Q3 2020 Paladin Pro Bono Trends

This year, the way we work with others has been upended, but the need for pro bono assistance has rarely been greater. After taking a look at how COVID-19 shifted legal pro bono work across the country in H1 2020, we wanted to understand how things have landed within the ‘new normal.’ Here are the top takeaways from Q3 2020 Paladin pro bono engagement data:

  1. Education matters increased 175% from Q2 to Q3, the largest of any practice area. As children returned to school (or, home school), legal challenges have arisen around issues like accommodations for children with special needs, licensing of virtual education programs, and COVID-19 liability concerns for schools. As district policies are constantly changing, we expect this to remain a high impact issue through the spring semester.
  2. One bright spot: trusts & estates work decreased by 84%. Perhaps as a result of legal services organizations and law firms front-loading pro bono assistance for essential workers early into the pandemic, the need for pro bono estate planning drop significantly this quarter from both Q1 (down 91%) to Q2 (by 84%).
  3. Pro bono for incarcerated individuals increased by 56% — the largest for any one particular community. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others led many law firms and corporates to (re)commit to promoting racial justice and equity. These messages translated to a bump in pro bono attention for incarcerated individuals on matters like compassionate release, clemency, and innocence work.
  4. Public benefits work is holding steady. Pro bono engagement for public benefits work, as well as a focus on workers and the unemployed, were the two greatest surges in Q2 compared to Q1, as businesses shut down and tens of millions applied for unemployment insurance. While as a whole, this work makes up a smaller percentage of pro bono engagement in Q3, the absolute numbers are holding steady, implying that we’re not out of the woods yet on helping individuals with economic recovery.
  5. Prediction for Q4 2020: One week in, education and civil rights are the most engaged pro bono practice areas. Much of the civil rights work has aligned with election protection and protestor free speech related initiatives, but I’ll be especially interested to see what happens post-election (and, racial justice specific data will be a new reporting feature on Paladin soon).

Have any other insights to share? Feel free to reach out at kristen@joinpaladin.com.


Q3 2020 Pro Bono Trends was originally published in Paladin on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.