Reflections on the 2011 Equal Justice Conference

Guest blogger A. Michael Pratt is the Chair, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

From May 19-21, over 750 pro bono managers, legal services attorneys, private attorneys, judges, funders, law school representatives, court employees and more gathered in Las Vegas for the 2011 Equal Justice Conference. Attendees came from 49 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Three countries – the U.S., Canada and Australia – were represented.

They attended the more than 80 offered workshops on the delivery of pro bono legal services, funding and resource development for programs, using technology effectively, and substantive issues. They networked, reconnecting with long-time friends and making new connections. They gathered new ideas, shared initiatives that they developed, and were inspired.

This week, the attendees are back in their offices. Some are in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas or Missouri, managing efforts to provide pro bono assistance to those affected by recent disasters. Some may be in courts facing shrinking budgets and increasing numbers of unrepresented litigants.  Many may have returned to a desk piled high with the day-to-day work that occupies a great deal of their time, growing to-do lists, and diminishing funds.

The hope of the Equal Justice Conference planners is that the energy and the inspiration of the conference will remain within attendees long after they return to their offices. They will use the inspiration to carry them through the more challenging days and find moments to dream and develop and grow pro bono. They will draw upon resources discovered at the conference to address program and community needs. They will reach out to connections made for information and support. They will have come away from the Equal Justice Conference with tools and resources that improve the delivery of pro bono legal services to those who cannot afford an attorney.

The energy I felt while at the conference, the content of the workshops I attended, the inspiration I felt listening to the keynotes all tell me that we accomplished our mission this year. I hope our attendees agree. And I hope that everyone dedicated to the provision of pro bono legal services will bring their ideas, questions and energy to next year’s conference so we can all keep the momentum going.

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