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In last year’s Am Law 100 pro bono rankings [July 2002], Philadelphia’s Cozen O’Connor landed near the tail end with all the other firms that chose not to reveal how much — or little — pro bono they did. Cozen had good reason to be coy. Before last fall, the firm didn’t have a pro bono director, much less a program. And although it did do some free legal work, it didn’t record it in any systematic way. This year Cozen plans to move up the chart. Last fall the firm took a number of measures to do so, like forming a pro bono committee and setting up a record-keeping infrastructure. It also let it be known that every Cozen lawyer — associates and partners — was expected to contribute a minimum of 60 pro bono hours annually. That’s not unusual. Many firms use suggestions, like those made by the Pro Bono Institute at Georgetown University Law Center, which administers a law firm pro bono challenge. But because Cozen appears so eager to improve its philanthropic image, there’s a tension in the notion of “expected” pro bono work. What would really happen to a lawyer who failed to meet the firm’s expectation? “We tell them [that pro bono work is] going to be favorably looked upon in your performance review,” says Peter Rossi, chair of Cozen’s new pro bono committee. “It’s hard to say, ‘If you don’t do it in three years, you’re going to get fired.’ “ In other words, Rossi says, the program is “aspirational.” But so far Cozen’s hopes and dreams have come true. In the first few months of its new program, Rossi estimates the firm has opened 70-80 new cases, including one by name partner Patrick O’Connor. Of course, Cozen’s score can only get better. Rossi, who calls the firm’s past performance an “embarrassing situation,” says the firm has set its sights on breaking into the top ten in a few years. Lofty aspirations.

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