Maryland attorneys donated over one million hours in volunteer pro bono publico (free) legal services to help the state’s indigent population with its legal needs in 2003. In addition, attorneys in Maryland personally donated $3,812,263 in cash contributions to support legal services. Overall, 63.7 percent of the state’s full time lawyers donated time to help those in need by volunteering for pro bono service.
The 2003 “Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers” report, recently submitted to the Maryland Court of Appeals by the Administrative Office of the Courts, ( http://www.courts.state.md.us/probono/index.html ) reflects a comprehensive poll of Maryland’s 31,575 lawyers to determine the extent of the indigent’s need for legal services. In 2002, the Court began requiring Maryland attorneys to report their pro bono hours so it could assess volunteer legal services for the poor and direct resources to areas with the greatest need.
The 2003 report, which constitutes the second attorney reporting cycle, shows volunteer attorneys are assisting a vast number of people with limited means and non-profit legal services groups on a pro bono basis. However, while the report shows an overall jump in pro bono service for full time attorneys from the previous year, it also discloses a slight decline, .4 percent, in total attorney participation because 6.8 percent of Maryland’s attorneys were either new admits sworn-in to practice in late December 2003 or had business addresses other than in Maryland.
Overall, the report proves that attorneys actively volunteer for, and financially support, legal services in their local communities. However, it also presents challenges to Maryland’s Judiciary and pro bono groups targeting areas of need, enhancing services for the poor and expanding attorney pro bono opportunities. The greatest need for civil legal services for Maryland’s poor once again falls in family law, a law practice area lacking a sufficient number of attorneys to handle the need. The Maryland State Bar Association encourages all attorneys in Maryland to volunteer to help the indigent with their legal needs.