Summary of Recommendations and Conclusion

The foregoing recommendations are meant to create a roadmap for LSC, its grantees, and the legal community to effectively engage the private bar to address the justice gap in the United States. LSC and its grantees will require resources to make the recommendations contained in this report a reality. The Task Force is committed to assisting in these efforts.

LSC should take the following next steps:

  • Work collaboratively with national stakeholders (such as the ABA Center for Pro Bono, NAPBPro, APBCo, the Pro Bono Institute, and NLADA) to serve as a source of information, coordination, and technical assistance for the creation of strong pro bono programs at its grantees. LSC should start by:
    • Bringing these national stakeholders together to assess what already exists and what needs to be done;
    • In partnership with others, creating a comprehensive toolkit for building strong pro bono programs, including by providing guidance on how to evaluate those programs;
    • Facilitating LSC grantee access to and use of existing technologies that enable volunteers to take on and coordinate work on cases, training, case management, and provision for services from a distance, all online;
    • Hiring a full-time staff person at LSC responsible for helping grantees develop and strengthen their own pro bono programs.
    • Considering ways in which LSC and its grantees might reduce demand for legal services;
    • Working with existing groups to create a professional organization specifically for pro bono coordinators at LSC- funded organizations; and
    • Recommending that Congress create a new Pro Bono Innovation/Incubation Fund modeled on the successful Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) program.
  • Task a committee with recommending revisions to LSC’s Private Attorney Involvement regulation to better encourage pro bono;
  • Convene a small group of knowledgeable stakeholders to investigate and develop a public relations campaign about the importance of legal services and pro bono; and
  • Convene a small group of law firm, legal services, and law school leaders to explore the feasibility of launching a fellowship program for new graduates and emeritus lawyers focused on LSC matters. These programs should be designed with the goal of strengthening overall support for civil legal services and pro bono within firms, law schools, and the profession as a whole.

Finally, the Task Force recognizes that none of the efforts above can be effective unless they are carried out collaboratively with members of the private bar and other stakeholders. We therefore request that:

Bar leaders and the judiciary:

  • Work through organizations such as the National Center for State Courts and, to the extent permitted by ethics rules, use their influence to support pro bono efforts and to recruit pro bono lawyers;
  • Speak and write about the crisis in legal services and the critical need for pro bono assistance; and
  • Where possible, advocate for additional funding for civil legal services at the state and federal levels.

State Bar leaders and judges should examine ways in which state practice and ethics rules can be revised to encourage pro bono, including by:

  • Offering CLE credit for pro bono;
  • Permitting judges to ethically recruit and recognize pro bono attorneys;
  • Allowing opportunities for limited-representation and unbundling of services;
  • Relaxing conflicts of interest rules for brief service models, such as hotlines and clinics;
  • Allowing lawyers to take on pro bono matters in jurisdictions other than those in which they are admitted to practice; and
  • Considering other creative and ambitious solutions, such as Chief Justice Lippman’s recent move to require pro bono service by all new lawyers in New York.

State and federal policymakers, funders, and the legal profession as a whole, should recognize that using pro bono lawyers to address the crisis in legal services can only be accomplished with adequate funding.

Little can be done without providing LSC and legal services organizations, which are tasked with running pro bono programs, with the necessary resources for doing so. And, of course, all stakeholders should recognize that pro bono lawyers cannot do it all. They will never replace the tireless efforts of legal aid lawyers, who are experts in what they do and who work on the front lines every day. Policymakers should fund programs to support pro bono involvement, but this should not come at the expense of adequately funding legal services.

The Task Force is committed to helping in these efforts going forward, and to doing what it can to make sure that the price of entry does not prohibit accessing the justice system in the United States.