Making a Difference with Pro Bono Work

“Like many of you, I am passionate about pro bono work and do my best to assist those in need. I believe that pro bono service  is a noble and necessary calling for all lawyers, so I urge you to participate in pro bono week.”

Read more here.

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Help! I Want to Celebrate Pro Bono – But How?!?!

The National Celebration of Pro Bono is October 23-29 this year. That means that if you have not already planned your Celebration, you still have 4 weeks to do it! But what, and how?!

Our website,, can help you out. We have an area dedicated to Event Ideas, sorted by type of event, where you can find inspiration and click on a category to get descriptions of specific events. Under the Resources tab, you can find information on using social media to promote your events, media resources, sample proclamations and more.

This year, we encourage you to plan events around the provision of legal services to veterans during the Celebration week through Veterans Day, November 11. Check out our specific page on veterans resources. We also encourage groups to organize veterans legal service activities on or around Memorial Day in May 2017. Organizations submitting and fulfilling a pledge to serve veterans on these two occasions will receive recognition from ABA President Linda Klein.

Before you leave, don’t forget to go shopping at the Celebration store  for gifts and mementos to hand out to your volunteers.

If you’re still not sure what you’d like to plan, or how to plan it, email us at and we’d be happy to help you out.

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Diversifying through pro bono work

“The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct state that “every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay” and suggest that lawyers should aspire to perform at least (50) hours of pro bono services per year. Therefore, most law schools encourage their students to participate in pro bono projects – a habit that hopefully many people will carry forward as they transition into practice.

While helping the public good is an obvious reason to do pro bono work, there are other positive benefits from volunteering your time.”

Read the rest here.

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Recruit Retiring Lawyers

“If even a small fraction of the retired, semi-retired, and transitioning baby-boom lawyers would engage in some form of meaningful pro bono work, they could have a sizeable impact on economic and social justice. Creating the infrastructure to support and sustain these new roles, however, is a significant and sensitive undertaking.” Read the full op-ed here.

The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has also examined the issues surrounding engagement of retired, or emeritus, attorneys in pro bono. The recently published 2016 Survey of Emeritus and Pro Bono Practice Rules: Participation, Recruitment and Case Placement captures many of the issues programs and attorneys alike should consider.

How does your organization engage retiring pro bono attorneys?

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The Profound Joy of Pro Bono

Pro bono lawyers are my heroes. It always warms my heart to listen to them talk about why they derive joy from doing pro bono work. These are my favorite reasons.

Read the full column here.



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Remembering a Pro Bono Hero: Esther Lardent

Esther Lardent

On behalf of the ABA’s Standing Committee for Pro Bono and Public Service, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Esther Lardent, founder of the Pro Bono Institute, who passed away this week.

Esther was a pro bono hero, which is not a term you hear every day. Esther was legendary in Boston legal circles because of her work in founding and serving as the first director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, one of the first organized pro bono programs in the country which remains the premier pro bono force in Greater Boston. It was a great pleasure to get to know her because in addition to her leadership and dedication to inspiring the bar to make pro bono a major resource in meeting the legal needs of the poor, Esther was friendly, approachable and had a “wicked” sense of humor, to use a Boston term.

Many have already spoken of her extraordinary contributions to building a vibrant and productive pro bono culture in America’s law firms in and in-house legal departments, but Esther was also very involved in the ABA for many years. She served not only as an independent legal and policy consultant for the ABA but also as chair or member of numerous ABA committees and task forces, as well as on the Board of Governors and in the House of Delegates. Among her ABA accomplishments, she was the chief consultant for the ABA’s Death Penalty Representation Project at its inception and played a formative role in the creation of the ABA’s Commission on Immigration.

I sometimes considered Esther to be the conscience or watchdog of the ABA House of Delegates – when Esther rose to speak and told us we need to consider how a resolution impacted access to justice, or what should be added to ensure that a resolution served that important goal, everyone listened. There is no question her legacy will continue among those who knew her, but I have already discovered, in the few short days since her death, that those who never knew Esther but have listened to the heartfelt reminiscences about her life, are equally impressed and inspired.

Esther will be sorely missed but her work will live on among those dedicated, as was she, to ensuring that equal access to justice means justice for all.

Mary K. Ryan is a partner at the law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP and Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service.

For more on Esther’s legacy, read the statement of The Association of Pro Bono Counsel

We welcome you to leave your remembrances of Esther in the comments section.

