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In Challenging Economy, U.S. Lawyers Increase Pro Bono Service

What do lawyers do during an economic downturn, when there is less work available?  A lot of them are doing more pro bono work in their spare time.

ALB Legal News reports that many attorneys in the United States are increasing the time they dedicate to handling pro bono matters.  Those volunteer lawyers work at such firms as Dechert LLP; Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft; Akin Gump; and Paul Hastings, to cite a few examples.

Some organizations are also noticing the increase in pro bono work.  For instance, in October 2008, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York held a pro bono training session and 245 guests attended the program instead of the 80 attendees that were expected.  Similarly, Esther Lardent, the president of the Washington, DC-based Pro Bono Institute, welcomed the increased pro bono service, noting that law firms had tended to discourage pro bono work before the 2001 recession.

This is good news for our profession because the pro bono work helps lawyers stay busy while keeping their skills sharp and exposing them to some areas of law practice that they might not otherwise encounter.  Moreover, performing significant pro bono service can improve the public's perception of lawyers.  Additionally, the public benefits because there is always a need for pro bono legal work, and that need may be greater during difficult economic times when the numbers of bankruptcy and foreclosure actions are increasing.  Lawyers' pro bono efforts can provide a uniquely appropriate benefit to the public during a recession because they make legal services more available to some of the persons most severely affected by the slowing of the economy.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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