Lawyers increasingly work for free

Advocaten werken steeds vaker pro bono

“Prosper” is how the Thomson Reuters Foundation describes the free practice. Globally, nearly four million hours are spent on free cases, with an average of 26.3 hours per lawyer per year. Those hours were mainly spent on issues such as access to justice, economic development and microfinance, human rights, women’s rights, environmental issues and climate change.


In the Netherlands, international offices, originally British and US, were examined. On average, a paid Dutch worker working in such an office worked 12.77 hours a year for free, and just over a quarter of them were spending more than ten hours for free. At Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the number of free hours per fee was a wage of 19 – higher than a Zuidas attorney but below the global average. At DLA Piper, the percentage of charge owners who spent more than ten hours on the free service was 41 – also the highest for Zuidas.

Global growth

The Thomson Reuters Foundation relies for its data on input from 215 law firms, employing a total of 150,000 lawyers, in 91 countries. The foundation talks about “global growth and commitment”. Just as we face three crises – health, economics and climate – it is critical that lawyers work for free with NGOs and social institutions, said Antonio Zabula, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a press release.


The index shows that free work is also increasing outside the US, UK and Australia, which are free “traditional” countries. In North and South America, the number of free hours has doubled since 2016. This has tripled in Africa and the Middle East. Nigeria was one of the most free hours for everyone who earns it. Free culture is also ‘flourishing’ in Europe, according to TrustLaw’s 2020 Pro Bono Index – particularly since European ‘Pro Bono Week in 2019’.

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Of the lawyers surveyed, 96 percent said they sometimes work for free to “return the favor to the community.” Since 2010, TrustLawAnd the The Thomson Reuters Foundation 7000 Global Free Service has facilitated legal projects in 175 countries in this way.

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