It’s time to Celebrate Pro Bono! #pbweek

Steven Scudder, Committee Counsel, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

Steven Scudder, Committee Counsel, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

For those of us involved in conceptualizing the event, it’s hard to believe that this is the fifth National Celebration of Pro Bono. Although national in breadth, the Celebration was established as an opportunity for law-related groups in communities all across the country to take the next step in their efforts to provide high quality legal services to those living on the social margins. This approach allows for flexibility and the development of locally appropriate and effective approaches to expanding pro bono services.

The Pro Bono Committee developed the following goals to provide a framework for Celebration event planners:

      • recruit more pro bono volunteers and increase legal services to poor and vulnerable populations,
      • mobilize community support for pro bono among a broad coalition of groups and individuals,
      • foster collaborative relationships, and
      • recognize the pro bono efforts of lawyers.

As the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service was developing the Celebration the most commonly expressed concern was, “If we build it, will they come?” Apparently we didn’t have to worry. In the Celebration’s first year we were able to identify 525 events; this year we have close to 900 events listed on the website (www.celebrateprobono.org). Other quantifiable measures provide further evidence that the Celebration has developed a life of its own: we have tracked 459 different event sponsors, the amount of swag purchased from the Celebration store is at an all-time high, the number of unique website visits continues to grow, and much more.

More than anything, success can be measured by reviewing the events taking place against the goals the Pro Bono Committee established back at the beginning of the Celebration. While there are certainly many important and appropriate recognition events happening this year it is tremendously exciting to note that these are far outweighed by the number of events focused on recruiting new volunteers and serving more clients. And, notably, new collaborations are being fostered all over the country as law-related groups increasingly reach out to other providers in their communities to maximize the services provided to those who need it the most.

None of these successes could have happened without the invaluable donation of web hosting and support provided by Pro Bono Net, the excellent consulting services of Sharon Browning, the outstanding work of the ABA Center for Pro Bono staff and, most of all, the cadre of event planners who bring creativity and vision as they craft the appropriate events for their local community’s needs.  Thank you, one and all, for your commitment to expanding pro bono legal services for those in need nationwide.

After five years of planning and implementation, it is evident that the National Celebration of Pro Bono provides an invaluable strategic tool for bar associations, pro bono and legal services programs, law firms, judiciaries, law schools and others interested in promoting and expanding pro bono opportunities for lawyers, paraprofessionals and law students. As importantly, the Celebration is a critical and effective tool for the ABA’s Pro Bono Committee in serving the needs of our constituents. Our contacts with Celebration event planners invariably result in our staff providing technical assistance, resources and guidance on other aspects of growing and enhancing pro bono program initiatives.

Though the National Celebration of Pro Bono is an annual event, making pro bono a critical component of your day-to-day planning and programming is essential. The ABA Center for Pro Bono stands ready to help. For assistance, send an email to abaprobono@americanbar.org – our staff will get right back to you to help you figure out how you can make celebrating pro bono an ongoing part of your organization’s mission.

Thank you for celebrating pro bono with the ABA and your colleagues around the country. Do Good. Do Justice. Do Pro Bono.

Steven Scudder is Counsel to the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. Mr. Scudder had been doing consulting for the ABA Center for Pro Bono since 1986 and in 1994 was hired as the Center’s director. In 1996 he became Counsel to the ABA’s Pro Bono Committee. During the past 16+ years he has led many successful national pro bono initiatives, has spoken and written extensively about pro bono, and has provided extensive consultation to programs across the country. Mr. Scudder recently received the 2013 Bruce E. Friedman Pro Bono Award from the New Hampshire Bar Association and the University of New Hampshire Law Rudman Center.

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