Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

December, 2004

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 year.

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.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: December, 2004

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