bono services during these harsh economic times and the unprecedented response of attorneys to meet this demand.”

Nonetheless, only 35 percent of Esquire survey respondents said their firm supports and reinforces the ABA standard. Forty-three percent indicated their firm doesn’t support the standard, and 22 percent don’t know if the firm does or doesn’t.

Bigger firms are more likely to support the ABA standard. Sixty-four percent of respondents in firms of 500 or more attorneys said their firm supports and reinforces the ABA standard. Support was still fairly strong in the smallest firms – those with one to five lawyers – at 46 percent. The figures were lower for firms in the middle ranges.

How to improve

Clearly, there’s room for more firms to support and reinforce the ABA standard. Esquire asked, what factors do you think would enable more attorneys at your firm to provide pro bono legal services? The answers:

Better selection of pro bono cases that match my interests 24 percent
Lower billable hour requirement 20 percent
Better access to pro bono cases 16 percent
Larger law firm pro bono budget 13 percent
Other 28 percent

Twenty-six percent of those who chose Other suggested that a more encouraging firm culture could enable more attorneys at their workplace to provide pro bono services. Twenty-two percent of those who chose Other suggested providing credit for pro bono work toward billable hours or continuing legal education (CLE) requirements.

The bottom line, as one respondent put it, is that attorneys “must choose to do it.”