Remembering the Publico aspect of a Lawyer’s Obligation to Provide Pro Bono Service “AND JUSTICE FOR ALL…” Beau Cole
History of Civil Legal Aid Programs • Since 1964, the U.S. Government has been committed to providing “equal justice under the law” through federal funding for civil legal assistance “Without equal access to the law…the system not only robs the poor of their only protection, but it places in the hands of their oppressors the most powerful and ruthless weapon ever invented.” Justice and the Poor, Reginald Heber Smith, 1919
LSC: Congress Recognizes Need On July 25, 1974, Nixon signed the Legal Services Corporation Act.
Legal Services Corporation • LSC is the largest provider of civil legal aid to persons at or below federal poverty level, or 5M people yearly. • Distributes about 95% of its funding to 136 legal aid programs with 900+ offices nationwide. • Partners with governments, private bar, foundations, business community and other aid providers. • Common cases: Family law, Housing, Consumer Law and Income Maintenance
LSC: The “Political Football” Almost immediately after the LSC was created, some politicians called for its disbandment. One member of the LSC Board referred to it as a “political football…being influenced by political pressures”.
So how does the “political football” game end for those most in need?
“NO!” to Pro Bono??? 67% Lack of Time 30% Hourly Expectations & Policies 26% 21% Liability – No Malpractice Ins. 19% Lack of Financial Incentive 16% Lack of Admin. Support/ Resources 9% Lack of Needed Skills/Experience 5% Uncomfortable with Client Type Employer Does Not Value Pro Bono
ABA MODEL RULE 6.1 Recognizing the reality of LSC politicization and lack of Pro Bono Publicoresources, the ABA lobbied state bar associations to encourage service.
ABA MODEL RULE 6.1 Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should: (a) provide a substantial majority of the (50) hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to: (1) persons of limited means or (2)charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means, and (b) provide any additional services through: (1) delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization’s economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate’ (2) delivery of legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or (3) participation in activities fro improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession. In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.
Model Rule 6.1: State-by-State >50 Hours >25 Hours No Hourly Suggestion
Pro Bono Reporting: State-by-State Mandatory Voluntary No Reporting
BENEFITS OF PRO BONO SERVICE The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service have identified a number of benefits Private Counsel and the Corporate Legal Community
Corporate Counsel Benefits • Allows lawyers to satisfy professional responsibility • Improvement of legal skills through diversified settings • Personal satisfaction = increased retention of legal talent • Provides opportunities to increase interaction between legal team members • Allows lawyers to satisfy continuing legal education requirements.
Corporate Benefits • Promotion of concept of “Equal Justice” • Stabilization of community in which corporation operates • Establishes “good will” and builds relationships between the corporation, its legal department and the bar • Increased employee awareness and appreciation of community diversity • Increased visibility for recruiting purposes • Increased “legal firepower” resulting from varied experiences
Pro Bono Power: The CPBO Challenge • Association of Corporate Counsel is the “largest community of in-house counsel, with more than 26,000 members in over 75 countries.” • Pro Bono Institute, D.C. based non-profit, is considered the “respected resource for all things pro bono.” • ACC and PBI’s joint project, Corporate Pro Bono, spawned the Corporate Challenge
Other Resources/Opportunities • ABA Programs • State Bar Associations • Legal Services Corporation Partnerships • ACLU • Disaster Relief Organizations • Military Pro Bono Projects • Local Advocacy Programs/Non-Profit Organizations • Child Advocacy Programs • Victims Of Domestic Violence