Linklaters has claimed it is too busy for pro bono activities and has dramatically withdrawn support for human rights campaigner Liberty and the Tate museums.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has stepped into the breach by sending a trainee to Liberty, but the Tate is now having to recruit a full-time lawyer to support its head of legal Jacqueline Hill.
A spokesperson for Liberty said: "We rely quite heavily on the trainees."
Linklaters has sent trainees on six-month secondments to both organisations for several years, but the firm recently ended the programmes, citing a need to reallocate the trainees to the City. Linklaters has 250 trainees.
Simon Firth, the firm's partner responsible for trainees, said: "As the firm has become busier, there's more pressure on resources. We've cut back on client secondments over the past few months."
Firth defended the firm's actions, saying that Linklaters has traditionally reviewed its secondment programmes every six months and that the firm had never given a guarantee to any client to keep sending trainees. He admitted that pro bono secondments tended to be popular with trainees.
"We wouldn't at all rule out providing a secondee to these organisations in the future," he added.
Other magic circle firms that send trainees to Liberty pledged their support for pro bono secondment programmes. Michael Smyth, Clifford Chance's head of pro bono, said: "Pro bono-related secondments have become institutional with Clifford Chance and habitually attract more applicants than there are slots available."
Shankari Chandran, Allen & Overy's pro bono head, said: "It's seen as an important part of our offering to trainees."