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September 02, 2021

From the Chair: Pro Bono Services Needed for Eviction Cases

David Bienvenu

Pro bono is needed now more than ever to assist with the looming eviction crisis.  As the eviction moratorium comes to an end, evictions have increased to nearly double the rate they were before the pandemic. This increase is only expected to get worse. Goldman Sachs estimates that landlords could evict roughly 750,000 households by the end of the 2021. (, August 30, 2021). Data from eviction courts shows that while nearly 90 percent of landlords are represented by legal counsel in evictions, fewer than 10 percent of tenants have representation. Legal representation is crucial for tenants in eviction proceedings. Recent trends in cities with eviction right to counsel show that tenants with legal representation are more likely to stay in their homes. For example, in New York City, 86 percent of tenants who had representation were able to stay in their homes. Similar trends were seen in other cities with eviction right to counsel. Attorney General Merrick Garland released a call to action urging the legal community to assist with the looming eviction crisis.

Legal aid programs often lack the capacity to serve the needs of all those who need help without pro bono assistance from volunteer attorneys. ABA Model Rule 6.1 establishes a professional responsibility to provide pro bono service. According to Model Rule 6.1, a lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year to persons of limited means.  However, the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Supporting Justice IV  report found that only 20% of responding attorneys provided at least 50 hours of pro bono service, and 1 out of 5 attorneys had never undertaken pro bono service of any kind.  

As the ABA President Reginald Turner stated is his recent statement on the eviction crisis, “It is essential that we all step up to provide vulnerable families with access to counsel, divert evictions and connect renters and landlords to available resources.” Lawyers and law students can make a difference by providing pro bono in a variety of settings in a variety of tasks. State and local bar associations, local legal aid organizations, law school clinics, and courts all have opportunities to provide assistance with evictions or to assist with rental assistance paperwork. Another way to easily provide assistance is through ABA Free Legal Answers, an online virtual advice clinic where clients can post questions to be answered by volunteer attorneys. Find an opportunity near you today by visiting the National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide. Together, attorneys can step up and make a difference.

David Bienvenu

Chair, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service