Encouraging Pro Bono Participation

I just read Can You Meet the Pro Bono Standard, describing the Minnesota State Bar Association’s new strategy to encourage attorneys in the state to do pro bono. In order to participate, law firms must commit to:1% of a firm’s lawyers’ collective billable hours during the first year toward pro bono, 2% the second year, and 3% the third year if the firm has over 100 lawyers. It’s a great concept and the Center commends The Minnesota State Bar Association for adopting this initiative.

A number of other states encourage attorneys to strive for a deeper commitment to pro bono. The New York State Bar Association acknowledges attorneys who have met the aspirational goal of 50 hours of pro bono through the Empire StateCounsel® Program.

The State Bar of Texas also challenges attorneys to commit to providing pro bono services through the Pro Bono College. Qualification for the Pro Bono College requires an attorney to have performed a minimum of 75 hours of defined legal assistance activities in a year. A nice additional aspect of the Pro Bono College is recognition of paralegals who have given a minimum of 50 hours of eligible pro bono services in a year.

These are all wonderful examples of ways that state bar associations can encourage attorneys to make pro bono participation an integral piece of their professional life. Each recognizes the many attorneys who give generously of their time and is a valuable addition to the recognition of individuals through annual awards.

How does your bar association similarly encourage pro bono participation? Tell us about it in the Comments below.

~Cheryl Zalenski

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1 Response to Encouraging Pro Bono Participation

  1. The State Bar of Michigan encourages firms and corporations to collectively strive to meet Michigan’s Voluntary Pro Bono Standard of each attorney in the firm, on average, providing a minimum of 30 hours of pro bono legal services or contributing at least $300 to the Michigan State Bar Foundation’s Access to Justice Fund, or a combination of the two. Firms that collectively meet or exceed the pro bono standard are recognized as being eligible for the Bar’s Circle of Excellence (COE). The COE is published at least quarterly in the Michigan Bar Journal and the Bar also prints an attractive version of the COE and distributes it widely at the State Bar Annual meeting and other events where firms’ accomplishments can be celebrated. The COE has been successful in encouraging more firms to meet Michigan’s pro bono standard. In 2009, each and every attorney in at least 48 firms and corporations collectively met or exceeded Michigan’s Voluntary Pro Bono Standard for providing legal services to the poor.

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