Pro Bono Reporting
~Results indicate attorneys support legal services to poor~
By Janet Stidman Eveleth
Later this month, the Court
of Appeals of Maryland will once again send a pro bono reporting form to
every attorney in the state. This will be the third annual reporting
period for attorney pro bono activity across Maryland. Attorneys must
document their pro bono service for the year 2004 and submit the form to
the Court by February 15, 2005. All Maryland lawyers are required to
submit a reporting form every year to maintain Maryland Bar certification.
Although attorney pro bono service remains voluntary in Maryland,
revisions to Rule 6.1 of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct,
effective July 1, 2002, require all Maryland attorneys to file an annual
Pro Bono Service Report with the Court. The form documents the number of
hours of pro bono service the attorney rendered during the previous year.
This pro bono summary gives the Court of Appeals a “snapshot” of the legal
services landscape in the state.
To date, results of the pro bono reporting surveys are encouraging.
Overall, they indicate Maryland attorneys are very supportive of legal
services to the state’s indigent population. The Court compiles the data
documented in the attorney pro bono forms and uses it as the foundation to
determine if the legal needs of persons of limited means are being met.
After evaluating attorney pro bono activity, the Court is better able to
detect gaps in legal services and direct available resources to unmet
needs. The ultimate goal of this effort is to increase access to justice
for all Marylanders.
The most recent available reporting results are for the year 2002. They
indicate that a vast number of indigent citizens and non-profit legal
services organizations are being assisted by volunteer lawyers on a pro
bono basis. Maryland attorneys donate over one million hours in pro bono
service every year to help the state’s indigent population with its legal
needs, and they personally donate over two million to support legal
services to the poor. In addition, it is estimated that Maryland attorneys
donate over $150 million worth of legal services to help the poor every
The 2002 survey found that lawyers on the Eastern Shore render the most
pro bono service, followed by those in Western Maryland. Lawyers who have
practiced longer seem to engage in more pro bono service, and those who
concentrate in family, general and employment law tend to provide the most
pro bono hours.
Findings in 2002 also disclosed that the greatest area of need for pro
bono service for the poor falls in the area of family and domestic law.
While family law practitioners are one of the groups that engage in the
most pro bono work, this law practice area still lacks a sufficient number
of lawyers to handle the overwhelming need.
“Pro bono reporting has had a positive impact on the pro bono effort in
Maryland,” states Sharon E. Goldsmith, Executive Director of Maryland’s
Pro Bono Resource Center. “It has raised the profile and visibility of the
need for legal services and the myriad of opportunities available to
lawyers who want to give back to their communities.” Goldsmith encourages
attorneys interested in volunteering for pro bono service to contact the
Pro Bono Resource Center at (410) 837-9379.
The Administrative Office of the Courts should release the 2003 pro bono
reporting results later this month.