There is no better way to change the pro bono culture of a state (or county, or city) than to involve the judiciary in facilitating pro bono. Many judges are under the mistaken impression that they cannot do pro bono because they are unable to do individual case work. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Although judges may not be able to represent clients, there are a myriad of ways that judges can promote and participate in pro bono efforts. Last year, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service put together a resource for states and judges on how judges can get more involved. The resource was developed in response to changes in the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct by the ABA House of Delegates in February, 2007. Rule 3.7 now specifically states that judges can encourage lawyers to provide pro bono legal services.
How can a judge encourage pro bono? He can write articles in the bar journal about pro bono, give speeches on the importance of pro bono to lawyers, conduct recognition events for lawyers who do pro bono work, change court rules to promote and support pro bono and develop courtroom practices that provide special accommodations to lawyers who take pro bono cases. Or, he can conduct a “Pro Bono Road Show” like the one in Wisconsin or host a dinner for new Bar admittees who register for the state’s volunteer lawyers program. There are an endless number of ways for judges to get involved – the only requirements are a bit of creativity, salesmanship and a passion to support equal justice for all.
For more information on how judges can support pro bono, click here. As always, we encourage you to share your ideas in the comments.
~ Jamie Hochman Herz