Lawyers Come Together to Ensure That Everyone Has Legal Representation
As tough economic times have made it harder for lawyers to offer free legal aid to the poor, lawyers across Ohio and the nation this week have been observing an annual event to boost pro bono activity.
Even before the official 2012 National Pro Bono Celebration week began Sunday, events were occurring across Ohio offering low-income Ohioans free legal help.
Legal aid societies, bar associations, and law schools hosted about 40 events in October on issues such as foreclosure, immigration, divorce, expungement, elder law, veterans, and bankruptcy.
Now in its fourth year, the week underscores the difference that pro bono lawyers make to their communities, to the courts, and the clients that are helped.
Statewide statistics on pro bono work in 2011 showed that the average number of pro bono hours performed by Ohio lawyers who took part in pro bono reporting was 55.3, which exceeds the American Bar Association’s national guideline of 50 hours per year.
Jane Taylor, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation’s Associate Director for Pro Bono, said the numbers were down slightly from 2010, but she said Ohio’s results mirrored national trends.
“There were continuing economic pressures on small law firms to bill more hours as well as new lawyers in big law firms to do the same,” she said. Taylor expects pro bono numbers to rebound in 2012, which will be the fifth year that the foundation has conducted the voluntary and anonymous reporting.
Pro bono week will end on Saturday with an appropriately themed event, given the time of year. The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association will host the 11th annual Halloween Run for Justice at 9 a.m. Proceeds will help fund law-related education, tutoring and mentoring in the Cleveland schools, and improving access to justice. Learn more about this event.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton served as honorary state chair for the 2012 celebration.
For more information on finding free legal help or volunteering pro bono services, visit www.ohiolegalservices.org.