From the Chair...

Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

ON PREACHING TO THE CHOIR

How many times – how many years – have we sat through a thoughtful, well-intentioned speech by yet another leader of our profession as he or she instructs, cajoles, encourages, and admonishes us about our responsibilities in pro bono – as if this were news to us?  We try to listen, but our minds wander and we see many of our colleagues engrossed in a computer, Blackberry, crossword, Sudoku, or catching a few zzzzs.  We’re jealous.  It’s not that the subject isn’t important or that it’s not worth repeating.  It’s just that we’ve heard the message – if not the speech – so often that we know what’s coming.  Listening again is, at best, a challenge. Unfortunately, that is often the result of preaching to the choir.

So the challenge becomes: 1) Is there a new pro bono message? 2) How do we get the message to those not in the choir? and 3) How do we transmit the message in such a way that those in the choir will listen and those not in the choir will join?

The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service hosted The National Pro Bono Summit in Washington, DC on October 24-25, 2011.  The choir was there.  Our hope is that through this event new messages will be developed, that we will find more effective ways to transmit them to, and beyond, the choir, and that the messages will renew the enthusiasm of the choir and spark such interest in non-choir members that they will join the choir – the ranks of pro bono lawyers who fight injustice on behalf of those in need.

I look forward to sharing with you the results of the Summit and working with the legal community to effect necessary changes at cultural, institutional, and individual levels as we work to bring new energy and vision to the pro bono legal services delivery system.