The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

Law Firm Pro Bono

July 13, 2017

Partners Versus Associates

We’ve previously shared highlights from the 2016 Report on the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, such as information about law firm charitable giving. Challenge signatories visibly acknowledge their institutional, firm-wide commitment to provide pro bono legal services. They agree that they “will use [their] best efforts to ensure that a majority of both partners and associates in the firm participate annually in pro bono activities.” Participation rates in 2016 remained steady for both partners and associates: 65.5% of partners and 84.4% of associates participated in pro bono, with an overall attorney participation rate of 74.9%.

Many law firms struggle with how to involve more partners in pro bono work. The PBEye believes that it is critical to attain meaningful participation by partners — it broadens a firm’s pro bono capacity and helps ensure the long-term vitality of pro bono by sending a clear message that pro bono is an important and lasting firm value. If you are looking for suggestions to increase partner participation, we’ve prepared several helpful hints and best approaches for doing so. Or, contact us for individualized, confidential assistance.

Check out the complete Challenge Report, including analysis of the data, detailed graphs, and more. Also, tune in to the Law Firm Project’s discussion of the Report and Pro Bono: Beyond the Numbers on its podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour. If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge and become visible pro bono leaders, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.

July 10, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Celebrate our “diamond” program with us! Don’t miss the 75th episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, featuring Susan Hoffman of Crowell & Moring*. Susie talks to us about her career, the firm’s pro bono program and foundation, the “loaned lawyer” program, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

July 6, 2017

Membership Has Its Privileges

More than 40 firms have already become Law Firm Pro Bono Project members for 2017-2018.  These firms have publically demonstrated their leadership and commitment to pro bono and access to justice, and we are grateful for their support.

As a member firm, you will have access to a variety of services and resources designed to help you create and maintain a successful pro bono program, such as expert consultative services, discounted registration to the PBI Annual Conference, free publications, webinars, and the members-only section of the Project’s Resource Clearinghouse. Check out our member benefits page for more details on these and other valuable benefits.

Submit your firm’s enrollment form or join online before September 1 to receive a 10% discount:

Please contact Law Firm Project Assistant Elysse DeRita, if you have any questions.

We look forward to welcoming your law firm as a member soon!

July 3, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

As we start this patriotic holiday week, do you need a break from thinking about the state of our union? How about focusing instead on the state of pro bono? Don’t miss the latest episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, Pro Bono: Beyond the Numbers, during which we discuss the recently published 2016 Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report, the current pro bono landscape, concrete and doable tips for improvement and growth, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

June 30, 2017

Mischief Managed!

We couldn’t help but notice that the “Harry Potter” series turned 20 this week. Wow! Time flies. You don’t have to be a child or a wizard to appreciate the spell cast by J.K. Rowling. Pro bono-supporting muggles could learn a lot from her and the magical world that she created.

One of our favorite takeaways is from a speech she gave in 2008 at Harvard University: “We do not need magic to transform the world.  We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.” Like all struggles, the march toward access to justice can be slow, demanding, and collective. Progress comes from quiet, persistent efforts of pro bono leaders, supporters, and doers. Despite setbacks and obstacles, we press on, believing that for all the challenges and obstacles there will be some days when we succeed in, to paraphrase another immortal aspiration, bending the long arc of the moral universe ever closer toward justice.

“[H]appiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) Pro bono champions can be that light. We are improving lives, protecting rights, and advancing access to justice every day.  Pro bono has the power to transform and make the world a better place.

June 29, 2017

Time and Money

PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project recently released its annual Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report, which examines the pro bono activities of Challenge signatories.

A notable highlight from 2016 was the jump in charitable giving to legal services organizations. The average firm donation last year was $503,875, the highest average donation in the Challenge’s history, and a 9.4% increase over 2015, when the average donation per firm was reported as $460,660.

We applaud those firms and attorneys who not only gave their time but also contributed dollars to local and other legal services organizations. Firm contributions are critical to maintaining an effective pipeline and support network for legal services programs, and, in return for law firm pro bono efforts. They, however, on their own absent government and other support, will never comprise full funding for legal services.  Now more than ever before, we must remain vigilant and fully engaged in the fight for government funding for civil legal aid for the poor.

Check out the complete Challenge Report, including analysis of the data, l information regarding firm size and pro bono, detailed graphs, and more. Watch this space for more highlights from this year’s Challenge Report, and tune into to the Law Firm Project’s discussion of the Report and the “State of Pro Bono” on our podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour.

If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.

June 26, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Need a side of listening material with your Seattle coffee? Don’t miss the latest episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, featuring Leah Medway of Perkins Coie*†. Leah talks to us about her career, the firm’s pro bono program, the access to justice culture in Seattle, the documentary “The Chance for a New Life — The Sara Kruzan Story,” and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

June 22, 2017

Measuring the Justice Gap

Last week, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) released a report, The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans,”  which is the result of a survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago of 2,000 Americans living at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level.  The report takes a detailed look at documents the extent of the “the justice gap,” which  LSC defines “as the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs.”

Key findings include:

  • Seventy-one percent of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem during the past year in areas such as healthcare, housing conditions, disability access, veterans’ benefits, education, and domestic violence.
  • In 2016, 86 percent of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help.
  • Low-income Americans seek legal help for only 20 percent of their civil legal problems.
  • In 2017, it is estimated that low-income individuals will contact LSC-funded legal aid organizations for support with 1.7 million problems. However, they will receive limited or no legal help for more than half (1.1 million of these problems due to inadequate resources).

University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was among the speakers at a launch event for the report. “I may be a football coach,” he said, “but I am an American first and foremost, and all Americans should care about equal access to justice.” He continued, noting that it’s “about fundamental fairness…if you have money, you have access to justice. If you don’t have money, you have less access to our justice system, and that’s not the way it should work.”

To learn more about LSC and its current challenges and opportunities, check out our recent interview with Ronald Flagg on the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s Podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour. The episode is available on Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

June 19, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Don’t miss the latest episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, featuring Ronald Flagg of the Legal Services Corporation. Ron talks to us about his career, his transition to LSC from private practice, his experience leading a law firm pro bono program while he was at Sidley Austin*†, LSC’s current challenges and opportunities, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

June 15, 2017

The State of Law Firm Pro Bono

One hundred thirty-five law firms collectively reported increases in total pro bono hours, pro bono hours for those of limited means, attorney participation rates, and charitable giving to legal services organizations, according to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s recently released Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report.  This annual report examines the pro bono activities of signatories to the Challenge, a unique, aspirational standard. More good news? Lives are being improved, rights are being protected, and access to justice is being advanced every day.

Among the many takeaways from this year’s Report:  firms are surpassing their challenge goals. Fifty-six percent of firms either performed the same amount or increased their pro bono hours over 2015. Twenty percent of firms reported significant expansion (in excess of 20% over 2015), demonstrating that major growth is possible. As always, we are grateful to our signatories for their dedication to improving access to justice and leading the way in pro bono service.

Check out the complete Challenge Report including analysis of the data, additional information regarding firm size and pro bono, detailed graphs, and more. Stay tuned to The PBEye for more highlights from this year’s Challenge Report, and the Law Firm Project’s discussion of the Report on our podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour.

If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.