The organized bar is increasingly providing pro bono legal assistance to the more than fifty million people of limited means in the United States.' In 2008, the 200 highest grossing law firms in the United States contributed a record 5.57 million hours of pro bono service to individuals and organizations that could not afford to hire lawyers. These large firms now have well-organized pro bono programs that enjoy considerable administrative support. But the lawyers in large firms (over 100 lawyers) comprise only about 16% of the lawyers in private practice. Solo and small firm (two to five) lawyers, who comprise 63% of private practitioners, contribute more time and in greater numbers to the pro bono legal representation of persons of limited means than any other group of lawyers.
The pro bono efforts of these lawyers have not received focused attention, even though their experiences are different in many respects than the pro bono experiences of other lawyers. Indeed, the ways in which pro bono work is found and performed, the motivations and incentives for performing it, the types of work performed, and the supports available for this work are often significantly different in solo and small firms than they are in large firm settings. The differences in the pro bono experience in these two practice settings are so great that the lawyers seemingly operate in parallel universes. Just a few examples of the differences suffice to
Levin, Leslie, "Pro Bono Publico in a Parellel Universe: The Meaning of Pro Bono in Solo and Small Law Firms" (2009). Faculty Articles and Papers. 422.