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R. Bruce McLean still shakes his head when he thinks about how his firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, derailed its pro bono program in 2000. Firms across the country had increased associate salaries to $125,000. Akin Gump had generally allowed associates to mix pro bono with the minimum 2,000 billable hours needed to be eligible for a bonus. But after the raises, it stopped counting pro bono work — all 2,000 hours would have to be billable.

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