Pro Bono and Volunteer Programs

How Do Pro Bono or Volunteer Programs Improve Access to Justice? While legal professionals understand the necessity for all people, despite their financial situations, to have access to legal assistance, the demand for free legal services often outweighs availability. Many states have reduced this gap by developing innovative programs, such as requiring attorneys to do pro bono work or to provide low bono, pre-paid and unbundled legal services.  Volunteer programs involving attorneys, law students, or universities offer another source of free or low cost legal assistance. 

Pro Bono Publico Award Recipient: Each year the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service presents five awards to individual lawyers and institutions in the legal profession that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged. 

American Bar Association Center for Pro Bono. This is a project of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. Links include pro bono news; volunteering; ABA pro bono and other information resources; clearinghouse library; a directory of local pro bono programs; and a law school public interest and pro bono programs directory.

State Emeritus Pro Bono Practice Rules. American Bar Association. (July 2014).

New York’s 50-hour Preadmission Pro Bono Rule: Weighing the Potential Pros and Cons.  Presented by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service (October 2013).

Conference of Chief Justices Resolution In Support of Encouraging Pro Bono Service in Law Schools (July 31, 2013).

ABA Model Rule 6.1 Voluntary Pro Bono. Provides information on the policy regarding voluntary pro bono work.

Rural Pro Bono Delivery: A Guide to Pro Bono Legal Services in Rural Areas . American Bar Association. (2003).

Supporting Justice III A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America’s Lawyers American Bar Association (2013). This is the third in a series of reports assessing the level of pro bono participation in America and identifying strategies for expanding pro bono legal services in the country.

Selected State Resources:

The 2013 Tennessee Pro Bono Report discusses pro bono improvements including a streamlined voluntary reporting system for pro bono hours.

The goal of the Milwaukee Justice Center Mobile Legal Clinic (a project of Marquette University Law School and the Milwaukee Bar Association) is to bring services provided by the Milwaukee Justice Center out to isolated neighborhoods where it is difficult for those residents to reach free legal assistance. The Milwaukee Justice Center utilizes volunteers to address the unmet legal needs of Milwaukee County's low-income unrepresented litigants through court-based programs and legal resources.

Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers, Year 2012 (November 27, 2013). ANASYS, Inc. This report analyzes the 2012 data for pro bono activity by Maryland attorneys.  Maryland has a mandatory reporting rule with an aspirational goal of 50 hours.

The Hon. Jonathan Lippman’s Keynote Article from Trends in State Courts (2013). 
New York’s Pro Bono Requirement: The Whys and Hows of Building a Culture of Service in Future Lawyers.

Access to Justice:  The Role of New York’s Law Schools . This Report is based on a conference convened by the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on May 22, 2012.

Lippman, Jonathan Hon. Opening Remarks Access to Justice: The Role of New York’s Law Schools (May 2012).

William C. Vickrey, Nicole Claro-Quinn and Martha Wright. Courts and Universities Partner to Improve Access to Justice for All Californians. (2011). National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts (2011).

The JusticeCorps program aims to assist California courts in meeting the needs of self-represented litigants by recruiting and training college students to work in legal self-help centers.

CTLawHelp's Pro Bono Portal is a one-stop resource for attorneys who would like to provide free legal assistance to people with very low income in the state of Connecticut. The site includes FAQs, Training opportunities, and a Catalog of Pro Bono Opportunities .

Other Organizations: 

Access to Justice on Campus . This website offers responses to the U.S. Department of Justice Access to Justice Initiative request to participating law schools to discuss how they are institutionalizing their commitment to pro bono and public service.

Access to Justice for Victims of Domestic Violence Project . U.S. Department of Justice This fact sheet describes the project that will train third year law students in a holistic model of representation for domestic violence victims.

Center for Law and Social Policy. CLASP concentrates on family policy and access to civil legal assistance for low-income families.

Equal Justice Network. The project is a joint effort of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Pro Bono Institute. The Pro Bono Institute focuses on improving access to the civil justice system for low- and moderate-income persons and the organizations that serve their needs.

Veterans Legal Corps will place lawyers and law students in legal aid organizations and courts across the country to serve the needs of low-income and homeless veterans by helping them secure access to income, housing, employment, and health care.