Since 2009, legal services providers across the nation have honored National Celebration of Pro Bono during the month of October.
Initiated and maintained by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, the Celebration is a coordinated national effort to meet the ever-growing needs of this country’s most vulnerable citizens by encouraging and supporting local efforts to expand the delivery of pro bono legal services.
The week also offers an opportunity for the Bar to showcase the great difference that pro bono attorneys make.
During last year’s celebration, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC) helped coordinate and facilitate over 30 events statewide, including six events recognizing pro bono attorneys and other pro bono supporters; five educational events for pro bono attorneys, which were offered for free or a reduced cost in exchange for a pro bono commitment; and at least 19 client service events.
Some events initiated during previous Celebrations have continued to flourish year round.
In October 2009, the Pro Bono and Access to Legal Services Committee of the Bar Association of Baltimore City teamed up with Maryland Legal Aid, Legal Services to the Elderly, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), and PBRC to co-sponsor the first Pro Bono Day, a legal clinic for the public in several areas of civil law including family, housing, record expungements, bankruptcy, government benefits, and consumer law.
Now a biannual event, volunteer attorneys have provided legal consultations to over 600 individuals in Baltimore City alone. Pro Bono Day has been so effective that it has been replicated by Maryland Legal Aid and Local Pro Bono Committees across the state.
Additionally, much like Anne Arundel County’s nationally acclaimed “Ask a Lawyer in the Library” program, the Baltimore County Local Pro Bono Committee launched “Lawyer in the Lobby” during the 2010 National Celebration of Pro Bono. The walk-in legal advice clinic has been open to the public once a month ever since, continuing to help those with civil legal matters who otherwise could not afford an attorney.
National Celebration of Pro Bono events are not limited to clinics. In conjunction with client services events, recognition and educational events thrive during the celebration.
Interested in finding out what’s going on across Maryland during National Celebration of Pro Bono? Visit www.probonomd.org for a full calendar of events across the state.
This year’s recognition events, such as Community Legal Services’ Pro Bono Awards Reception held October 11 in Prince George’s County and MVLS and University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law’s Celebrate Pro Bono Reception on October 18 in Baltimore City, are designed to reflect on the importance of pro bono and honor those who have volunteered tirelessly to help those in need of civil legal services.
Similarly, educational events serve as a recruitment tool for legal services programs to train attorneys in an area of need and enlist them to their volunteer pools. One such event this year can be found in Baltimore City as PBRC partners with Homeless Persons Representation Project on October 22 for a Veterans’ Benefits Training for Pro Bono Lawyers.
Sharon E. Goldsmith, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and PBRC Executive Director, states, “We are thrilled with the success of National Celebration of Pro Bono. This event has sparked pro bono initiatives in Maryland and across the country, proving to be an impetus for community activities and involvement that were not available before the Celebration’s inception.”
No matter which way pro bono attorneys and legal services providers choose to recognize the need for and achievements of volunteer attorneys during October, the unquestionable fact is that Marylanders have a lot to celebrate when it comes to pro bono.
For more information on volunteer legal service opportunities in Maryland, contact Jennifer Larrabee at the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carey Moore is the Communications Manager of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.