Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : October 2009

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Maryland lawyers lead the nation in pro bono service volunteerism, and MSBA and its pro bono arm, the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC), will honor this volunteer attorney effort the week of October 25 when the nation’s legal community celebrates National Pro Bono Week. The American Bar Association (ABA) and its state and local affiliates are presenting the first annual National Pro Bono Week October 25-31 to recognize the thousands of lawyers across the country who volunteer for pro bono service to help the indigent with their legal needs on a daily basis. Nationwide celebrations have been planned throughout the week to honor lawyers who volunteer to assist the needy.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service has officially declared a National Pro Bono Week to showcase the great difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation, its system of justice, its communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve. Through this national pro bono celebration, the ABA hopes to reinforce the need and value of pro bono attorneys volunteering to address the ever-growing legal needs of our nation’s poor and indigent.

NATIONAL PRO BONO WEEK
has been instituted to celebrate these dedicated and tireless pro bono attorneys and to recruit even more volunteers.

Millions of Americans are in dire need of help, and lawyers across the country – especially in today’s economy – and lawyers in Maryland are responding, volunteering for pro bono service to support the less fortunate indigent. Indeed, there has been such a dramatic increase in pro bono service across the country that lawyers now volunteer at a rate of three-to-one compared to the general public. A recent ABA study reports “nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of U.S. lawyers give free legal services to disadvantaged individuals or to organizations that serve them.”

This dedication is clearly evident in Maryland, where in the last year more than 1,000 attorneys have volunteered for a special foreclosure pro bono project in which they received training to help thousands of homeowners facing the loss of their homes due to foreclosure. This is only one of numerous examples of pro bono volunteerism undertaken by Maryland lawyers daily.

In 2007, Maryland’s most recent pro bono report reveals Maryland attorneys donated more than 1.4 million volunteer hours in pro bono service and donated roughly $3 million to financially support legal services to the state’s indigent. Maryland’s increase in lawyer volunteer pro bono hours also parallels the national trend. The ABA tracked an upward trend in volunteer lawyers’ pro bono hours, jumping from 39 pro bono hours in 2004 to 41 hours in 2008 and found lawyers generally volunteer because “they are aware of the needs of people or organizations, the personal satisfaction of giving back and the belief that lawyers should give back to their communities.”

National Celebration

So, National Pro Bono Week has been instituted to celebrate these dedicated and tireless pro bono attorneys and to recruit even more volunteers. The ABA launched this initiative now due to the increasing need for pro bono services during these harsh economic times and the unprecedented response of attorneys to meet this demand. The celebration provides an opportunity for local legal associations across the country to collaboratively commemorate the contributions of America’s lawyers and, most importantly, to recruit additional volunteers.

Essentially, this is a grassroots effort, so MSBA and PBRC are encouraging pro bono recognition events at the local level. Many Maryland local and specialty bar associations, along with several legal services groups and the University of Maryland School of Law, have scheduled pro bono events and activities to honor their volunteer lawyers and in many cases, give back to their communities through additional pro bono service. All lawyers are encouraged to participate in one of the numerous local events planned for the week of October 25, or to volunteer for pro bono service on their own. Volunteer lawyers are always needed to help the indigent.


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Publications : Bar Bulletin: October 2009

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