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The week of October 25-31 has been designated National Celebration of Pro Bono week by the ABA; and this years' marks the seventh such celebration. Throughout the past few days, the ABA has been taking the time to recognize pro bono achievements by lawyers but has decided to push especially hard today.
Lawyers and their firms may participate in the national competition, but keep in mind that the clock is running out. Organizational participants must register for the competition under one of the allowed categories and can do so here. Additionally, qualifying activities must adhere to the broad definition as outlined by Model Rule 6.1 with a focus on counseling, advising and representing of low-income individuals or organizations that serve them.
The ABA will judge the most outstanding contributions by considering creativity and community impact.
Participants are urged to share information about their pro bono events and activities using the hashtag #ABAdayofservice.
Not everyone can afford to pay for legal services -- and that's where pro bono comes in. After the 2008 recession, there seemed to be a corresponding decline in the number of pro bono hours that top law firms gave out. A WSJ piece reported that as profits rebounded at the top 100 American firms, pro bono took a dive. By how much? About 10 percent; since then hours have more or less flattened out.
And this is troubling because it exposes the underbelly of pro bono's tenuous role within the legal profession. By definition, it is work without pay. Increased pressure by top firms has placed attorneys -- particularly associates -- in a hairy position of juggling billable hours against the legal needs of the indigent who disproportionately suffer more during the economic down-times.
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