Pro Bono Community Profiles: Sharon Goldsmith, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland

In part two of this post we look at Ms. Goldsmith’s response to questions about her national involvement in pro bono efforts:

Pro Bono Nationally

You currently serve as chair of the ABA National Pro Bono Celebration Week Committee. How has the Celebration served to advance pro bono across the country and what kind of influence have you had as chair on the direction of this year’s efforts?

From what I have heard from others across the country and from my experience here in Maryland, the National Celebration of Pro Bono Week (“Celebration”) has definitely expanded pro bono services and spurred new efforts across the country where there were none previously. It is very exciting that there have been so many new projects and creative ideas as a result of the Celebration. It is also gratifying that existing pro bono programs and communities have taken pro bono to the next level. It has meant new partnerships and collaborations that are unique to the legal community as well. Finally, I think the public and our communities are becoming more aware of what legal services programs do.

As a small example, in Maryland, a walk-in legal advice clinic in the court library was created during Pro Bono Week.  It quickly grew to a monthly, then weekly clinic.  Projects like these make it clear that the Celebration is not just a flash in the pan. Ongoing projects are sprouting up everywhere across the country.

One of my program’s earlier strategic goals was to make pro bono “cool” and I believe that in many ways that has occurred. When people appreciate that pro bono is something that can be fun and rewarding and that these programs make it collegial, it is positive for the volunteers and the communities they serve.  The Celebration is about doing good work but it is also hard work.  It is helpful and important to celebrate those efforts. I think everyone involved with the planning and creation of the Celebration has been pleasantly surprised at how effective it has been and what a positive impact it has had on pro bono nationally. The Celebration has really exceeded everyone’s expectations.

You also serve as chair of the Policy Development and Advocacy Working Group of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. What policies have been developed over the past decade that impact pro bono participation?

In the past, important Committee initiatives such as data collection on pro bono services, mandatory pro bono reporting and large law firm commitment to pro bono services have furthered the pro bono agenda in this country.  We are now embarking on another important initiative to revise the Pro Bono Standards. The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Policy (“Committee”) does not want the standards to be a static document. We envision the new standards to include best practices tips and techniques and to have an interactive component to make it an ongoing and useful product. The Committee has been discussing how to have resources on-line and incorporate input from pro bono advocates across the country. It is an important and exciting effort in which we hope many members of the community will become engaged.

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