More than half of Maryland’s full-time lawyers (57.2 percent) provided a total of 1,162,231.8 pro bono hours representing the state’s indigent population in 2012, according to the recently published Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers, Year 2012. The document reflects the pro bono reports of 37,032 respondents who filed by the February 15, 2013, deadline, representing a 99.6 percent compliance rate.
Of these full-time attorneys, 22.2 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. Not quite half (44.7 percent) of all 37,032 respondents reported at least some level of pro bono activity.
The highest percentages of full-time attorneys who performed 50 or more hours once again hailed from the Eastern Shore (36.9 percent) and Western Maryland (32.8 percent). Overall, full-time lawyers in both regions led the state in pro bono service, with 75.1 percent and 75 percent, respectively. Attorneys in Southern Maryland rounded out the top three regions that met or exceeded the 50-hour goal with 23.5 percent.
“It is important to keep the concept of and need for pro bono legal services at the forefront of the Bar,” says Sharon E. Goldsmith, Executive Director of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. “Pro bono reporting does that.”
By jurisdiction, Talbot County had the greatest percentage of full-time attorneys meeting or exceeding the 50-hour goal with 48.8 percent; following closely were Somerset (46.2 percent), Garrett (44.4 percent), and Cecil (42.9 percent) Counties. Garrett County, at 73 percent, once again led the state in attorneys who reported some pro bono service, followed by Talbot (69.6 percent) and Kent (68.9 percent) Counties.
The top practice areas in which Maryland attorneys reported providing some pro bono service included Family/Domestic (76.9 percent); Elder Law (73 percent); Trusts/Estates/Wills (72.6 percent); Bankruptcy/Commercial (70.1 percent); General Practice (67.6 percent); and Personal Injury (62.4 percent).
A little more than half (52.2 percent) of attorneys rendering pro bono service hours did so directly representing people of limited means, while 16.2 percent provided hours to non-profit organizations dedicated to representing such clients; nearly a quarter (24.1 percent) devoted hours to “furthering organizational purposes” of such entities. Entities addressing civil rights matters saw 7.6 percent participation.
Financial contributions from 6,675 attorneys to organizations providing legal services to those in need increased for the fourth consecutive year – up approximately 3 percent from 2011 – for a total of $4,174,712.34.
Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) of Maryland’s full-time solo and small firm practitioners reported some pro bono service hours. Medium-sized firms followed at 60.2 percent, while 53.3 percent of full-time attorneys at large firms reported some service hours.
The majority of full-time lawyers employed by government agencies (80 percent) and non-practicing attorneys (76 percent) reported no pro bono service, compared to 32.8 percent of their private-practice counterparts. Of the private-practice respondants, 28.2 percent met or exceeded the 50-hour aspirational goal, compared to six percent of government lawyers and nine percent of those working as corporate counsel.
“This year’s report reinforces the fact that we are still facing a challenge in engaging government lawyers, corporate counsel, and members of the bar not currently rendering pro bono services, especially as we know the needs of vulnerable populations have exploded,” says Goldsmith. “We must continue to explore innovative ways to attract those Maryland lawyers and ensure that there are meaningful opportunities for them to utilize their law degrees and expertise to uniquely benefit the community.”
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 2013. All 2013 forms are due to the Court of Appeals by February 15, 2014.
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.