At Akin Gump, a prominent law firm in Washington, D.C., Steve Schulman, head of the pro bono practice, notes, “as a firm, we are a bit leaner, so, of course, pro bono hours are down.” A firm restructuring trimmed nearly 200 attorneys from its roster since 2007, which has resulted in a reduced pro bono case load, Schulman says.
Akin Gump lawyers have racked up 48,000 free hours so far this year, and the firm expects to be close to last year’s 57,000 total hours. Such work, he says, “is still a draw to recruit top law students.”
Larger firms also have deeper pockets to cover expenses, such as travel, to pursue a pro bono case. But, Schulman maintains, that while “our attorneys are on salary, which is a fixed cost, and it doesn’t cost that much to generate an extra free hour, the cost to the firm of these hours is not zero.”