Global pro bono index needs Canadian input

Submissions are open for the third edition of the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, the world’s leading global pro bono survey.

With the rapid spread of pro bono beyond traditional strongholds such as the United States, Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, there is growing demand for an international platform that maps trends in pro bono and tracks the level of pro bono engagement across the globe.

Pro bono data matters,” says Serena Grant, the director of TrustLaw, a part of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This is the feedback we have received from firms large and small — whether used by a pro bono co-ordinator to advocate for better resources or a firm setting up its pro bono practice and wanting benchmarks on how their counterparts have structured their practices.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation launched the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono in 2014 to provide analysis on the key national, regional, and global trends shaping the pro bono marketplace, and to assess the pro bono participation of law firms on a country by country basis.

“Acclaimed pro bono surveys have long collected data on a national basis in markets such as England and Wales, the U.S., Australia and even in parts of Latin America. Yet, there was not a comprehensive report mapping trends and measuring pro bono engagement on a global basis until we created the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono,” adds Grant.

In Canada, Canadian Lawyer conducted the first survey of pro bono activity in this country in 2014.

Its unique global reach allows the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono to unearth relevant, yet previously unexplored trends in pro bono markets from Cambodia to Germany to Colombia, highlighting successful programs as well as identifying gaps in pro bono participation.

“Since different cultures and jurisdictions hold diverse attitudes to pro bono, we created a definition of pro bono that allows for consistent submissions globally, and that enables comparison across the findings,” explains Grant.

The TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono also recognizes the role of local law firms in advancing pro bono, especially in jurisdictions such as India, which restrict the operation of foreign law firms.

The findings challenge the conventional notion that international law firms are better resourced to commit to pro bono practices. Rather, the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono is a platform where firms of all shapes and sizes can share their experience and expertise.

The 2015 findings unveil an incredible enthusiasm for pro bono with 2 million hours of free legal support provided by the 140 respondent firms across 76 countries, and an average of 43 hours of free legal assistance invested annually by individual lawyers.

In Canada, the Index reported that fee-earners at respondent firms on average performed 14.8 hours of pro bono work in 2015. The Index compared Canadian firms with other firms across the Americas (though excluding the U.S. given the very significant resources devoted to pro bono there) and found that Canadian lawyers performed broadly the same amount of pro bono on average to their colleagues throughout the region (14.8 hours compared to a regional average of 14.6).

It is well known that Canadian lawyers have worked to promote access to justice through both legal aid and pro bono work for many years, and this has generally been conducted at a provincial level. In recent years, however, with the founding of Pro Bono Canada in 2012, pro bono in the country has become more organized on a national scale.

This year’s Index aims to explore this trend further, welcoming feedback from Canadian law firms on their pro bono service to build a more comprehensive picture of the country’s pro bono landscape. Law firms are invited to submit their pro bono data through an online survey before May 23.

“More and more around the world, barriers to pro bono are falling, participation is up, and lawyers are excited to make a difference in their jurisdictions and beyond. This sea change is happening in no small part thanks to the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono. It is an aspirational tool for us to gauge how we’re doing, and inspires us to do more,” says Louis O’Neill, pro bono counsel at White & Case LLP, in anticipation of the 2016 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono.

Findings of the 2016 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono will be launched July 18.

See the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono submission guidance and the survey questions with detailed explanatory notes.

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