Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : February 2005

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Maryland Attorneys Give 1+ Million Hours, $3.8 Million to Help Maryland's Poor
~Pro bono service increases in 2003~

By Janet Stidman Eveleth

Maryland attorneys gave over one million volunteer hours in pro bono service and over $ 3.8 million in financial donations to assist the state’s indigent population in 2003. A recent judicial report shows attorneys across the state donated 1,031,216 hours of pro bono service in 2003, a 3.6 percent jump from 2002, and contributed $3,812,263 in personal cash donations, up 72.7 percent from 2002. In 2003, 63.7 percent of full-time attorneys with offices in Maryland engaged in pro bono service. Maryland attorneys have increased their support of civil legal services to the poor.

These findings, documented in the recently released 2003 Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers report, are based on data from the Court of Appeals of Maryland’s second annual attorney pro bono survey, which had a 99 percent response rate. The 2003 report shows volunteer attorneys are helping many non-profit legal services organizations and poor people on a pro bono basis. In addition, Maryland lawyers devoted 402,018 volunteer hours to activities geared to improve the law, legal system and the legal profession.

Produced by the Administrative Office of the Courts, this report reflects a comprehensive poll of Maryland’s 31,575 lawyers to determine the extent of pro bono service and the need for legal services to the indigent. In 2002, the Court adopted Maryland Rule 16-903, requiring attorneys to report their pro bono hours so it could evaluate the status of pro bono service rendered by Maryland lawyers, assess volunteer legal services for the poor and direct resources to areas with the greatest need.

Many of the trends uncovered in the 2002 pro bono report continued in 2003. Attorneys on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland still render the most pro bono service. Lawyers continue to be most comfortable with the areas of law they know and provide the highest percentage of pro bono service in their primary areas of practice. Lawyers who have practiced law longer seem to volunteer for more pro bono service and lawyers who primarily practice family law tend to provide the most pro bono hours.

As in 2002, the greatest area of need for civil legal services to the poor falls in the area of family law, which ranks seventh in primary practice areas, so the need far outweighs the number of practitioners. According to the 2003 report, the top law practice areas for Maryland lawyers are litigation, corporate business, government and criminal. Bankruptcy, commercial, health, banking and environmental law are at the bottom of the list.

The 2002 revised pro bono rules recommend that Maryland lawyers strive to render 50 hours of pro bono service a year. The Eastern Shore boasts the highest percentage of lawyers donating 50 hours or more, followed by Western Maryland. Actually, Garrett County captured the lead with 47. 4 percent of its lawyers donating 50+ hours, followed by Caroline County with 47.1 percent. Generally, every jurisdiction with the exception of Baltimore City had more lawyers giving 50 or more hours in 2003. In addition, Dorchester County reported the highest percentage of lawyers (77.1 percent) providing pro bono service, and Anne Arundel the lowest (47.1 percent).

The 2003 judicial report indicates that, of the 31,153 responding attorneys, 47.4 percent engaged in some pro bono service. While this is down slightly (.4 percent) from 2002, it is important to note that 6.8 percent of Maryland’s attorneys were either new admits sworn in to practice at the end of December 2003 (969) or attorneys with business addresses other than in Maryland (41 percent). Further, the report attributes the lower activity level to lawyers in other states who are certified to practice in Maryland and the 1,177 who left the state completely.

Overall, a higher proportion of full-time Maryland lawyers provided pro bono service in 2003, and this trend carries across the state. According to the report, lawyers with little or no pro bono activity tend to be young with fewer years of experience, work part-time or work for the government and are prohibited from engaging in it at all.

The state’s attorneys are currently completing their 2004 pro bono activity reports, which are due on February 15, 2005. Hopefully, this upward trend of volunteer attorney pro bono service will continue and even more people of limited means will have been helped in 2004.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: February, 2005

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