Vance Center-Latin Lawyer Survey Recognizes Firms Leading Pro Bono Practice in Latin America

December 2023

Now in its 16th year, the annual survey recognizes the trends and firms shaping pro bono practice in Latin America.

In November, Latin Lawyer published the results of its 16th annual survey of pro bono practice in Latin America, conducted jointly with the Vance Center.  

Participation in the survey continued to grow, with 209 firms from 18 countries submitting responses. The Vance Center and Latin Lawyer recognized 64 of the respondents as “Leading Lights,” firms making a noteworthy contribution to strengthening a culture of pro bono in Latin America. 

The 2023 survey results show that a growing number of firms are taking steps to formalize their commitments to pro bono work. These efforts include implementing systems to set objectives and measure impact of projects, establishing pro bono as a standalone practice area, designating internal pro bono coordinators, actively participating in clearinghouses through memberships and financial support, and recognizing a robust pro bono practice as an effective feature to attract and cultivate top legal talent.  

Firms pointed to the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas as one of the best mechanisms to ensure firms continue actively contributing to the development and evolution of pro bono in the region. Established by the Vance Center in 2008, the PBDA commits signatories to an average of at least 20 hours of pro bono work per lawyer every year. The number of signatory firms that adhere to the agreement continues growing by the year – 61% of 2023 respondents have signed the PBDA, up from 55% in 2022. 

Other notable results from the 2023 survey include: 

  • The percentage of senior lawyers supervising pro bono work has remained at a consistent high level for more than five years, with 85% of 2023 respondent firms ensuring at least one partner is assigned to each project. 
  • The majority of firms have appointed an internal pro bono coordinator, with 87% of firms now delegating a staff member – a qualified lawyer in 90% of cases – to oversee such work. 
  • Firms place high value on active engagement with clearinghouses through memberships and board participation. Of the firms surveyed, 77% have solidified their commitment to pro bono through membership with a local pro bono organization. 
  • The main barrier to firms signing the PBDA is lack of resources, not interest. Some firms expressed concern that they lack the resources to effectively commit to the requirements, but 83% of the firms that have not yet signed the PBDA are considering doing so. 

As in previous years, the 2023 survey results feature an updated list of Leading Lights, the law firms making a noteworthy contribution to strengthening a culture of pro bono in Latin America. This year’s group of Leading Lights includes firms from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and four regional firms working in Central America. 

The accompanying articles also featured insights from Vance Center Committee members Todd Crider, David Flechner, and Werner Ahlers, and coordinators of pro bono clearinghouses in Uruguay and Colombia. 

The annual pro bono survey is a key component of the Vance Center’s commitment to promoting pro bono legal practice in Latin America and worldwide. Over 20 years, this has led to the formation of pro bono clearinghouses in 19 countries throughout the Americas, which have joined together as the Pro Bono Network of the Americas, co-led by the Vance Center and Fundación Pro Bono Chile. More than 560 law firms and other legal organizations throughout the region have committed to pro bono practice by signing the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas. 

The survey results, analysis and Leading Lights are available here.