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Pro Bono Innovation Grants from the Legal Services Corporation

LSC 2016 PBI Conference – Innovations in Legal Services from Legal Services Corporation on Vimeo.

In this video, Pro Bono Innovation Grants from the Legal Services Corporation are discussed in depth. The panel, Innovations in Legal Services,  took place at the Pro Bono Institute’s annual conference on March 24, 2016. LSC President Jim Sandman was the moderator and panelists were recipients of LSC Pro Bono Innovation Grants. Panelists include Laurie Hauber, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri; Adam Heintz, Legal Services NYC; and Emily Jarrell, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association

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Paralegals in Paradise: NFPA Celebrates Pro Bono at Annual Conference

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) Annual Convention & Policy Meeting was hosted by the Hawaii Paralegal Association (HPA) from October 8, 2015 through October 11, 2015 at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Honolulu.  This year’s annual convention and policy meeting “Paralegals in Paradise” was attended by delegates of Regions I, II, III, IV and V.

The NFPA Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility Guidelines provide that each paralegal should aspire to contribute 24 hours of community service, in addition to 24 hours to pro bono service annually.  During the year, paralegals voluntarily report hours via the NFPA Pro Bono/Community Service Hours Reporting Forms to record and report the number of hours contributed to local groups, pro bono agencies, events, associations and organizations.  Local associations may then report these hours to the state and local bar associations, highlighting the valuable contributions paralegals make to the delivery of pro bono legal services and to making access to justice a reality.

On Saturday, October 10, 2015, NFPA honored 66 paralegals from local associations throughout the United States for meeting and/or exceeding the recommended aspirations for completion of pro bono/community service hours.  These paralegals received certificates along with a commemorative pro bono pin.

Following the presentation of certificates and pins, NFPA also announced the 2015 pro bono award winners:

Individual Pro Bono Award:

Linda Teater, Rocky Mountain Paralegal  Association


Association Pro Bono Award:

Dallas Area Paralegal Association


Christine M. Flynn is a paralegal with the law firm Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and serves as Coordinator of Pro Bono for The National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

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The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Year-in-Review

Mary Ryan, Chair, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service

Mary Ryan, Chair, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service

When I began my term as chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service in 2013 I knew that the Committee had a busy slate of activities.  I had completed a full three year term on the Committee, was honored to be appointed to serve as Chair and was ready to lead the ABA’s pro bono initiatives to the next level.  The scope of the Committee’s efforts has turned out to be even more impressive and impactful than I ever imagined it would be, in both scope and depth.  As 2015 draws to a close, here is a review of the Committee’s work over the past twelve months:

ABA Working Group on Unaccompanied Minor Immigrants

  • Co-sponsor with the ABA Commission on Immigration
  • Developed and implemented training for potential pro bono volunteers in collaboration with various ABA entities
  • Created website ( to support pro bono lawyers
  • Proposed a House of Delegates resolution which was adopted addressing key issues in assisting unaccompanied minor immigrants
  • Developed an exciting online portal for volunteer attorneys to obtain support from organizations, mentors and each other.

ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference

  • With the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, convened the ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference in Austin, TX on May 6-9
  • Over 835 individuals attended; they participated in more than 85 workshops and networking sessions
  • Keynote speakers included ABA President William Hubbard; Lisa Foster, the director of the Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative; and, Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht. Multiple ABA entities and outside organizations supported and presented conference program sessions.

  • In May 2015 the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service voted to use the Online Tennessee Justice system as a framework for building, maintaining and staffing a national pro bono website
  • The ABA Board of Governors authorized moving forward with the project at its November 2015 meeting
  • Over 30 states have committed to participating in the national site.

2015 ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards

  • Hosted a signature Saturday luncheon event during the ABA Annual Meeting.
  • Presented awards to :
    • Baylor University School of Law / Waco, TX
    • Daniel L. Brown / Sheppard Mullin / New York, NY
    • Jones Day / International
    • Leslie S. Silverstein / Portland, ME
    • United Airlines Legal Department / Chicago, IL
  • Provided national recognition of our long term partners   the National Association of Pro Bono Professionals (NABPRO) and the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCO)
  • Produced and disseminated videos featuring each of the 2015 Award recipients

National Celebration of Pro Bono

  • Planned and implemented the seventh National Celebration of Pro Bono
  • Generated over 900 events coordinated by more than 550 organizations across the country
  • Provided resources, ideas, models and more that were replicated locally
  • Implemented ABA President Paulette Brown’s signature event, And Justice for All: An ABA Day of Service which mobilized thousands of lawyers to increase legal services to poor and vulnerable people
  • Generated extensive coverage in local and national legal and mainstream press conveying very positive messages about the ABA and America’s lawyers.

