US firm Arnold & Porter has come out best in the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s 2015 index of pro bono, with its lawyers averaging nearly 80 hours each per year.

Every single one of Arnold & Porter’s London fee-earners contributed at least ten hours of pro bono work last year. The firm is small in London, with only 40 lawyers, and takes on trainees only every other year.

However, just 38 firms with offices in England and Wales responded to the survey and just 26 provided data, the vast majority of those being US-founded.

Only seven firms with no American heritage (US-founded or with a US merger in their history) responded: Ashurst, Bates Wells Braithwaite, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, Nabarro and Simmons & Simmons. This mirrors research by Lawyer 2B last year, which found that 17 of 94 firms surveyed set their lawyers pro bono hours targets. Of those 17, 11 were US-founded.

Nicolas Patrick, DLA Piper’s head of pro bono, told Lawyer 2B the low number of firms reporting firms reflected poor performance. He said: “Firms will only start publicly reporting pro bono results once their results reach a respectable level. It will take a couple of years for firms to fix their performance and when they do, they will start reporting.”

Patrick added: ”Several firms have recently increased the size and strength of their pro bono teams, as a way to build up their pro bono practices. Nearly 30 firms have signed up to the UK pro bono target which is 25 hours per lawyer per year.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Its index, which is in its second year after launching in 2014, found that factoring pro bono into the appraisal process makes a significant impact on both the percentage of lawyers who take part and the amount they do. Lawyers at firms where pro bono is included in the appraisal performed 35.9 hours of pro bono, compared to 23.3 hours at firms where it wasn’t.

Globally, the report argues that medium-sized firms – “too large to allow the individual flexibility seen in smaller firms, yet not large enough to have the capacity and resources to devote to these projects” – are the ones where pro bono is hardest to do.

The survey found that firms of over 100 fee earners averaged 34.1 hours per fee earner per year and firms with under 20 fee earners averaged 22.3 hours, while firms in between averaged 19.3 hours.

See also

The respondents

Firm Average hours per fee-earner Fee-earners doing 10+ hours of pro bono
Arnold & Porter 79.25 100.00%
Morrison & Foerster 63.17 65.85%
Dechert 55.09 87.86%
Paul Hastings 50.41 89.29%
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom 48.24 59.83%
Faegre Baker Daniels 46.8 60.00%
Weil, Gotshal & Manges 45.25 64.79%
McDermott Will & Emery 39.68 55.00%
Hogan Lovells 34.8 46.99%
Debevoise & Plimpton 33.33 55.00%
Simmons & Simmons 31.2
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 30.74
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe 29.08 51.61%
Reed Smith 26.81 48.16%
DLA Piper 26.13 56.70%
Latham & Watkins 25.68 38.13%
Bates Wells Braithwaite 17.91 41.54%
K & L Gates 13.65 34.69%
White & Case 12.38 27.57%
Ropes & Gray 11.99 8.60%
Linklaters 11.89 14.92%
Ashurst 11.47 24.42%
Goodwin Procter 9.65 25.00%
Kirkland & Ellis 9.64 21.92%
Shearman & Sterling 8.96 21.31%
Nabarro 6.71 17.14%
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman 6.58
Berwin Leighton Paisner 2.73 9.79%