Sunday, July 09, 2006

I just received an e-mail from a colleague telling me about a new study that just got released by The American Lawyer. Apparently "only" 37.3 percent of attorneys at Am Law 200 firms performed at least 20 hours of pro bono work in 2005. That's pretty shameful. I know, I know. You think I'm going to say 37.3 percent is ridiculous, not because it's so low but because it's so high, and that 37.3 percent means thousands and thousands of attorneys, and thousands upon thousands of pro bono hours, all wasted on people who can't afford attorneys, and to the detriment of important corporate enterprises that can actually afford to pay their bills. You think I'm going to say that there's a reason some people get to work at big law firms, and some people are stuck working for a fraction of the salary and we should leave the pro bono work to those people because clearly their time just isn't as important. You think I'm going to say it's ridiculous to criticize attorneys who don't do pro bono work because we don't criticize construction workers who don't build free things for poor people or chefs who don't give away food to the homeless or doctors who don't save people dying in the street. Why should lawyers be any different? Why should lawyers be held to a higher standard which no one else is?

But that's not what I'm going to say. I agree with The American Lawyer that 37.3 percent is way too low. There are lots more worthless attorneys at our firm and I'm sure at every firm, and if they're not doing pro bono work then I don't know what they're doing. At least 75 percent of the people who work here are completely incapable of doing anything and are just collecting their paychecks for nothing. They're a drain on resources, they demand things like weekends off and respect in the workplace, and they don't give us much added value at all. So the least they can do is help some poor people, at least to the best of their abilities, which isn't much at all but it's still better than nothing and probably all the poor people deserve anyway. Every incompetent attorney at the firm ought to be doing tons of pro bono work, because if they aren't, I don't know what they're doing and whatever it is certainly isn't helping our clients. The small fraction of attorneys who are doing their jobs, they don't need to be doing any pro bono work. But that's a lot less than 62.7 percent, so they're right that 37.3 percent is shamefully low. Shameful.

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