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What’s pro bono work, and what’s the minimum amount of it that lawyers should do? Ask three groups, get three answers. AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION The ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct suggest that attorneys devote 50 hours per year to free legal service. The bulk should be in the service of the poor or of charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental or educational organizations. A portion may also be spent providing counsel to the aforementioned at a “substantially reduced fee.” The ABA also allows for a portion, but not the majority, of the 50 hours to be spent on activities that improve the law, such as sitting on boards of legal organizations. PRO BONO INSTITUTE This group defines pro bono much the same as the ABA, but excludes reduced-fee matters and work where the attorney does not directly serve a client. Through its law firm challenge, the PBI asks firms of 50 attorneys or more to devote the hourly equivalent of either 3 percent or 5 percent of their gross revenues to pro bono work. LAWYERS FOR ONE AMERICA Like the PBI, this group, formed in 1999, encourages firms to set institutional goals for pro bono work. But it also believes that lawyers should do pro bono work specifically for minorities and the organizations that serve them.

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