Pro Bono icon  Hours worked
Powered by ZingChart

More than half of all American lawyers perform free pro bono services for clients who cannot afford to hire an attorney, according to a nationwide ABA survey released in 2018.

The survey of 47,000 lawyers in 24 states revealed that 52% provided pro bono services in the previous year, with the average lawyer working 37 hours. Some lawyers provide much more pro bono work. According to the survey, 9% provided 50 to 79 hours of pro bono work, and 11% provided more than 80 hours.

The ABA recommends that all lawyers perform at least 50 hours a year of pro bono services “to those unable to pay.” Approximately 20% of all lawyers meet this aspirational goal, according to the survey. This is down from 36% in the last survey, released in 2013.

The survey shows that 48% of lawyers did no pro bono work in the previous year, and 19% said they have never done pro bono work.

The average hours worked fluctuates year by year, with no apparent trend. It was 39 hours in 2005, 41 hours in 2009, 56 hours in 2013 and 37 hours in 2018. Older lawyers – age 70 to 74 – perform the most hours (58 per year). Solo practitioners and lawyers from large firms and very large firms provide the most pro bono hours (45 hours, 48 hours and 73 hours, respectively).


Source: Supporting Justice: A Report on the Work of America’s Pro Bono Lawyers (ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service)
Powered by ZingChart
Powered by ZingChart
Pro Bono icon Type of help
Powered by ZingChart

Most lawyers who provide pro bono services do so for individuals in need – 85%. Others help classes of individuals – such as a group of seniors or tenants – or organizations. For those who help individuals, the average hours worked were relatively high – 57 hours a year.

Lawyers who performed pro bono work were asked if they had represented specific types of vulnerable clients. The most common clients receiving pro bono help were ethnic minorities (30%), single parents (26%), disabled individuals (26%), elderly individuals (24%), clients with limited English abilities (23%), students (17%) and victims of domestic violence (15%).

The type of pro bono legal work performed varies widely, depending on the client and type of case. The most common tasks performed were providing advice (74%), reviewing or drafting documents (66%), interviewing clients (64%), writing letters (36%), working with other attorneys (35%), providing full representation in court (29%) and negotiating a settlement with other parties (18%).

Family law was the most common legal area of service for pro bono services, followed by criminal law, litigation, estate planning or probate, immigration and real estate law. Most lawyers tend to accept pro bono cases in their areas of expertise. 


Source: Supporting Justice: A Report on the Work of America’s Pro Bono Lawyers (ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service)
• Lawyers generally do more pro bono work later in life. On average, lawyers in their 60s did 41 to 42 hours of pro bono work per year.


• 81% of attorneys believe pro bono work is somewhat or very important.
Powered by ZingChart
Pro Bono icon Top States

In the 24 states where lawyers were surveyed about their pro bono work in 2018, results in several states were notable.

US Map showing states with notable pro bono work

Washington state:
An average of 57 hours of pro bono service per lawyer for all lawyers – the highest among all states surveyed. Two-thirds of all lawyers in Washington (68%) reported doing at least some pro bono work. Among those, the average amount of pro bono work performed was 77 hours. Washington also had the lowest percentage of lawyers who have never performed pro bono work – 10%.

Lawyers reported working an average of 53 hours of pro bono service – the second-highest among the states surveyed. Tennessee was tops among states in percentage of lawyers who provided more than 80 hours of pro bono service – 20%.

Lawyers reported working an average of 49 hours of pro bono service – the third-highest among the states surveyed.

Three-quarters of all lawyers (78%) reported providing some type of public service – the highest among all the states surveyed.


The 24 states surveyed in the “Supporting Justice” pro bono 2018 report are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.


Source: Supporting Justice: A Report on the Work of America’s Pro Bono Lawyers (ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service)
Pro Bono icon ABA Free Legal Answers
Powered by ZingChart
Powered by ZingChart

During the COVID-19 pandemic, ABA Free Legal Answers experienced a big jump in the number of questions posed by people with legal problems, along with a dramatic increase in the number of lawyers volunteering to answer those questions. The program is now serving victims of the Hawaii wildfires and other natural disasters.

Sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, ABA Free Legal Answers – - is a virtual legal clinic through which income-eligible clients can post civil legal questions, which are then answered by pro bono attorneys. Currently, lawyers in 42 states and territories are available to answer questions. One more is pending.

Since Free Legal Answers launched in 2016, more than 313,000 civil legal questions have been submitted, and more than 12,700 volunteer attorneys have registered to answer those questions. The most common questions concern legal issues related to family and children (38%), housing and homelessness (16%) and consumer or financial issues (10%).

In 2021, ABA Free Legal Answers expanded to accept questions on immigration and federal veterans issues. The website for that service is at

In September 2023, to serve victims of the Hawaii wildfires, the eligibility income/asset cap was increased on the Hawaii Free Legal Answers site. Since the fire erupted, more than 100 legal questions were submitted to 122 Hawaii-licensed attorneys on the site.


Pro Bono icon Law students

The typical third-year law student performed 160 hours of pro bono legal work in 2022 through clinics, other experiential courses and pro bono activities, according to a survey conducted by the Association of American Law Schools.

That figure is an average based on 2.7 million hours of pro bono work performed by 16,891 law students in the Class of 2022 at 80 law schools across the country. The schools represent nearly half of all students in the Class of 2022 who attend ABA-accredited law schools.

The number of pro bono hours worked rose each year, but then dipped in 2022, perhaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic. AALS has conducted the annual survey since 2016, but suspended it in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. The survey resumed in 2022.

AALS estimated that pro bono work by third-year law students in 2022 at those 80 schools was worth nearly $81 million.

For all law students in all class years – not just third-year students – the number of pro bono hours averaged about 68 hours per year per student, according to the AALS. Again, that was down from previous years, perhaps because of the pandemic.

Powered by ZingChart
Powered by ZingChart
Download the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession in .pdf format