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Pro Bono Work Tough to Perform
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Law students heading to law school with the hopes of fixing wrongdoings in the country soon realize how much debt they will encounter while in school and once they graduate. They also begin to realize that it will be difficult to find jobs with law firms upon graduation despite the allure of pro bono work combined with a corporate law salary. As the economy continues to change, law firms are finding it more and more difficult to give lawyers hours so freely, as in years past.

Compared to 2009, last year’s percentage of free legal hours fell drastically. The decline is caused by the problems in the economy, which pushes more and more people into poverty and bankruptcy. The economy causes child custody suits, foreclosures, and domestic violence suits. For those citizens with limited finances, government funding for no or low-cost legal services has also been cut.

  
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Most lawyers will try to devote anywhere from 20 to 50 hours of free work each year in accordance with state bar licensing requirements. In order to offer their legal services the lawyers must sign up with various local or state groups or bar associations. There are only seven states in the country that actually track lawyers’ participation in this program but those states do not penalize lawyers who back out of the program.

The overall volunteer hours provided by attorneys are not tracked across the country but a survey performed by the Pro Bono Institute of Washington D.C. found that the number of pro bono hours worked dropped by 8.6 percent in 2010. The program has been in operation for almost 20 years and 2009 was the most active year for the work.

Esther Lardent, the chief executive of the Pro Bono Institute had the following to say about the pro bono work:

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“Law firms are anxious, and they don’t staff up quickly to meet the increase in client demand when the economy begins to improve. Much of the pro bono work is done by younger lawyers, but when they are in short supply, paid work is the priority.”

Right now, law firms are working to retain or acquire clients in a world where corporate clients are no longer willing to pay incredibly high rates for legal services. Pro bono work allows attorneys to gain valuable trial experience, do some good for the community, and still acquire an excellent paycheck.



Akin Gump is located in Washington D.C. and its lawyers have accrued close to 48,000 free hours of work, and expect to close in on the 57,000 free hours of work accrued in 2010.

Larger law firms in the country have bigger budgets when it comes to covering expenses, such as travel, when doing pro bono work. The smaller law firms are having the most trouble performing pro bono work because of their smaller budgets.



 

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