MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Pepper Hamilton believes that each of its lawyers should provide pro bono and public interest legal services, as a matter of professional responsibility and in recognition of the great need for these services.

Pepper marked its 125th Anniversary in 2015 by giving back to the community.

The Firm’s Historical Commitment
From the start of the firm in 1890, Pepper lawyers have accepted challenging (and frequently unpopular) cases, participating in pro bono activities ranging from death penalty litigation to civil rights class actions to individual civil matters for low income, disabled and other people who are disadvantaged. Pepper also has represented hundreds of nonprofit organizations.

Pepper contributes, year after year, thousands of hours of professional time to pro bono matters. Our work benefits the individuals we serve, the public at large, and the development of our lawyers’ skills and sense of professionalism and public service. Firm policy actively encourages partners and associates to provide pro bono legal services.

Dedication to Pro Bono
Pepper takes on pro bono activities with the same care as other matters. As long as there is no conflict of interest, we will analyze the rights of our potential clients, the state of the law and the experience of our lawyers in the area of law at issue.

Once we accept a pro bono project, Pepper pursues it with all of the energy and attention to detail that we apply to our other work. We expect our lawyers to devote as much time as necessary to handle the project successfully.

Whenever an associate handles a pro bono matter, a senior lawyer is assigned to supervise the case. To encourage our associates to take on pro bono projects, the firm credits the hours spent on such matters, along with time devoted to client-billable matters, for purposes of meeting the firm’s budgeted billable hours goal. In addition, we weigh the quality of performance on a pro bono case equally with the work on any other project for purposes of associate evaluation.

The firm’s efforts are managed and supervised by our director of pro bono programs, who also is special counsel with the firm. Pepper’s Pro Bono Committee sets the firm’s overall goals and policies, and advises the director of pro bono programs.

As a firm, we have pledged to devote an amount equal to 3 percent of our billable hours to pro bono work by accepting The Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, and we expect our attorneys to share that commitment.

Sources of Cases and Projects
Pepper receives pro bono referrals from public interest law centers and organizations, bar associations and other members of the bar, clients and, occasionally, individuals who are aware of our reputation in this area.

In Philadelphia, we work with or receive referrals from organizations such as:

  • Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania
  • Community Legal Services
  • AIDS Law Project
  • SeniorLaw Center
  • Support Center for Child Advocates
  • Women’s Law Project
  • Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

Similarly, Pepper works with leading public interest law centers in all the cities and regions where we have offices. Some examples include:

  • Boston:  Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts program and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law
  • Harrisburg:  Dauphin County Bar Pro Bono Program
  • Princeton:  Mercer County (N.J.) Bar Association, Central Jersey Legal Services and South Jersey Legal Services
  • Pittsburgh:  Neighborhood Legal Services Association and Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership
  • Wilmington:  Delaware Volunteer Legal Services and Widener Law School Veterans Project
  • Washington, D.C.:  Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
  • Detroit:  Detroit Legal Services and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Project SALUTE (for veterans)
  • Los Angeles and Orange County:  Bet Tzedek Legal Services and Legal Aid Society of Orange County

Accepting a New Pro Bono Matter

Pepper does not accept pro bono matters made directly to the firm by individuals. Rather, a person seeking pro bono assistance must go to a recognized public interest law center, such as Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, for an intake interview. If the public interest law center determines that the individual qualifies for legal services, the law center will either accept the matter directly, or refer the matter to Pepper Hamilton or another private law firm for pro bono representation. 

After a referral by a law center to Pepper, each potential pro bono matter must be evaluated and approved by the director of pro bono programs or another member of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee.  A potential pro bono matter will be reviewed first to determine whether it would present a conflict with any existing matter in the firm, and if so, Pepper will decline the matter. Referred matters are also evaluated to ascertain that the individual or entity has legal needs that Pepper can address. Pepper will also handle matters on a pro bono basis that advance law reform or would benefit the public interest. We interpret the “public interest” broadly to accommodate the wide spectrum of our lawyers’ interests and the needs of the society at large.