Since 2009, the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has sponsored Celebrate Pro Bono Week. This year it began on Sunday October 21 and runs through Saturday October 27. Pro bono has become an integral part of the US legal culture. Last month, the NY State Bar, following the lead of New York’s top judge, Jonathan Lippman, instituted a rule that applicants who plan to be admitted in 2015 and after must complete fifty hours of pro bono service to qualify. A Thomson-Reuters News & Insight article says New Jersey’s top judge, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, has formed a committee to consider requiring prospective attorneys to complete pro bono work before being admitted to the NJ state bar.
Despite these and other efforts, the legal needs of the poor remain underserved. Celebrate Pro Bono Week is a coordinated national effort to address our most vulnerable citizens by encouraging and supporting local efforts to expand the delivery of pro bono legal services. The ABA is celebrating with JUST Stories, a digital video collection of legal advocacy stories highlighting the impact of pro bono work on lawyers and the clients they serve. The “video quilt” is on the home page of the National Pro Bono Celebration site, along with instructions on how to send in your own JUST Story. More information is available on the ABA website.
The Brooklyn Law School Library has a number of resources in its collection on the subject of how law students and newly admitted lawyers can provide pro bono service including an internet resource And Justice for All: Prioritizing Free Legal Assistance During the Great Recession, the summary of which says: “The 2009 recession is increasing the numbers of people needing free legal services as well as creating financial challenges for the organizations that provide these services. This report argues that closing the justice gap and ensuring low-income families can access needed resources will require substantial new commitments. At this point the federal government and the private bar may be best suited to contribute to the solution, but state and local governments, law schools, foundations, and individual donors can also play a role.”