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Making Pro Bono Work At Large Law Firms

Publication Date: 
November 17, 2008
Daily Journal
Amelia Hansen

Professor Deborah L. Rhode is quoted in an article in the Daily Journal about the state of Pro Bono work at large law firms.

Jayne Fleming has a window office overlooking Lake Merritt in Oakland. She travels for work, nationally and abroad. She makes six figures a year.

Her clients don't pay a dime.

Fleming is full-time pro bono counsel at Reed Smith, a position she worked to create after spending several years balancing free work with billable cases. Earlier this year, she won asylum for a young man from Kazakhstan who was interrogated and beaten by police after publicly criticizing the country's president.


According to the American Bar Association, public law school graduates average $50,000 in student loan debt; private school graduates, $80,000. Many lawyers, like Fleming, believe they do not have the option of taking a low-paying public interest or legal aid job. A single mother in law school, Fleming came out with "an enormous amount" of debt.


And, most lawyers still make no pro bono contributions. Deborah L. Rhode, a Stanford University law professor and director of the Stanford Center on Ethics, found that the average for the bar nationwide is less than half an hour a week and 50 cents a day.