Biglaw, Legal Ethics, Money, Pro Bono

Pro Bono or Pro Bank-o? A Legal Ethics Issue

100 dollar bill Abovethelaw Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGPro bono work is near and dear to your hearts. When we posted an open thread on the subject last month, it generated a slew of comments. Like this one:

I was actually told by the partner I worked for at my firm, in no uncertain words … “If you have time to spend on matters that firm isn’t collecting fees for, then you have time that I can be giving you more work that you should be collecting fees for.” And that was my official talk on our “pro bono policy.”

Well, who says that fee-earning work and pro bono work are mutually exclusive? From the Seattle Times:

Lawyers at Davis Wright Tremaine didn’t charge a parent group for seven years of work on a U.S. Supreme Court case against Seattle Public Schools: They took the case pro bono.

But now that the firm is trying to collect $1.8 million in legal fees from the school district, several national legal experts say the term — technically, “pro bono publico,” meaning “for the public good” — may no longer apply.

The firm’s effort has put a local lens on a national debate: If attorneys get paid for pro bono work, is it still pro bono?

The full article, which lays out both sides of the argument, is quite interesting. You can check it out here.
Some argue that financially strapped school districts shouldn’t have to shell out millions of dollars to line the pockets of law firms. But others argue that making them pay fees will discourage them from violating rights in the future (and that the law firms can donate the fees to charity). Thoughts?
Billing in “pro bono” cases is fodder for ethics debate [Seattle Times]
Earlier: Biglaw Perk Watch: Pro Bono Work

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