For members of a profession often portrayed as greedy, it is nice to have evidence that proves otherwise. A survey released today finds that two thirds of U.S. lawyers gave free legal assistance to people of limited means and organizations serving the poor, volunteering an average of 39 hours of pro bono work a year.

Conducted by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, the survey, Supporting Justice: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America’s Lawyers, is the first national survey of lawyers’ pro bono activity. It queried lawyers about their pro bono activity during the course of a year and asked about their attitudes about pro bono and factors that influenced their pro bono activity.

Among the key findings:

  • 66 percent of lawyers did some level of pro bono to people of limited means or to organizations serving the poor.
  • Pro bono work averaged 39 hours a year.
  • Beyond pro bono, lawyers averaged another 38 hours of work for civil rights groups, community organizations and other non-profits.
  • 46 percent of lawyers said they provided at least 50 hours of pro bono.
  • 14 percent said they had not done any pro bono activity.
  • Older lawyers were more likely to work pro bono than younger lawyers.
  • The prime motivator to work pro bono is the combined sense of professional duty and personal satisfaction.
  • The greatest factor discouraging pro bono work was lack of time.

These results indicate that lawyers donated an average of two weeks a year to pro bono and community work. If that’s greedy, then greed is good.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.