Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. it is only fitting to reflect on the importance of community service, including pro bono participation. Pro bono representation is an extremely meaningful and impactful way to connect to your local community. One issue that continues to plague pro bono managers, however, is finding new and interesting ways to encourage attorneys to become involved in pro bono for the first time.
One strategy for sparking interest in potential volunteers is to issue a challenge to the community to become more involved in pro bono. Recently, the ABA Center for Pro Bono extended a challenge to all attorneys on staff. The challenge seeks not only to honor those who give the most of their time to ensure access to justice for everyone, but to create an awareness of the opportunity to provide pro bono assistance and the responsibility that we have as members of the bar.
This is not an unique idea. The Multnomah Bar Association in Oregon organizes an annual Pro Bono Pledge which seeks to increase access to justice by asking member attorneys to commit to taking just one pro bono case per year. Law schools across the country ask their students to take a pro bono pledge whereby they commit to completing a minimum number of pro bono hours during the three years spent obtaining their law degree. Other communities, including Washington, DC, San Francisco and New York have issued similar pledge programs. Likewise, the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge TM, which asks large law firms across the country to commit a minimum of 3 to 5 percent of their yearly billable hours to pro bono work, has been in place for over a decade and has increased pro bono representation by firms involved.
These challenges, rooted in seemingly small requests, assist in pushing current and future attorneys to act on behalf of those who would otherwise be forced to face the legal system alone. This is only one example of the many possible models used to encourage pro bono participation across the country, yet it highlights the meaningful impact we can have if we present pro bono opportunities as an opportunity to serve and to reach greatness.
What interesting and creative initiatives have you found successful in encouraging attorneys to provide pro bono? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
~ Adrienne Packard