How Pro Bono Innovation Returns Investment Across Departments

Kristen Sonday
Published in
3 min readAug 2, 2019


Photo by Helloquence

When it comes to pro bono, most law firms view it as a key part of their practice, but traditionally don’t invest significant technology resources since it’s not a “revenue generating” department of the firm. Accordingly, Paladin is often asked by law firm business development teams about the ROI of pro bono innovation outside of the core pro bono function. In other words: what is the “business case” for pro bono technology?

Luckily, as pro bono programs grow to operate at scale, the business value of pro bono innovation has become clearer and easier to measure across departments. Below are a few intersectional areas (and recommended KPIs) where pro bono technology can drive value across departments and benefit the firm’s business as a whole:

1. Professional Development

By highlighting the skills required or acquired in inbound pro bono opportunity listings, junior attorneys can target building specific new skills and the firm can capture that development in one place. Senior attorneys can view more complex cases and leverage their experience to maximize impact.

KPIs to measure: Skills acquired, new areas of law practiced, incorporation in performance reviews

2. Business Development

As pro bono programs proliferate within corporate in-house legal teams, there’s been a surge of firm-client collaboration on pro bono matters. When firms and their corporate clients have tools to collaborate through consistent technology, they can share opportunities, work together, and report on joint projects more effectively.

KPIs to measure: increased client engagement, new billable matters from client, hours/outcomes by client, stories and testimonials

3. Retention and Morale

With the largest 400 firms losing $9.1 billion annually on attrition, providing a strong pro bono offering is a great way to boost retention and morale. By building an auto-populated, searchable database, attorneys can seamlessly find opportunities they’re passionate about and get involved with current events.

KPIs to measure: employee satisfaction and retention

4. Marketing and Branding

Gathering pro bono success stories and testimonials is currently a manual process and, therefore, is not often leveraged to its highest potential both inside and outside the firm. With automated reminders and notifications, you can collect and share stories as you go to boost visibility, engage with clients, and inspire others to work with you.

KPIs to measure: number of stories collected, social media reach, press /awards

5. Recruiting

In particular, millennials care a lot about giving back and cite it as both a top reason to go to law school and a top consideration in choosing between prospective employers. Law schools are ramping up pro bono culture (thanks in part to the NY State Bar 50 hour rule), and they’re looking for workplaces that will continue to support their community involvement.

KPIs to measure: recruiting conversion rates, survey of summer and junior associate priorities/values

6. Publicly Supporting Access to Justice

This list wouldn’t be complete without recognizing that by joining other innovative leaders in the legal field committed to increasing pro bono engagement, firms can double down on their commitment to access to justice and solidify their roles as pro bono thought leaders. Plus, with more time freed up from administration, pro bono teams can focus on what matters: having more impact.

KPIs to measure: increased pro bono engagement, community awards

Do you know of other ways that pro bono innovation can drive law firm business value? We would love to hear them — email me at



Kristen Sonday

Co-Founder, CEO @JoinPaladin. Partner @LongJump. World traveller. Wine and chocolate lover.