• Pro Bono is equivalent to 1.85% of top 20 law firms total revenue
  • “Pro Bono LLP” would be the second largest legal firm in the UK by number of solicitors
  • The pro bono figure dwarfs the £3m being chased from the legal sector by HMRC

The estimated value of pro bono work among the top 20 UK legal firms was £180.9m in 2011, according to research from specialist legal recruiter Laurence Simons. This is equivalent to 1.85% of total revenue among the largest 20 firms. The research coincides with Pro Bono Week 2012 which runs from November 5th to November 11th.

Projecting this average across all 87,000 UK private practice solicitors, the total value of pro bono work in private practice would be around £456m per year. This is equivalent to the average salaries of 3,679 lawyers, which would make “Pro Bono LLP” the second biggest legal firm in the UK by number of solicitors.

Guy Adams, Director of Private Practice at Laurence Simons said,
“Few profit making organisations can boast that the amount of charitable work they do is equivalent to 2% of their total revenue, but pro bono is a fine tradition among law firms of providing free expert advice for the public good. With cuts to legal aid affecting access to justice for those who can’t always afford it, it has never been more important. Sometimes lawyers and city professionals get criticised for their pay packets and bonuses, but pro bono work represents a sizeable chunk of what they do, proving it’s not all about the bottom line.”

The average annual value of pro bono work for each private practice lawyer in the UK is £5,194. However, according to separate research from Laurence Simons, 52% of lawyers have done no pro bono work this year, meaning that the value per lawyer for the 48% that do give their time is closer to double that.

The average hours per lawyer that pro bono represents among the top 20 firms is 29.6 hours which, if extrapolated across all firms, would equate to around 1,075,528 hours.

Guy Adams comments,
“Legal firms undertake a large amount of work for charitable causes in their local community. For London firms, this year has coincided with the Olympics and Paralympics, allowing them to engage with community organisations in and around Stratford to help secure the legacy of the games. At the other end of the scale, some firms work on a more international scale, including one firm which negotiated the TV rights for the Paralympics in Haiti, helping to change attitudes to disability there. “

Tax Crackdown
HMRC recently announced a crackdown on tax avoidance by city lawyers – citing £19.5m as their target for recovery. This figure is less than five percent of the total value of pro bono work undertaken by private practice lawyers. Moreover, the £19.5m quoted also covers other industries in other parts of the country, including hair salons in the North East and mechanics in Scotland. The actual figure for the legal industry is expected to be around £3m – less than 1% of the value of pro bono work.

Guy Adams,
“We must put this into perspective. Tax avoidance is clearly wrong, yet £3million represents less than 1% of the total pro bono output of the UK’s lawyers. A large number of City lawyers give their time and considerable expertise to charitable causes, and this greatly outweighs a relative few bad eggs. Lawyers aren’t always popular and can be easy targets, but many lawyers also go beyond reported pro bono work, using their competitive and determined nature to complete feats of endurance and personal campaigns all in the name of charity. Arguably, if other industries were so generous with their time to not-for-profit causes, the communities in which we live would benefit even more. ”