When Maryland’s legal community celebrates National Pro Bono Week, October 25-30, the spotlight will shine on the cadre of Maryland lawyers who volunteer for pro bono service to help the indigent. In 2008, these dedicated lawyers donated roughly 2 million volunteer hours in pro bono service and contributed close to $3 million in financial support to increase legal services funding for the indigent. In honor of National Pro Bono Week, MSBA and its pro bono arm, the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC), will join the state’s local and specialty bars and pro bono organizations in applauding all Maryland volunteer attorneys.
Local pro bono activities are scheduled across the state during the week of October 25 to honor local volunteer lawyers (see Page 16). PBRC is coordinating these pro bono festivities and outreach efforts, showcasing National Pro Bono Week to help needy Marylanders, celebrate the true meaning of pro bono, thank attorneys for their volunteer service and recruit additional volunteer pro bono lawyers. Highlights of the week include a kickoff celebratory pro bono recognition program, various seminars, lawyer training sessions, community programs, a reception at a law firm and a free legal clinic. Last year’s celebration garnered excellent publicity and media coverage, another goal of the endeavor.
PBRC’s National Pro Bono Week celebration will culminate with a special gala event marking its 20th anniversary. On Saturday November 13, PBRC will host “A Gallery of the Stars” 20th Anniversary Benefit Gala from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at the Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore. PBRC Executive Director Sharon E.Goldsmith reports the honorees will include Governor Martin O’Malley; Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and the Court of Appeals of Maryland; the Maryland Legal Services Corporation and DLA Piper as well as pro bono lawyers from each county and specialty bar association.
Last year the American Bar Association (ABA), along with state and local bar associations, designated the last week of October as “National Pro Bono Week” to pay tribute to lawyers in this country who volunteer for pro bono service every day, helping the poor with their legal needs. Again this year, bars across the nation are sponsoring special events and programs to shine the spotlight on volunteer pro bono lawyers who help the indigent and give back to their local communities. The celebration provides an opportunity for legal associations to collaboratively commemorate the contributions of their volunteer lawyers.
The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service initiated this national recognition to showcase volunteer lawyers and applaud their unprecedented response to support the indigent during our nation’s toughest economic times since the Great Depression. These pro bono lawyers have made a huge difference in the lives of the burgeoning population of needy people hit hard by the recession.
Today our economy is still struggling with high unemployment and foreclosure rates and people need help. It is the lawyers in this country who continue to step up to the plate and volunteer. One exemplary volunteer pro bono lawyer effort, the Foreclosure Project, is found right here in Maryland, created in 2008 to help the thousands of homeowner in danger of losing their homes during the state’s foreclosure crisis. To date, this successful pro bono project has trained 1,000+ Maryland lawyers in foreclosure law and has helped 1,900+ homeowners.
The pinnacle of Maryland’s 2009 National Pro Bono Week celebration was a gubernatorial press conference at the State House in Annapolis on October 27, where Governor Martin O’Malley issued a proclamation and thanked Maryland volunteer lawyers for all of their tremendous pro bono efforts, especially the thousands volunteering for the Foreclosure Project. Chief Judge Bell echoed this gratitude, commending Maryland lawyers for volunteering to make life better for those in need.