New Jersey firms showed improvement in their dedication to volunteer work, though there’s plenty of room for further gains, a recent survey of national pro bono work at large firms shows.
In-state firms all climbed the rankings from last year’s survey, improving their overall scores in the process. The survey—compiled by The American Lawyer, a sibling publication—accounts for pro bono work performed in 2013.
The average score was 47.2 among New Jersey firms—including Day Pitney, which is headquartered in Hartford, Conn., but maintains a large Parsippany office.
That’s higher than the list’s overall median score, which was about 41. All New Jersey firms ranked 123rd or better out of the 171 AmLaw 200 firms that provided pro bono data, though only two were in the top half.
Last year’s average score for those five firms, by contrast, was 41.7.
Each individual firm’s score is calculated by combining the average pro bono hours per attorney and the percentage of attorneys with at least 20 pro bono hours.
This year’s average is respectable but still a far cry from the list toppers. The top five firms all eclipsed 100: Jenner & Block (131), Arnold & Porter (116.8), Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr (115.6), Hughes Hubbard & Reed (107.3) and Paul Hastings (103.5).
Another four firms scored higher than 90: Dechert (98.9), Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler (97), Patton Boggs (91.3) and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (90.3).
The highest-ranking New Jersey firm—at number 30, with a score of 70.2—was Lowenstein Sandler. The Roseland firm averaged 76.7 pro bono hours per attorney and had 63.7 percent of its attorneys log 20 hours or more.
That’s an improvement in all metrics for Lowenstein Sandler, which ascended three spots after ranking 33rd in each of the last two years with scores. The firm scored 66.3 last year and 63.5 in 2012.
The notable numbers are due at least in part to the firm’s long-running involvement in litigation over a tent city in Lakewood that has served as a year-round encampment for those rendered homeless by the economic downturn, Hurricane Sandy and other hardships.
The tent city made news recently as the firm, led by partner Jeffrey Wild, helped 120 residents find housing, leading to the camp’s closure.
Here’s how other New Jersey firms measured up:
• Gibbons improved the most, ranking 44th after sitting at 63rd and 64th in the previous two years. The Newark firm’s 59.3 score was a significant improvement over last year’s survey (50.5) and the 2012 survey (47.5). Average hours per attorney, 71.6, shot up from less than 60 in each of the prior two years, and the percentage of lawyers with 20 hours or more increased to 47 percent, from 42.6 percent last year and 39.8 percent the year before. Much of Gibbons’ pro bono commitment is through the John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest and Constitutional Law—long headed by partner Lawrence Lustberg—which takes on public interest, constitutional and civil rights matters.
• McCarter & English of Newark also was much improved, ranking 72nd with a score of 46.5. The firm ranked 90th last year (38.6 score) and 73rd in 2012 (45.4). The most notable gain: nearly half of firm attorneys logged 20 hours or more, up from 40.6 percent last year and 39.2 percent in 2012.
• McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter of Morristown ranked 119th, gaining ground from last year (127th) and the year before (122nd). Overall score was 30.7, also a modest improvement over each of the last two years, when the firm scored about 27. McElroy Deutsch improved to 35.2 hours per attorney, from 26.1 last year and 29.4 in 2012.
• Day Pitney ranked 123rd with a score of 29.3, inching upward from last year (ranked 125th, 26.1 score) and the year before (127th, 24.9).
• Sills Cummis & Gross of Newark, which fell out of the AmLaw 200 this year, was not included in the pro bono rankings.
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