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We define pro bono work as the delivery of legal services to people of limited means and to charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, and educational organizations that serve them. We also handle a significant number of civil rights issues on a pro bono basis. We have adopted the definition of pro bono work developed by the American Bar Association and administered by the Pro Bono Institute as the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.

Although our attorneys and legal staff engage in many civic and charitable activities, such activities are not considered pro bono service unless they involve the actual delivery of legal services to people of limited means or nonprofit organizations that serve them. This precise definition keeps us focused on the unique ethical obligation of attorneys to provide access to justice to those for whom it is not readily available.

In signing the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, we made a commitment to contribute at least 3 percent of our annual billable time to pro bono work. We average about 40,000 hours annually. Ballard Spahr is one of a small number of firms that meets the ABA's aspirational goal of providing an average of 50 hours of pro bono service per attorney per year.

Ballard Spahr has been recognized as a "Pro Bono Powerhouse" in The American Lawyer's annual ranking of pro bono work by major law firms. Our pro bono effort is consistently ranked in the top tier of firms, and we have received numerous awards.


Yes. It was established more than 25 years ago. Our program has the dedicated leadership of a Pro Bono Counsel, Pro Bono Coordinator, and Director of Practice Management and the support of a Pro Bono Committee comprising representatives from each office and department. Their work is shaped by a formal pro bono policy that includes training for attorneys and legal assistants and access to a database of pro bono activities. We encourage the widest possible involvement and our intranet contains information, forms, and sample documents for use in pro bono matters.

Yes. All pro bono time is counted toward billable hour requirements for attorneys and paralegals. Pro bono accomplishments are taken into account in evaluations and associate bonuses are based, in part, on billable hours, including pro bono time.

We receive referrals from local and national public interest agencies, as well as from clients and staff. We screen individual cases for eligibility guidelines and evaluate nonprofit organizations for demonstrable need and mission.

We distribute information about pro bono training opportunities throughout the firm, and frequently host training sessions on-site. New attorneys fill out a survey about their pro bono interests so that we can alert them to opportunities that match their preferences. Cases are regularly circulated with requests for volunteers and a newsletter provides information about pro bono opportunities and activities. Attorneys are welcome to develop their own pro bono projects, subject to a review that ensures that the clients are financially eligible and that rules out conflicts of interest.

The pro bono staff refers volunteers to mentors and resources within and outside the firm. We maintain close relations with public interest agencies so that we can tap their expertise when necessary. All pro bono matters have a supervising partner, and we encourage attorneys and paralegals to team up so that they can share the experience and the workload. We also have developed pro bono practice groups in areas with substantial interest and participation, such as child advocacy and immigration.

Absolutely, and they work in direct partnership with our attorneys. For example, summer associates have worked with the Chair of the firm on an amicus brief for the ACLU in a wiretapping case; participated in evaluations of immigration detention facilities for the ABA; helped research and draft a report for submission to Congress on the effects of racism on voting; and conducted intake and handled individual cases for a homeless shelter. We offer job-shadowing opportunities with our pro bono nonprofit clients and legal services agencies, and we partner with those agencies on pro bono for summer associates.
While impact litigation and litigation on behalf of low-income clients are important parts of our pro bono practice, our program is distinctive because more than half of our matters do not involve litigation. We undertake a diverse mix of transactional, labor, tax, intellectual property, and real estate pro bono work for low-income individuals and nonprofit agencies, an effort that also involves various legislative initiatives.
Yes. Many partners take the lead on pro bono matters and every matter has a supervising partner. At Ballard Spahr, pro bono commitment is honored from the top down. The Chair of the firm, department chairs, and managing partners of offices all participate in pro bono matters.

Our attorneys serve on the boards of legal services organizations around the country and both the firm and individual attorneys make substantial financial contributions to those organizations. We also assist local legal services organizations by providing pro bono legal services involving operational issues (contracts, employee benefits, real estate, tax, intellectual property) and advocacy (impact cases, legislative research, and drafting) and by offering in-kind services, such as hosting meetings and receptions, printing and copying materials, and sponsoring training events.

In addition, Ballard Spahr periodically sponsors Equal Justice Works Fellowships with legal service agencies and summer or school-year externships for law students who have accepted an offer to join us full time. We also participate in the Philadelphia Bar Association's Public Interest Fellowship, which provides the opportunity for a new associate to spend a full year working for a public interest law firm.