A year ago, Lehman Brothers appeared solvent, Bernard Madoff was a trusted name and the global economic crisis was still called a downturn. Even then, pro bono advocates worried that altruism would be a casualty of hard times at the country’s top law firms.

Judging by firms’ performance last year, those fears may have been unfounded. As a group, the nation’s 200 highest-grossing firms devoted more hours to pro bono than ever. Nearly half of Am Law 200 lawyers committed 20 hours or more to pro bono last year, and on average, lawyers spent more than 60 hours on pro bono matters.

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