Needless to say perhaps, 2016 was a whale of a year. Events have cascaded daily right into our living rooms and mobile devices. The need for access to justice resources, of course, remains unabated. So, the work of our Committee and of our collaboration partners is as critical as ever. Our work together gives me great pride in our profession. There is simply no other profession more committed to helping those in need. For a view of our plans for the future, you can view the strategic plan developed by the Committee this fall here.
ABA Free Legal Answers
- Our national pro bono web site project has exceeded our wildest dreams. Although we are always looking for enhancements, the fundamental work of creating the initial programming code was completed this summer and the process of launching state pro bono web pages began in August.
- Over forty states have signed up to be part of our network. States large and small have already launched and just last month, the Florida Bar Board of Governors voted to have Florida join our family of jurisdictions.
- We have begun discussions with the American Red Cross about expanding our relationship with them so that the site can better serve disaster victims. Once the legal wellness checkups being developed by our ABA colleagues are complete, we look forward to delivering that resource on the web site as well.
- We have hired our national web site coordinator, Tali Albukerk, who is assisting the state and city bars on a daily basis. To view the national page, go to ABAfreelegalanswers.org.
- You can view a map of the states now using our technology or with an agreement in place to launch next year here.
ABA Working Group on Unaccompanied Minor Immigrants
- The Working Group’s efforts have resulted in the recruitment of more than 250 attorneys to provide pro bono legal services to unaccompanied minors in federal immigration courts and state juvenile, family and probate courts for findings of abuse, abandonment or neglect to qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) classification, an immigration benefit that will allow children to remain lawfully and permanently in the United States.
- The Working Group convened a symposium for immigration legal services providers in May 2016 to help them develop and improve their strategies for using pro bono attorneys as part of their legal services delivery model.
- The Working Group hosted a free webinar in December 2016 with national immigration experts to discuss possible immigration law changes under a new administration and how they may affect advocacy efforts.
- The Working Group filed an amicus brief urging a rehearing in J.E.F.M. v. Lynch, a class-action lawsuit alleging that unaccompanied minor immigrants have a right to a court-appointed attorney.
ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference
- With the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the Committee convened the ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference in Chicago, IL from May 12-14, 2016.
- Over 900 individuals attended; they participated in more than 85 workshops and networking sessions.
- Keynote speakers included ABA President Paulette Brown; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; Jo-Ann Wallace, President and CEO of NLADA; and, David Cruickshank, Principal of Edge International. Multiple ABA entities and outside organizations supported and presented conference program sessions.
2016 Pro Bono Publico Awards
- The Pro Bono Publico Awards luncheon was held during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA.
- Sherrilyn Ifill, Chief Officer of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund served as the keynote speaker for the Awards luncheon.
- The 2016 Pro Bono Publico Awards were presented to:
- The Committee produced and disseminated videos featuring the five award winners.
- The 2017 Pro Bono Publico Awards will take place in New York City in August 2017. The Committee has secured former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman as the keynote speaker for the luncheon.
National Celebration of Pro Bono
- The Committee planned and coordinated the Eighth Annual National Celebration of Pro Bono.
- A record 1,155 events, hosted by over 600 organizations, were held in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Santiago, Chile.
- The Committee provided resources, ideas, models, and more that were utilized by various organizations.
- In connection with ABA President Linda Klein’s Veterans Legal Services Initiative, the Center for Pro Bono encouraged participants to plan events focused on providing services to veterans through Veterans Day on November 11, 2016. Over 90 veterans themed events were held throughout the country in collaboration with the National Celebration.
Center for Pro Bono
- The ABA Center for Pro Bono, a project of the Committee, provided technical assistance on promoting and developing pro bono to projects of all types across the country.
- The Center provided technical support on various aspects of pro bono development to multiple ABA entities.
- Center staff presented at several statewide and national conferences.
- Center staff oversaw the ABA’s in-house pro bono project providing ABA staff lawyers the opportunity to fulfill their professional responsibility by identifying, communicating and coordinating pro bono activities.
- The Center co-sponsored a two day webinar entitled Breaking Poverty Barriers to Equal Justice
- Center staff developed and submitted proposals for sessions at the Legal Services Corporation Technology Innovation Grants conference and the Maryland Partners for Justice Conference.
Legal Services Corporation Collaboration
- Committee members and staff have participated as members of working groups and presentations relating to LSC’s pro bono activities
- The Committee met with the LSC Board at its January 2016 meeting to explore additional strategies for working together on pro bono development
- The Committee has incorporated pro bono into the planning of Access to Justice Commissions with particular emphasis on judicial leadership and the adoption of pro bono policies and rules.
- The Committee’s national pro bono empirical research survey instrument was released to individual states this year. 25 states have committed to use the survey to conduct data collection on attorney pro bono efforts, which will then be analyzed by the Committee staff.
- The Pro Bono Committee presented the fourth annual ABA Outstanding Pro Bono Advocacy in Medical-Legal Partnership Award in April 2016 to the Tennessee Bar Association.
- The Committee continued to increase the availability of volunteer attorneys to provide free legal services to low-income patients of hospitals and health centers through medical-legal partnerships.
- Committee members and staff are regularly invited to participate in meetings, conferences, and other programs relating to the utilization of pro bono as a core component of the legal services delivery system.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? (TAKE A PRO BONO CASE!!)
It is an honor for the Committee’s staff and volunteers to actively promote pro bono as a key component of the legal services delivery system. To be successful, we need your help. Here are the top 5 ways in which you can support our efforts:
- Consider a charitable contribution to support the Committee’s activities. Many of the projects described above depend on the generosity of our contributors. Donate HERE by designating your contribution to “Other” and inserting “The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service” in the accompanying box that appears.
- Participate in the National Celebration of Pro Bono each year. Host an event, volunteer, develop collaborations, and more.
- Attend the annual ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference. This year’s conference is taking place May 4-6, 2017 in Pittsburgh, PA.
- Keep us updated on your pro bono policy and programmatic developments. Send us (firstname.lastname@example.org) examples of your program flyers, intake forms, co-counsel agreements and more for us to add to our Clearinghouse of pro bono material. Call us for assistance. We stand ready to help you with all of your pro bono project development needs. Contact Cheryl Zalenski with your requests for assistance at 312-988-5770.
- Take a pro bono case. Sign up to represent one of the many unaccompanied minor immigrants desperately in need of legal help or sign up for ABA Free Legal Answers or find a legal services provider in your community who needs lawyers to help preserve someone’s vital legal rights. It will be a win-win-win for you, the program, and your client.
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!
–George T. “Buck” Lewis is a shareholder at the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC and chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.