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Pro Bono Programs | Best Practices

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Planning

Plan Requirements

LSC encourages organizations to develop a comprehensive private attorney involvement plan.

At a minimum, plans should address the following:

  • A description of the needs of the client community that cannot be independently addressed by legal aid organizations, and the ways in which private attorneys can help meet those needs.
  • Whether private attorneys are participating pro bono, for a reduced fee, or as Judicare attorneys.
  • Ways that private attorneys are used, which includes a range of volunteer opportunities.
  • Staffing structure in place to manage private attorney involvement.
  • Strategies to recruit, retain, and recognize volunteer attorneys.
  • Process to identify and route cases to volunteer attorneys, including clients with access barriers such as limited English proficiency. 
  • Quality assurance procedures for pro bono work.
  • The results of consultations with local bar associations, client community leaders, and private attorneys, including a summary of comments.
  • If PAI is provided via a subgrant, an explanation of the agreement and the benefits to both the clients and program.

Sample Plans

Georgia Legal Services Program (2013): Plan addresses the use of technology to administer a program, the integration of GLSP activities with the state bar committees and activities, and addresses accountability throughout the system. The surveys used to gather input from GLSP staff and from local bar organizations are also available.

Southern Arizona Legal Aid (2013): Plan has a strong emphasis on program operations, including volunteer management and budgeting.

Legal Aid Society of San Diego (2013): Plan includes a variety of volunteer opportunities, and a comprehensive description of program operations. Includes data for non-case activities.  

Central Minnesota Legal Services (2013): Plan for a PAI program that contracts for urban service delivery (specifically Minneapolis), coordinating statewide efforts, and training volunteer attorneys.  

New Mexico Legal Aid (2013): Plan addresses changes in pro bono service delivery as New Mexico Legal Aid takes over its role as the lead agency for the statewide Volunteer Attorney Program


Volunteer Management

Recruitment and Retention

Training and Support

Case Assignment and Access

  • Best Practice: Providing Volunteers with Access to Case Management Systems

    Case management systems (CMS) should provide volunteer attorneys with the opportunity to accept and work on cases online, so that volunteers can work on pro bono cases without visiting a legal aid offices. Read more

  • iProBono App
    Arkansas Legal Services Partnership and Arkansas Access to Justice Commission

    The iProBono app allows Arkansas attorneys to browse pro bono cases from their phones. Read more

  • Pro Bono Email Memo
    Legal Services of New York

    Legal Services of New York (LSNY) sends a bi-monthly "Available Pro Bono Cases" email memo to pro bono coordinators at major law firms and to volunteer attorneys throughout New York City. Read more


Delivery Models

Limited Service and Clinics

  • Call 4ALL
    Legal Aid of North Carolina

    Call 4ALL is a pro bono program which provides private attorneys with the opportunity to provide legal advice to pre-screened clients through phone interviews. Interviews are scheduled to be one-hour, once a month, unless the attorney elects to offer additional services. Read more

  • The Community Justice Program
    San Antonio Bar Association and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

    The Community Justice Program (CJP) provides free legal services and night court to low-income residents of San Antonio in their own neighborhoods. Read more

  • Advice and Referral Clinics
    District of Columbia Bar Pro Bono Program

    Monthly Advice and Referral Clinics on Saturdays, at two community sites to serve the civil legal needs of low-income and disadvantaged residents. Read more

  • Small Claims Resource Center Pilot Project
    D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program

    Project uses staff from local law schools to offer legal information to pro se litigants. Read more

  • Low Income Taxpayer Clinic
    Legal Aid of Western Missouri

    Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) that provides tax education and outreach to taxpayers who are limited English proficient or speak English as a second language. Read more

Rural

  • Skype-A-Lawyer Pro Bono Clinic
    Colorado Legal Services

    Colorado Legal Services’ Northwest Colorado Legal Services Project runs a monthly clinic using Skype to connect volunteer attorneys with clients in geographically isolated areas. Includes an informational guideRead more

  • Adopt-A-Region
    Alaska Legal Services Corporation

    The "Adopt a Region" project encourages large firms to focus their pro bono efforts on helping clients from a single community. Read more

Signature Projects

  • Adopt-A-Project
    AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE)

    AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE) has created a series of Adopt-A-Project initiatives to provide community service opportunities for the legal and non-legal staff of large law firms. Read more

  • Home Ownership Project
    Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice

    Collaboration to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina by probating estates for deceased homeowners and putting living heirs in possession of the property. Read more

  • Access to Education
    DLA Piper, Legal Services for New York City, Lawyers Alliance for New York, Advocates for Children and Pricewaterhouse Coopers

    Access to Education works to improve the educational outcomes of low-income children in New York City, through direct representation and policy work. Read more

  • Signature Project
    Neighborhood Legal Services Association

    The Academy of Trial Lawyers has joined with the EducationLawCenter, Neighborhood Legal Services Association, and the Allegheny County Bar Foundation's ProBonoCenter to develop a signature pro bono project that provides lawyers to represent students at school board expulsion hearings. Read more

  • Pro Bono Project
    AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly

    AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly’s Pro Bono Project provides comprehensive legal services to low-income, older people in the District of Columbia. Read more

Transactional Law

By Volunteer Type

Law Students

Fellowships

Retired Attorneys

Government Attorneys

  • Elder Pro Bono Project
    Ohio's Attorney General

    Program trains volunteer attorneys from the Ohio Attorney General's office to provide free legal assistance to low-income seniors in Ohio. Read more


Resources

LSC Rules and Policies

LSC Regulation 1614: Requirements for the operation and responsibilities of LSC grantees regarding private attorney involvement. A technical amendment  was published in the Federal Register in February  2013.

LSC Performance Criteria, Performance Area Three – Criterion 2: Guidance from LSC to ensure that private attorney involvement is  integrated into an overall strategy to provide high-quality legal service.

Guidance to LSC Programs for the Development of Enhanced Private Attorney Involvement (Program Letter 07-2):This program letter provides resources and innovative approaches available to more effectively integrate private attorneys into the provision of legal aid delivery. It includes a variety of delivery models, methods to support volunteers, and ways to raise awareness of pro bono.

LSC Office of Legal Affairs External Opinions: Several opinions from LSC’s Office of Legal Affairs provide additional guidance on the implementation of private attorney involvement by LSC grantees.

Case Service Reporting Handbook: The CSR Handbook provides standards for reporting cases. Additional assistance is available in the CSR Handbook FAQs.

Other Standards and Guidelines

Standards  for Programs Providing Civil Pro Bono Legal Services to Persons of Limited Means:  Updated ABA Standards approved in 2013. 

National and State Rules and Policies: Includes ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 and its application state-by-state, emeritus roles for pro bono attorneys, and Continuing Legal Education rules. 

Organizations

ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service: The American Bar Association committee that focuses on volunteer services from legal professionals. It raises awareness for and provides support to pro bono programs, and proposes and reviews policy that affects lawyers' ability to provide pro bono legal services. This committee is also responsible for co-sponsoring the Equal Justice Conference with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

The ABA Center for Pro Bono: A project of The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service. It focuses on providing technical assistance with pro bono programs, and produces publications.

Pro Bono Institute: Nonprofit that supports the pro bono efforts of major law firms, in-house corporate legal departments, and public interest organizations.

National Association of Pro Bono Professionals (NAPBPro):   Independent organization of pro bono professionals devoted to promoting pro bono services to the poor. Also provides professional development for pro bono managers and professionals and others interested in this field.

Publications

Report of the Pro Bono Task Force: Report and recommendations from the LSC Pro Bono Task Force, comprised of 60 leaders from the legal profession, who considered ways to efficiently and effectively engage pro bono lawyers to meet the demand for civil legal aid.

Rural Pro Bono Delivery: A Guide to Pro Bono Delivery in Rural Areas: The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service’s guide to rural pro bono delivery. Includes an overview of barriers, and examples of effective strategies for service delivery. 

The ABC Manual: Starting and Operating a Business Law Pro Bono Project: The ABA Section of Business Law Pro Bono Committee’s manual designed to create pro bono programs for business and transactional lawyers. The manual focuses on providing assistance to community-based organizations that serve low-income people.

Pro Bono Clients: Strategies for Success: The ABA Center for Pro Bono’s brochure to provides pro bono attorneys an overview of strategies for working with low-income clients.