More than half of Maryland’s full-time attorneys (57.6 percent) provided a total of 1,163,859 pro bono hours to the state’s indigent in 2011, according to the recently published Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers, Year 2011. This total represented a slight drop (1.5 percent) from that reported the previous year.
Of these attorneys, 22.7 percent met or exceeded the “aspirational” goal of providing 50 or more hours of pro bono service annually, as set forth in Rule 6.1 of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct. Once again, the highest percentages of full-time attorneys performing 50 or more hours hailed from the state’s eastern (35.6 percent) and western (32.2 percent) regions. The state’s southern region rounded out the top three with 28 percent.
Both the eastern and western regions of Maryland also dominated with the highest concentrations of full-time practitioners reporting some measure of pro bono service (74.2 percent and 73.5 percent, respectively). Full-time lawyers volunteering more than 50 pro bono hours once again favored the areas of elder law (38.6 percent), general practice (35 percent), and family/domestic matters (32.1 percent).
Caroline County, at 61.5 percent, led the state in the number of full-time attorneys performing 50 or more hours of pro bono service, followed by Talbot (44.8 percent), Somerset (42.9 percent), and Garrett (42.3 percent) Counties. Garrett County yet again yielded the highest overall percentage of lawyers rendering some pro bono hours (85.7 percent), followed by Talbot (69.3 percent) and Kent (69 percent) Counties.
Financial contributions to organizations providing legal services to those in need increased for the third consecutive year – up approximately 11 percent from 2010 – for a total of $4,060,551 in 2011.
Sharon E. Goldsmith, Executive Director of the Pro Bono Resource Center, says that many factors could account for the nominal dip in the number of hours given. “Whether it’s loss of funding, which has been happening with programs over the last few years, or staff transition, or people staying longer with their individual cases, there are so many factors to consider,” she notes.
Since 2002, the Court of Appeals of Maryland has tracked attorney pro bono service and reported its findings annually in its Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers Report. The Court requires all Maryland attorneys to file annual pro bono reports, and it is currently compiling results for 2012. All 2012 forms are due to the Court of Appeals by February 15, 2013.
While attorney pro bono service is 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 of Appeals, documenting the number of hours of pro bono service rendered by the attorney during the previous year. The resulting summary apprises the Court of the status of legal services across the state.