Prior to my employment at the ABA I had the pleasure of helping the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service develop a set of standards for pro bono program operations. Their extensive efforts, supported by considerable feedback from the field, resulted in the adoption of the Standards for Programs Providing Pro Bono Legal Services to Persons of Limited Means by the ABA House of Delegates in 1996 (see them here).
For the past 15 years working for the ABA I’ve been gratified to see how programs have reacted to and utilized the Pro Bono Standards. For many programs, the Standards have been instrumental in ensuring that clients receive high quality services from dedicated pro bono volunteers.
Nonetheless, as the legal services delivery system has become more sophisticated and pro bono programs have matured, the Pro Bono Standards have become somewhat antiquated. I’m excited that the Pro Bono Committee has determined that the advent of new technologies, a greater recognition of the power of pro bono and more refined delivery models requires a complete review of the Standards.
To help get a sense of what role the Standards have played in program development the Committee is undertaking an initial survey of our constituents. If you want to give us your insight, you can take the survey here.
Some of the early findings are interesting. For example:
• 50% of those who completed the survey to date report that they have not used the Pro Bono Standards in promoting or supporting a pro bono program.
I guess the good news is that 50% have used them!
• Of those who reported that they had not used the Standards, 53% reported that it was because they had never heard of them before now.
We have known for some time that there are many copies collecting dust on bookshelves across the country.
• Those who have used the Standards rated them as 7 on a scale of 10 as to their usefulness.
It’s encouraging to know that there is considerable value that people have gained from their use of the Pro Bono Standards.
And, as is often true with surveys, the comments are providing some important observations that will help guide our work to update the Pro Bono Standards.
The Pro Bono Committee is anticipating that the process for updating the Standards will take two years. We’re off to a good start and look forward to hearing from you as we take on the challenge of ensuring that they provide added value to the legal services delivery system.
~ Steve Scudder