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With plans to help facilitate pro bono opportunities for lawyers, the American Bar Association has released the results of its first survey of lawyers’ public service work. The ABA’s poll is the first national sampling of lawyers from various sectors, from private practice, corporations and government. The group polled 1,100 lawyers for a 15-minute phone conversation about their pro bono work between November 2003 and November 2004. The results indicate that 66% of lawyers are performing pro bono, and 46% of those gave, on average, 150 hours of free time, which is three times the ABA’s suggested goal of 50 hours. “That’s a great number,” said Debbie Segal of Atlanta-based Kilpatrick Stockton and the chair of the ABA’s pro bono committee. “We had no preconceived notion of what we would find, and we were thrilled with the results.” Others agreed that the ABA’s results were encouraging. “Sixty-six percent of a profession giving away free time is something we ought to applaud,” said Marta-Ann Schnabel of O’Bryan & Schnabel, past co-chair of the Access to Justice Committee of the Louisiana State Bar Association. “But I do think there is room to do better.” Attorneys in private practice gave away more free time than those in other areas. Seventy-three percent of private attorneys reported doing pro bono, compared with 35% of corporate counsel and 33% of government lawyers. But Marc Gary, general counsel of BellSouth Corp., which won a pro bono award from the Pro Bono Institute at Georgetown University Law Center in March, believes that public service is catching on with corporate America. More companies are recognizing that pro bono reflects their goal to be of service to the community. Law firms and companies can motivate each other to do more, he said.
Key findings from the ABA survey

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