Lawyers nationwide provided an average of 57 hours of pro bono work in 2011 – with most of their efforts directed at helping people in poverty cope with everyday legal problems like avoiding eviction and applying for public assistance.
That’s according to a new ABA survey: “Supporting Justice III: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America’s Lawyers.”
The research – from the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service – comes at a time when the profession is renewing its commitment to voluntary service. Last fall, for instance, the New York State Court of Appeals adopted a rule requiring applicants for admission to the New York State Bar to perform 50 hours of pro bono services. A number of other states are considering similar requirements.
“The report showcases the depth of the American legal profession’s longstanding and ongoing commitment to providing legal services to those unable to afford them,” said ABA President Laurel G. Bellows in the ABA Journal. “[I]t highlights valuable opportunities for us to encourage even more lawyers to volunteer their services to those in need.”
Here is how pro bono work corresponds to firm size:
- Lawyers from firms of 101 and more attorneys provided an average of 77.7 hours;
- Lawyers from firms of 51-100 attorneys provided an average of 39.9 hours;
- Lawyers from firms of 11-50 attorneys provided an average of 45.1 hours;
- Lawyers from firms of 2-10 attorneys provided an average of 58.5 hours;
- Solo practitioners provided an average of 62.7 hours.
Pro Bono Volunteers Go Above and Beyond
And here are some of the characteristics of the top pro bono volunteers:
- They are most likely to have received their referrals from an organized pro bono program.
- They do pro bono work even during economic downturns.
- They plan to keep doing pro bono even after they fulfill the minimum requirements.
- They tend to work for an employer that supports pro bono.
- They seek out pro bono opportunities rather than waiting to be called.
The survey suggests the best way to get lawyers to do pro bono is to simply ask them. Fully 70 percent of attorneys who were contacted directly by a pro bono program agreed to help out.
How to keep the pro bono momentum going? By building pro bono infrastructures at bar associations, encouraging support from employers, and creating new and interesting volunteer opportunities.
A final note: pro bono recipients were universally grateful for their lawyers. They said their lives had been enriched because of the volunteer experience.
Interestingly, the lawyers said exactly the same thing.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He thinks the best things in life are free. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.
Source: American Bar Association http://www.abanow.org/2013/03/new-aba-report-reveals-legal-pro-bono-service-trends/