City firm coaxes all staff to embrace pro bono ethic by asking for 25 hours a year

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By Judge John Hack on

Transatlantic giant Hogan Lovells launches bid to spread charitable works across all levels of its business — including trainees, and presumably dinner ladies too


The London-based global law firm that created the first full-time pro bono manager 20 years ago has launched a trailblazing policy calling on all staff to engage in charity work.

Hogan Lovells kicked off earlier this week its “global citizenship policy”, which encourages all staff — not just those legally qualified — to hit a 25-hour annual target of pro bono work.

According to the firm — which hauled in £604 million last year and has more than 40 worldwide offices — staff are encouraged to devote time to a range of activities. That could include anything from “providing free legal advice to a social enterprise, to working with a local school”.

A Hogan Lovells statement said:

“For lawyers at the firm, the activity will involve the provision of pro bono legal services wherever possible. To track progress, all members of the firm have been asked to record the time they spend on citizenship activities.”

Just how well that will go down with hard pressed dinner ladies in the staff canteen remains to be seen.

But Hog-Lovs emphasises that staff will not have to sacrifice personal time — activities will be conducted during existing work hours or count towards that time.

Announcing the programme, the firm’s chief executive, Washington-based litigation partner Steve Immelt, said:

“Exemplary citizenship is an integral part of Hogan Lovells’ culture and strategy. Our shared belief in the value of social responsibility is one of the bonds that unify us as a global firm community.”

Immelt went on to describe the programme as a “ground-breaking initiative and the first time that a law firm has set a target like this for every member of the firm. I am excited about the considerable impact that this could make in the communities where we work.”

The American Bar Association’s recommended target for US-based lawyers is a minimum of 50 hours annually per lawyer. And while the current Hogan Lovells initiative falls somewhat short of that figure, the English side of the practice has a long history of innovation in the field.

In 1997 Yasmin Waljee became the first lawyer at a European law firm to take the role of full-time pro bono manager.

Human rights specialist Waljee has advised compensation for victims of crime and terrorism — including those involved in the July 2005 London terror attacks — as well as working on regulatory and public issues concerning the right to life. Five years ago, she received an OBE in the New Years Honours List.