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 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.

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 2015 meeting to explore additional strategies for working together on pro bono development

Other Activities

  • 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
  • Tested the utilization of the Committee’s national pro bono empirical research model at a state level through a contract with Legal Aid of Nebraska
  • Collaborated with the Commission on Law and Aging on studying the impact and effectiveness of statewide emeritus pro bono rules
  • 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
  • Presented the fourth annual ABA Outstanding Pro Bono Advocacy in Medical-Legal Partnership Award in April 2015 to the Boston, Massachusetts law firm Ropes & Gray
  • Committee members and staff are regularly invited to participate in meetings, conference and other programs relating to the utilization of pro bono as a core component of the legal services delivery system.


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 (from lowest to highest priority) ways in which you can support our efforts:

  1. 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.
  1. Participate in the National Celebration of Pro Bono each year. Host an event, volunteer, develop collaborations and more.
  1. Attend the annual ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference.
  1. Keep us updated on your pro bono policy and programmatic developments. Send us ( 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.
  1. 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 Legal Answers when it goes live in your state next year or find a legal services provider in your community who needs lawyers to help preserve someone’s home or other vital right.  It’ll be a win-win-win for you, the program and your client.

 Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!

 Mary K. Ryan is a partner at the law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP and Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service.

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Studying Pro Bono at the State Level: Nebraska Completes Survey of Attorneys


Earlier this month, Nebraska released the results of its statewide pro bono survey, Supporting Justice in Nebraska: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of Nebraska’s Lawyers. The survey, conducted at the beginning of 2015, asked Nebraska attorneys to give us the skinny on all things pro bono: their attitudes, reservations, and confessions of how much or how little pro bono they did in 2014.

The Nebraska survey was developed based on American Bar Association’s third national survey of attorneys, the results of which are found in Supporting Justice III: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America’s Lawyers, providing a snapshot of the pro bono terrain in America. Interested in developing a more nuanced look at local pro bono trends and behaviors, Legal Aid of Nebraska, the Nebraska State Bar Association, and the Nebraska Supreme Court Committee on Self Represented Litigation all collaborated to survey Nebraska’s 5,000+ attorneys. The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service provided support for this endeavor.

So, what have Nebraska attorneys been up to?

The report shows that 58.3% of the respondents provided pro bono service in 2014 and almost one fourth provided at least 50 hours of service throughout the year. Like the national findings, the majority of attorneys believe pro bono is either somewhat or very important, but are most typically deterred from providing pro bono by time constraints. The report, however, deviates from Supporting Justice III in a number of ways, showing that state-level surveys may provide useful alternative lenses for thinking about pro bono.

The Nebraska survey experiments with a more concrete and explicit definition of pro bono than was provided in the national survey in an attempt to reduce the subjectivity commonly associated with self-reporting. In addition, while the national report focused on practice setting differences, the Nebraska report delves into geographic, gender and age differences within the state’s attorney population. Specifically, it takes steps towards teasing out some of the influences of family, gender, and professionalism. The report by no means settles such questions, but certainly demonstrates that the meaning we ascribe to pro bono and the subsequent decisions we make to take a case or not are complicated and intertwined with our personal and professional lives.

The report concludes with a set of policy and program recommendations. Although some of these recommendations respond to Nebraska-specific trends, they may also be useful for other jurisdictions contemplating new ways to expand engagement of the private bar. For example, the report identifies opportunities to enlist more lawyers to do the types of pro bono that most directly benefit poor clients. Strategies include building and ensuring institutional support for pro bono; increasing pro bono initiatives that are organized and supported by employers; educating attorneys about the resources and opportunities available; and pursuing innovative approaches that respond to the attorney population’s interests, needs and personal constraints.

Which states will be next to collect this information?

The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service is now contemplating making this survey tool available and providing assistance to those who are considering replication of this survey in other states. Given the ways in which the Nebraska report deviated from the national report, state level replication of this survey might provide some interesting insights. Building on the national level findings from Supporting Justice III by collecting state-specific data can also help us understand the nuances of pro bono activity and develop evidence-based innovations. Any inquiries regarding state replications of this survey should be directed to April at

April Faith-Slaker is the Director of the ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives and a Senior Staff Attorney for the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service.

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