pro bono work reach for the stars Above the Law blog.jpgThe subject of today’s perk post may not jump to mind as a perk or fringe benefit, but we think it’s important and worthy of inclusion here. From a reader:

Please do a “perks” thread on pro bono work. What kind of opportunities are presented? How are the hours counted (if at all), both de jure and de facto?

Speaking for myself, it’s the main thing that makes White & Case different from other firms. The hours are counted 1:1, without limitation. I am permitted to seek my own pro bono assignments, and function at a very high level on those cases. I have “billed” 200-300 hours to pro bono every year I’ve been here, and received no feedback but encouragement (although my “real” hours have always been in the defensible range without consideration of the pro bono).

That’s impressive. We had a friend at a top 10 firm who spent hundreds of hours on pro bono work (which got the firm some nice publicity in the New York Times). But at a certain point, she got called in for a talk about how she was spending too high a percentage of her time on pro bono.
More discussion after the jump.

Our source continues:

Such a thread might also inspire a valuable discussion of pro bono work in Biglaw generally. My view is that the conventional wisdom that pro bono doesn’t “count” is asinine. To suggest that taking and defending depositions, drafting briefs, arguing motions, and negotiating settlement doesn’t “count” because the partners don’t really care about it shows a juvenile attitude toward success.

I want the experience of taking a deposition (for example) so that I will have that experience, and learn from it – not so that some partner will check off a little box next to my name. When the opportunity to take a “real” deposition arises in a few years, I will have done some – so I will not be afraid to volunteer quickly and confidently, and I will be able to do the job a lot better than if it were my first time out.

We invite your thoughts on this, as well as information about how your firm treats pro bono work, in the comments. Thanks.
(Pro bono work, like puppies and apple pie, is one of those things that you can’t say a bad thing about. If you have a surprising or contrarian take on it, we’d be interested in hearing it.)

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