NEW YORK (July 1, 2010) – The July issue of The American Lawyer reports that the double-digit growth of Am Law 200 pro bono hours since 2005 has come to an end. The publication’s annual survey results, released today, reveal that total pro bono hours increased last year in the Am Law 200 to a new record of 5.7 million. But the 2 percent increase was down significantly from last year’s 15 percent gain. And, the percentage of lawyers who donated more than 20 hours last year actually dipped slightly, to 47.5 percent. Also in this issue, Munger, Tolles & Olson has again topped The American Lawyer’s “A-List” ranking of the most elite firms in the U.S., but drops in pro bono and associate satisfaction rankings drove four firms off the 20-member A-List, which identifies Am Law firms that set the standard for their peers. For these and other stories, visit www.americanlawyer.com.
Average pro bono hours per lawyer for the Am Law 200 rose slightly to almost 61.5 hours. The ten firms with the greatest per-capita pro bono commitment averaged almost 147 hours per lawyer. This group was led again by Jenner & Block, which averaged more than 161 pro bono hours per lawyer in 2009, with 84 percent of the firm’s attorneys contributing 20 pro bono hours or more last year. Even after the one percent year-over-year drop in the percentage of lawyers who donated more than 20 hours, the participation rate of lawyers is still 27 percent better than it was in 2005. For this year’s rankings and the one- and five-year pro bono growth charts, go to www.americanlawyer.com/probono.
“The great pro bono surge of the last five years, one that featured double digit annual increases, has ended. The question is whether the Am Law 100 and 200 firms have hit a pause or a plateau. There’s great pro bono work being done—and there’s room for more,” said Aric Press, editor in chief of The American Lawyer.
The shake-ups in this year’s A-List were significant: Four firms fell off the list, four joined, and six of the 13 firms that changed ranks from 2009 moved by six or more places. Munger, Tolles, headquartered in Los Angeles, held on to the top spot on the A-List for the third year in a row. New York–based Hughes Hubbard & Reed placed second for the second year in a row.
Two of the four firms joining the list this year, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker (#10) and Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner (#19), are first-time A-Listers. The other two—Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (#8) and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett (#16)— are A-List veterans.
This was the first A-List that incorporated associate satisfaction results following the wave of layoffs in early 2009. Deep declines in associate satisfaction contributed to the exit of four firms from last year’s A-List roster: Howrey, Irell & Manella, Kirkland & Ellis, and Sullivan & Cromwell. But Debevoise & Plimpton’s commitment to lockstep pay and communication with associates earned it a 44 percent increase in its associate satisfaction, helping propel the New York firm to number three on the 2010 A-List.
A-List rankings are based on four weighted factors: revenue per lawyer, pro bono commitment, diversity among lawyers, and associate satisfaction.
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